USC football: Can Trojans make playoff noise in Pac-12 title vs. Oregon?

USC football has a chance to be undefeated and win another Pac-12 championship under Clay Helton and head to another New Year’s Six game.

While the Pac-12 championship has little to no bearing (presumably) on the playoff race, this is a matchup of the two premier programs in the conference for a chance to get to a New Year’s Six game and to build some positive momentum heading into next season, which will hopefully be COVID-19 free.

USC has been the only one in this game that has lived up to preseason expectations this season, but Oregon is talented enough to win this game and the way the Trojans have been unable to pull away from teams this season gives you enough reason to think that this game should be a close one.

This will be matchup of of two teams that have different identities on offense, with USC having one of the most talented receiving corps in the country and running the air raid and Oregon being more of a balanced team and wanting to be able to run to set up the pass.

Oregon comes into this game limping a little bit, having lost two in a row and only being included in the title game because Washington was unable to field a team to play. Oregon has not gotten a complete effort on either side of the ball since their first game versus Stanford, as their defense could not stop Oregon State in that game and their offense could not score on California in their last game out. The Ducks will need a complete effort to defeat USC in this game.

USC has been surviving through most of their games, winning in the fourth quarter against Arizona State, Arizona, and last week against UCLA, a game in which they trailed by 18.

Nobody is giving the Trojans much respect around the country and honestly, it’s hard to imagine beating this Oregon team as being able to gain them much respect around the country.

Here is how you can watch USC vs. Oregon on Friday.

Date: Friday, Dec. 18
Time: 8 p.m. ET
Venue: LA Memorial Coliseum
Location: Los Angeles, Calif.
TV: FOX
Live Stream: FOX Sports Live or FuboTV

Keys to Victory

For the USC offense, they are going to have to be able to run the ball effectively, which should happen against a Ducks defense that could not stop Oregon State on the ground a few weeks ago. The Trojans will be without starting running back Vavae Malepeai, who played a key role in USC’s victory over UCLA last Saturday.

For the USC defense, they are going to need to be able to get pressure on Oregon quarterback Tyler Shough. He has a penchant for turnovers when he is rattled, but USC has been unable to get pressure consistently on teams, so that is the biggest key if the Trojans want to bring home the conference championship.

For the Oregon offense, Shough has to be more consistent and not turn the ball over so much. The Oregon offense can look really capable and in rhythm at times, and other times, it just looks incoherent and without thought to it. The Ducks need to establish an identity early in this game.

For the Oregon defense, the obvious answer is preventing the big plays down the field that USC will try to get with their talented wide receivers. USC’s receivers are fast and physical and will be a tough matchup for a depleted Oregon secondary.

Betting Odds

All odds provided courtesy of The Action Network

Point Spread: USC -3
Over/Under: 62

Prediction

This was the matchup that most fans and analysts would have predicted that we would get in the Pac-12 championship, but it is not a matchup of undefeated teams that the conference desperately needed. I think that USC will win this game because I think they have an identity and are a well established team at this point.

Oregon is talented, but I can’t figure out what their identity is and what they do consistently well.

Close game, but Kedon Slovis and the Trojans offense wins another one in the fourth quarter.

Final Score: USC 34, Oregon 27