NCAA Friday Night Football: USC/Oregon Preview

by Big Al Staff

Oregon plays at USC in the Pac-12 Championship Game on Fox at 8 PM ET in a game put together on Monday of this week after Washington had to pull out of the game due to their continued COVID outbreak.

Oregon had planned to play the Huskies last weekend in what would have been the de-facto play-in game to represent the Pac-12 North Division in this contest. When that game got canceled because of Washington's COVID issues, the Ducks thought they had missed their chance to play for the conference championship.

Oregon opened their season with three straight victories against Stanford, Washington State, and UCLA. But the Ducks have stumbled with two straight upset losses at Oregon State and then at California on December 5th by a 21-17 score. Turnovers have made the difference in both games as Oregon turned the ball over five times in those two games without a takeaway. After ranking fifth in the nation last year with a +16 net turnover margin, the Ducks are tied for 123rd in the country this season with a -1.40 net turnover margin per game.

Redshirt sophomore quarterback Tyler Shough leads an Oregon offense that scores 34.2 points-per-game while averaging 467.0 yards-per-game. Those numbers rank 27th and 21st in the FBS. Shough is completing 63.6% of his passes for 1389 yards with 11 touchdown passes and four interceptions.

USC won the Pac-12 South Division by winning all five of their regular-season games. The Trojans rallied from a 28-10 deficit in the third quarter by outscoring UCLA by a 20-3 margin in the fourth quarter to eke out a 43-38 dramatic victory. Quarterback Kedon Slovis completed 30 of 47 passes for 344 yards with five touchdown passes and two interceptions in the win. The sophomore is completing 70.3% of his passes for 1601 yards with 15 touchdown passes and four interceptions.

USC is scoring 35.2 points-per-game while averaging 428.4 yards-per-game, which ranks 23rd and 28th in the nation. After enduring a -10 net turnover margin last year, the Trojans have turned that around this season by averaging a +1.4 net turnover margin per game, tied for fourth-best in the nation. USC will be without their top running back tonight with Vavae Malepeai doubtful with a sprained knee. Malepeai rushed for 110 yards against UCLA last week.

Both of these teams have been vulnerable on defense. The Trojans allow 25.0 points-per-game along with 396.6 yards-per-game, which rank 41st and 56th in the nation. The Ducks give up 28.0 points-per-game and 419.8 yards-per-game, which is 59th and 75th in the FBS.

The Pac-12 Championship Game's initial site at a neutral field in Las Vegas changed because of COVID concerns. The Trojans host this game at their Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

USC ranks a distant 13th in the latest college football playoff rankings. Yet a victory against Oregon tonight to continue their unbeaten season might put the Trojans in play in the minds of the committee if chaos reigns in the Saturday games.

lists USC as a 3-point favorite with the total set at 64.5.

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

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