Before we talk about the big game tomorrow let’s acknowledge that Coach Mario Cristobal has been extended through the 2026 season on a contract worth about 24.1 million dollars. My question to everyone is, was the ever any doubt I mean really? This is a match that most of us hope continues for many years. Oregon has a history of keeping coaches for decades in some cases. Oregon loves Cristobal and Cristobal loves Oregon.
Now on to the PAC12 Championship game. If you look at the statistics both teams are really evenly matched. The game features the top two ranked quarterbacks in the conference with Shough like Duck just edging out Kedon Slovis. Both have high powered offenses with USC coming in at #4 in the conference with 428 total yards and 35.2 points per game. The Ducks lead the conference in total yards 467 and score 34.2 yards game.
So let’s look at what the Ducks must do offensively to win the game. When the Ducks have the ball they will look to reestablish the run game with CJ Verdell who has struggled the last few weeks which made way for Travis Dye to have some big games. In the run game, the Ducks really need the 3 headed monster of Verdell, Dye and Cyrus Habibi-Likio to be clicking on all cylinders. Verdell, the bell cow needs to have 15+ running plays of positive yards, Dye to continue to do what he is doing in the change of pace role with multiple explosive plays, and for Habibi-Likio to have multiple touches in the red zone and score more then twice. In the pass game Shough needs to play more confident as he did early in the season, make good decisions aka reads and limit turnovers. Shough needs his pass catchers to be multiple while taking several shots down field with Devon Williams leading the way. Jaylon Redd has been consistent in the offense all season but the Ducks look for him to take the team leading 30 receptions and turn some of those balls into touchdowns. The Ducks can count on Redd and Williams to be consistent in the pass game, but will need Johnson and Pittman to both have games where they are catching 5+ balls each. If the Ducks can have more than 10 explosive plays on offense and score 38+ points it will be a winning day for Coach Joe Moorhead’s Duck Offense. Limit the turnovers and control the pace of the game by successfully running the ball will help keep USC’s Air Raid Offense off the field. On special teams the Ducks Kicker Henry Katleman needs to play near perfect, make all extra points and make all Field goals. The punter Australian Tom Snee will need to protect the field position battle with consistent accurate punting.
On defense the Ducks need to be better in all aspects, but most importantly in my estimation would be to limit the Trojans to Field Goals in the red zone, force turnovers and multiple quick change opportunities for the Duck Offense. It may sound obvious or to some not relevant at all to make USC truly one dimensional by stopping the run game from getting started at all. The Ducks do this by getting penetration up front with Kayvon Thibodeaux, Jordon Scott and Austin Faoliu who make tackles on initial contact limiting in yards after contact by the ball carriers. By putting that pressure on Trojan O-linemen if allows for Isaac Slade-Matauti and Noah Sewell to play down hill stopping the USC runners before they even get started in the backfield. By forcing the Trojans to pass while the Ducks can load up on blitz packages to get max pressure on USC Quarterback Slovis. The Ducks have struggled this season on QB sacks with last years Leader KT having only 2 sacks on the season. Look for KT to go crazy in USC backfield in his home town of Los Angeles. With KT applying pressure from multiple spots along the Duck front 7, it may force the Trojans to double up on him allowing guys like Mase Funa, Sewell and blitzing safeties to get after Slovis. If the Ducks can get to QB Slovis and sack him him 3+ times it will make completed this balls downfield difficult and put the Duck secondary into dominate position. The Ducks will play a lot of zone which can work well as long as Duck defenders can tackle the ball carrier to the ground on that initial contact. When the Ducks Defensive Backs play man cornerbacks Deommodore Lenior, Mykael Wright and Jamal Hill will depend on the defenses front seven for that QB pressure so they can make some big plays on the ball forcing Turnovers or making the Trojans rely on Field Goals in the red zone as I mentioned above. One point that can never be underestimated is how many of the Duck Players hail from California and a lot of them from the greater Los Angeles area, if the players needed any motivation playing in front of Family and Friends is a good one. Last year that motivation seemed to work well as the Oregon Ducks beat the Trojans soundly 56-24.
To simply all of what I just said if the Ducks limit turnovers, penalties and unforced errors the Ducks will repeat as the PAC12 Champions and create more momentum for the years to come. Go Ducks
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