Saturday's game between Oregon and USC is a matchup of two teams that have been dominant in the conference in the past decade. What does our staff think of the matchup?
Tyler Brett: USC heads to Autzen Stadium to take on Oregon in a matchup of teams that look strikingly similar in a number of ways. Both have identical records (7-3, 5-2 in Pac-12 play), both come in on 4-game winning streaks, and both need to win this game to keep their Pac-12 title hopes on track. The difference in this one will come down to who wins in the trenches with the running game.
USC struggled to get their running game going last week against Colorado (who entered the game ranked last in the conference in rush defense) and now face an Oregon defense that has been improving as the season goes on. Still, they are susceptible to the run, allowing at least 4.3 yards per rush in every Pac-12 game this season but one (against Colorado). The Trojans run game has been a key part of their winning streak with Ronald Jones II emerging as a star the team can build around for years to come.
Defensively, USC has to deal with one of the top rushing attacks in the nation as Oregon has averaged over six yards per carry in five of seven conference games this year led by Royce Freeman's 1,392 yards and 12 rushing touchdowns. The Trojans defense has been strong against the run, ranking third in the Pac-12, but the Oregon offense has been rolling lately and just put 231 rushing yards on the Stanford Cardinal last week. With injuries mounting on the Trojan D, the group will be tested on the road against this Oregon attack that will try to attack their lack of depth with their tempo.
If USC's defense can get force some quick drives by getting off the field on third down and allow their offense to control the game with Jones and the rushing attack, the Trojans will have a winning formula for securing the win on the road.
Trajuan Briggs: USC 42-39
Nick Dempsey: Oregon 37-24. It is difficult to see the Trojans defeating the Ducks on the road. If USC can get a few turnovers and force Oregon into third and long situations then they may be able to keep the Oregon offense from running wild. Containing the Ducks' offense would allow USC the opportunity to get the running game going. If USC starts off flat once again and the Ducks jump out to a large early lead USC may be forced to abandon the power running game becoming one dimensional on offense.
Julian Lopez: This was supposed to be the game of the year. Two teams that were projected to compete for a spot in the College Football Playoff have had disappointing seasons, but they can each still win the conference. I expect this game to be a high-scoring contest and the loss of Cameron Smith really scares me with the Duck attack, but I think this will be Cody Kessler's best game of the season and USC escapes Autzen with a 48-45 win.
Brett: Olajuwon Tucker; the sophomore inside linebacker is on track to make his first career start in place of Cameron Smith, who saw his stellar freshman season cut short with a knee injury. Tucker will have to step up and play huge in his debut to slow down Oregon's attack and give the Trojans' offense a chance to control the game.
Briggs: Kessler actually converts on third down and keeps the drive alive. O-line will finally end the foolish penalties and beat up Oregon’s front seven.
Dempsey: The USC rushing defense will need to keep the Ducks' rushing attack in check. If the defensive front can succeed USC will have a great opportunity to execute their game plan.
Lopez: Linebackers. USC should score a lot against the Ducks sub-par defense but without two linebackers, everyone on the Trojans defense will have to work together to stop the Quack Attack.