Why USC Will Win
– The passing game has warmed up. Even with 381 yards and two touchdowns through the air in the opening win over Arizona State, this looked and played like a team fighting through the rust for a while. The O wasn’t perfect against UCLA, but it worked when it had to, and now Kedon Slovis has thrown five touchdown passes in each of his last two games. Making things even better …
– The Oregon pass rush hasn’t been anything special. It started to work in the win over Cal a few weeks ago, but there hasn’t been enough pressure in the backfield over the course of the season. The USC offensive line hasn’t been a rock in pass protection, but it shouldn’t be overwhelmed.
– Oregon has a massive turnover issue. It was able to slip by UCLA even though it was able to come up with four takeaways and finished with a +3 turnover margin. The team was a -10 in the other four games.
USC might not always be sharp, but it’s not getting killed by the takeaways and the D has been swarming, coming up with three turnovers or more in four of the five games.
Why Oregon Will Win
– The offense might not be rocking and rolling like it’s supposed to, but it’s dominant when it needs to move the chains. There were issues in the win against UCLA, but overall, converting on third downs hasn’t been a problem – the Ducks lead the Pac-12 in third down conversions – and the USC D will give up a few plays against decent-tempo teams.
– There’s not enough of a running game for Oregon worry about. Stopping the run was a massive issue against Oregon State’s Jermar Jefferson and UCLA, and the defense has allowed 12 touchdown runs over the five games. That won’t be a problem against a USC offense that’s almost all about the passing game and can’t get going on the ground when it tries – the ground game has been worse over the last three weeks.
– USC has been playing with fire way too often. If the passing game isn’t clicking, there’s a lull, and there’s a problem. The Duck pass defense has allowed just three touchdown passes over the last three weeks and it’s not getting beaten enough deep. Yes, the Oregon pass rush hasn’t been good enough, but if it get get to Slovis, the defense will get off the field.