USC plays host to No. 7 Oregon in a potential Pac-12 Championship game preview. Both the Trojans and Ducks first met in 1915 and played against each other as conference opponents in 1931 as part of the Pacific Coast Conference. However, most of their key games came during the 2000’s and 2010’s. The two programs have a total of 14 conference championships combined with USC owning most of the 2000’s and Oregon taking 4 in the 2010’s. Through that time USC and Oregon have met in some memorable games that's still talked about to this day.
5. 2002: Carson Palmer lights up Oregon in Autzen
In 2002 both USC and Oregon entered the game ranked in the AP Top 25. The Trojans were No. 15 while the Ducks No. 14. Both were playing to keep their Pac-10 championship hopes alive and a potential shot towards Pasadena. The Ducks were in the middle of a 4 game winning streak over the Trojans. To this date it’s their longest win streak over USC in the series. Oregon took a 19-14 lead into halftime, however in the second half it was all USC.
Led by 2002 Heisman trophy winning quarterback Carson Palmer, USC went on a 20-0 run in the third quarter to put the game away early. USC would score 10 more points in the earl 4th quarter before Oregon went on a 14-0 run to make the game close, however it was too late as USC defeated the Oregon 44-33. Palmer went on to throw for 448 yards and 5 touchdowns in the win over the defending Pac-10 champions. The Trojans also snapped a four game losing streak to the Ducks.
4. 2008: USC take out their frustration on Oregon
The 2008 season for USC will always be a “What If” season. One reason for that is due to an early road loss to Oregon State. On October 4th, looked to rebound from their upset loss as they played host to a 4-1 Oregon team that was ranked No. 23 in the AP Polls.
Oregon would jump on the Trojans early in the game with a 10-3 lead in the early 2nd quarter. After that USC would take control thanks to Mark Sanchez’s three touchdown passes in the 2nd quarter to take control of the game. Since trailing the Ducks in the game, USC go on a 41-0 run through out the game. Mark Sanchez threw for 332 yards and 3 touchdowns, while running back Joe McKnight would lead the Trojans in receptions with 86 yards off 5 receptions.
It wasn’t just the offense that did damage to Oregon, the Trojans defense played a huge part after recovering from the slow start. The defense held Oregon to 60 yards rushing and only 239 total offensive yards. They also forced two turnovers in the win over Oregon. USC would win the remainder of their games on their way to a seventh consecutive Pac-10 championship. Ironically Oregon would give the Trojans a hand in the Pac-10 title race at the end of the season as the Ducks would go on to blowout Oregon State to give the Trojans sole possession of the Pac-10 crown and a trip back to Pasadena for the Rose Bowl.
3. 2009: Halloween fright night at Autzen
Halloween games always bring out some type of wild and weirdness to the college football world. In 2009 USC and Oregon were not only in the mist of a Pac-10 championship race, but a BCS championship race as well. Both teams suffered early season losses, however Oregon’s loss came out of conference to Boise State while USC already suffered a conference opening loss to Washington. The game was big enough to the point that ESPN College Gameday made it’s trip to Eugene.
USC entered halftime trailing 24-17 after Oregon quarterback Jeremiah Masoli led the Ducks down the field for a drive that ended with a 17 yard touchdown pass to Jamare Holland. The Trojans trailed 20-27 midway through the third quarter, however that would be the closet they would get to the Ducks. Oregon’s 23-0 run would be enough to give USC it’s worse loss since 1997 and in the Pete Carroll era (at the time). The Ducks offense manhandled Pete Carroll’s defense for over 600 yards. Ducks running back LaMichael James rushed for 183 yards and 1 touchdown off 25 carries while Masoli gashed the Trojans defense for 164 yards on the ground and had a touchdown rush. He also threw over 222 yards in the victory over the Trojans. The Ducks defense would fluster freshman Matt Barkley and hold him to 187 yards passing. The win would give Oregon the edge in the Pac-10. Despite a loss to Stanford the following week, the Ducks would win their first Pac-10 championship since 2001 and end USC’s seven year title reign. Oregon would also play in the Rose Bowl Game for the first time since 1994.
2. 2012: Shootout in the Coliseum
The 2012 game between USC and Oregon was circled on everyone’s calendar as a potential Pac-12 Championship Game preview before the season. Oregon came into the game undefeated and ranked No. 2 in the nation while USC was coming off a loss at Arizona and was ranked No. 18 in the nation. Both teams were leading their division in the Pac-12.
The Ducks led by as much as 21-3 in the second quarter before USC finally got into the end zone when Matt Barkley hit Marqise Lee on a 75 yard touchdown pass. USC grabbed some momentum heading into halftime following a 76 yard touchdown toss to Nelson Agholor to cut the lead to ten.
The second half featured a lot of back and forth action as the Trojans and Ducks traded scores. One moment USC would cut the lead to three where Oregon pushed it right back to ten. Oregon pushed the game out of reach when Ducks running back Kenjon Barner rushed 5 yards for a touchdown to make the game 55-38. Despite USC attempting to come back, they couldn't make the stops to get back into the game. With a second left USC would score to make it 62-51. Barner would break a single game school record, rushing for 321 yards and 5 touchdowns off 38 carries against the Trojans. Mariota added 304 yards and 3 touchdowns through the air while his counterpart in Matt Barkley threw for a game high 484 yards, 4 touchdowns, however he threw two interceptions in the loss. Oregon out gained USC in total offensive yards 730-615, however the story was told on the ground where the Ducks out rushed the Trojans 426 to 131.
The following week Oregon was defeated at home by Stanford. The loss would cost the Ducks the Pac-12 North and a shot at the BCS national championship game. Oregon head coach Chip Kelly would leave the team to become the Philadelphia Eagles head coach following the Fiesta Bowl. USC on the other hand would drop their final three games of the season and fall to 7-6.
1. 2011: USC spoils Oregon’s National Championship Dreams
The 2011 season for USC was already predetermined for them. Due to NCAA sanctions, the Trojans were banned from playing in a bowl game and from playing in the inaugural Pac-12 Championship game. USC had a chance to play spoiler against Stanford, but fell short in triple overtime. Coming into the game Oregon was ranked No. 5 in the nation after a blowout victory over No. 3 Stanford and was in the hunt for a BCS national championship game appearance. This game even brought out NBA superstars LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, and Chris Bosh for the primetime game. All that was left for the Ducks was a win over USC at home to get over the hump, however the Trojans had different plans in mind.
USC jumped all over Oregon early on in the game and even took a 14-0 lead over the Ducks on the road. Late into the 2nd quarter with Oregon trailing 21-7, the Ducks were driving and in position to cut lead to 7. USC defensive tackle George Uko forced a LaMichael James fumble that was recovered Jawanza Starling to preserve the lead.
Trailing 38-20 heading into the 4th quarter, Oregon attempted to make a huge comeback to defeat the Trojans. The Ducks relied on a 15-0 run get back into the game and managed to cut the lead to three late in the game. With USC on the ropes and Oregon having all the momentum, the Ducks got into field goal range to attempt a game tying field goal to go into overtime. Oregon kicker Alejandro Maldonado hooked the 37 yard field goal attempt which gave USC the 38-35 victory over the No. 5 Ducks.
Matt Barkley picked apart Oregon’s secondary, throwing for 323 yards and 4 touchdowns. Marqise Lee had a game high 187 yards off 8 receptions while Robert Woods had 53 yards and two touchdowns. The bigger story was USC’s defense against an Oregon offense that gashed them just a year ago. The Trojans forced 3 turnovers and slowed down Oregon’s uptempo offense with their physicality . They also kept the Ducks offense off the field with long drives that gave the USC defense time to rest.
The following week USC would demolish UCLA 50-0 in their season finally while Oregon defeated Oregon State in the Civil war. Both the Trojans and Ducks led their respective divisions, however while Oregon was crowned the Pac-12 North champions, UCLA was crowned the Pac-12 South champions despite being blown out by USC. This was due to the NCAA sanctions that prohibited USC’s participation from postseason play. Oregon went on to play Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl, but the loss to USC knocked the Ducks out of the BCS National Championship game picture.