Both teams will put their Pac-12 title hopes on the line this week when the USC Trojans play host to the no. 7 Oregon Ducks. Kickoff will be in primetime at 8:00 EST on Saturday, November 2 at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The game will be nationally televised on Fox.
Oddsmakers list the Ducks as 4.5-point favorites on the road with an over/under of 62.5 points. Be sure to check out all of this week’s college football betting odds.
After losing their season opener to Auburn, the Ducks have been unstoppable, winning seven straight games. To be fair, a couple of those games have been close, including a 35-31 comeback win over Washington and last week’s 37-35 nail biter against Washington State. Nevertheless, Oregon has survived, allowing the Ducks to run away with the Pac-12 North and climb back into the top-10.
If the Ducks can keep winning and take home their first Pac-12 championship since 2014, they’ll have a strong case for making the College Football Playoff. Outside of the Pac-12 title game, this week’s trip to USC appears to be the toughest game left on Oregon’s schedule. While they can probably lose a game and still reach the conference championship game, if the Ducks want to have any chance at making the top-4, they have to be perfect the rest of the way.
The Trojans, meanwhile, also control their own destiny with regard to the Pac-12 Championship Game. USC suffered a couple of tough losses to Washington and Notre Dame not too long ago. But they’ve responded with consecutive wins over Arizona and Colorado. Last week’s game in Colorado wasn’t their finest hour, but the Trojans scored the final 14 points of the game to win 35-31 and avoid losing an obvious trap game.
Thanks to a head-to-head win over Utah in September, USC owns the tiebreaker over the Utes with both teams 4-1 in Pac-12 play. If the Trojans slip up, Utah could sneak ahead of them. But if USC can hold serve the rest of the season, they’ll find themselves in the Pac-12 Championship Game, most likely against Oregon.
This will be the first meeting between USC and Oregon since 2016 when the Trojans scored a convincing 45-20 win at home. The Ducks haven’t won a game at the Coliseum since 2012 in a wild 62-51 game that featured Lane Kiffin and Chip Kelly as the two head coaches.
Oregon’s close calls the last few weeks make me too nervous to swallow the points in this game. Plus, USC is perfect at home this season, including that upset of Utah earlier this season. The Trojans have also faced plenty of challenging games this year, so they won’t be the least bit intimidated by the Ducks. Even if the Ducks eke out another win, I’m not sure they’ll cover, so I’ll take USC to beat the spread.
A couple of weeks ago, I was high on Oregon largely because of their defense. But the Ducks have come back down to earth on that side of the ball against Washington and Washington State, two of the better offensive teams in the Pac-12. The Oregon defense has been particularly vulnerable through the air, which plays into USC’s hands. With the Ducks going on the road, I’m not sure I can bank on their defense to keep the Trojans under wraps for 60 minutes.
While injuries are hindering the USC rushing attack at the moment, there’s nothing wrong with the passing game. Freshman Kedon Slovis appears to be getting better every week. In his three games since returning from a concussion, Slovis has thrown eight touchdown passes and just one interception. He’s also completed over 65% of his passes during that span. If he continues to be accurate and mistake-free, Slovis should have no problem moving the ball against the Oregon defense and putting points on the board.
Of course, the USC defense figures to have the greater challenge this week trying to slow down Justin Herbert and the Oregon offense. Herbert is quietly putting together a Heisman-worthy campaign with 21 touchdown passes and just one interception. The Ducks are also able to run the ball consistently behind a powerful offensive line, including 257 yards from CJ Verdell last week against Washington State.
But I think the USC defense deserves some credit for their performance this year. The Trojans haven’t been anything special on that side of the ball. But they’ve faced a challenging schedule and managed to hold their own. They’ve held opponents to 23 points or less in their four home games this season, and if they keep Oregon in that range, they’ll give the offense a chance.
To be honest, I have no doubt that Oregon is the better team in this game. But their defensive struggles combined with going on the road make give me pause. The Trojans and their young quarterback seem to be improving every week, so I’ll take a chance on USC at least beating the spread in this game.