The Pac-12 Championship Game is here and, in a roundabout way, the Pac-12 got the two teams that everyone thought they would have represented the conference in the season finale from the offseason.
The Oregon Ducks and USC Trojans each opened the season as the conference’s two top-ranked teams, and while the Trojans have done their part to maintain their top 25 ranking, the Ducks dropped two games and did not get a chance to actually win the Pac-12 North after their game against Washington was canceled. Still, due to COVID-19 concerns, Washington is out and Oregon is in. Just as planned.
With that in mind, we take a look around the web for all the game-day picks and all those who have weighed in on the USC vs Oregon matchup from around the sports media world.
The Sports Illustrated take:
Oregon (plus-3) at USC (5 p.m., FOX)
Jake: These teams can’t avoid close games, so we’ll take the points. Pick: Oregon
Jeff: USC has no realistic chance of squeezing into the College Football Playoff, but the Trojans might believe they do. And if so, they know they must win big here. Pick: USC
The Mercury News take:
Oregon (+3) at USC (Friday): To the above analysis, add the following: The Ducks are weak against the run, but the Trojans haven’t run often or effectively through five games. Will they tweak the play-calling this week to attack Oregon’s weakness? The task is more difficult with Vavae Malapeai, their top rusher, likely to miss the game. Meanwhile, Oregon’s challenge requires nuance: Make ample use of quarterback Tyler Shough’s mobility to keep USC guessing, but without putting him in treacherous positions (for injury or mistakes). The Trojans are plenty athletic on defense, especially safety Talanoa Hufanga, but their physicality up front will be challenged early and often. Lastly, what impact with the disparity in preparation time have on performance? Oregon hasn’t played since Dec. 5 and knew last week it would likely be facing the Trojans. USC played Saturday evening and didn’t get started on the Ducks until early this week. That should make for a close game, at least into the second half. Pick: USC.
The CBS Sports take:
SportsLine’s model is leaning under on the total. In fact, it says Oregon running back Travis Dye will be held to under 60 yards rushing without a score, while USC quarterback Kedon Slovis will throw for fewer than 285 yards and two scores. It has also generated an against-the-spread pick that cashes in well over 50 percent of simulations
The College Football News take:
USC will be in for yet another fight.
Oregon will come out looking great. The defensive line will get into the backfield a bit more than normal, the offense will score quickly, and all of the momentum will be on the side of the defending Pac-12 champs. And then things will stall.
USC will settle in, Kedon Solvis will find a rhythm, and most importantly, the Trojan defense will start to play better. Oregon doesn’t have the offense to slow things down and hold a lead, and it’s going against a team that’s making a living off of taking advantage of second half openings.
It’ll be a good, strong win for the Trojans, but it won’t be the dominant, splashy performance needed to make the jump into the College Football Playoff.
The Athlon Sports take:
Despite its recent skid, Oregon has the talent to beat any opponent in the Pac-12. The issue for the Ducks has been consistency. An Oregon team that puts together a complete 60 minutes will be dangerous, but it just hasn’t happened yet.
USC is similar in that regard, enduring lapses like the third-quarter scoring drought that only ended last week. At the risk of oversimplification, a matchup of the conference’s two most talented teams really will come down to avoiding those lapses.
Prediction: USC 34, Oregon 30
There you have it.