PAC12 Championship Covid Style
USC Trojans vs Oregon Ducks
In what started out last week as the Oregon Ducks vs Washington Huskies football game to decide who would represent the North in the PAC12 Championship game, was by weeks-end a disappointing turn of events for Washington as the Huskies forfeited due to Covid issues and not having enough scholarship players to compete. Even with the cancellation of the game, the Huskies still claimed the right to the PAC12 North Crown. After several days with Duck fans being angry over the fact that the Huskies won a Championship without even playing for it, the week ended with Washington forfeiture allowed the Oregon Ducks to advance to the championship to play USC.
On Friday December 18 at 5:00 pm the #15 USC Trojans play the Oregon Ducks at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum for the PAC-12 Championship. The game will be broadcast live on Fox.
Before we talk about the individual teams and score predictions, let’s talk some PAC-12 History. The inaugural PAC-12 Championship game was played in 2011 and the first 3 games were played on the home field of the team with the best record. Following those 3 games all of the championship games were held at Levi Stadium in Santa Clara, California. This past season the PAC-12 elected to move the Championship game to Allegiant Stadium in Paradise, Nevada and most Championship games will be played there going forward. However this season, due to Covid restriction/rules, the 10th annual PAC-12 championship game will be held at the home stadium of the team with the best record, USC 5-0. Now for some predictions.
Let’s take a look at USC when they have the ball. USC QB Kedon Slovis is the guy leading an offense which averages 428 yards per game and, as the name Air Raid implies, the Trojans like to throw the ball all over the field, using quick passes to supplement the run game. With Slovis under center, the offense clicks along at around 5 yards per play on average with more plays favoring the pass game. On the year Slovis is the 2nd highest rated PAC12 QB (Duck QB Shough is the highest rated QB), averaging 319 passing yards, 35 points per game, 15 TD passes and only 4 interceptions. USC uses multiple WR/TE sets with Slovis’ favorite targets being Amon St Brown (6 TDs), Drake London (3 TDs), and Tyler Vaughns (3 TDs). When the Trojans run the ball, they average just over 4.4 yards rushing with Vavae Malepeai and Stephen Carr toting the rock. Defensively, Oregon Native Talanoa Hufanga leads the Trojans from his safety spot with 40 tackles, 4 interceptions, and 2 Forced Fumbles on the season.
When the Ducks and Tyler Shough have the ball they look to be more balanced, but with an emphasis on running the ball. The past few weeks, the Ducks have struggled to run the ball consistently but have been led by dual threat running back Travis Dye. Dye leads the team in rushing with a respectable 7.5 yards per carry, 1 TD and 5 receptions for 204 yards and 3 TDs. In the passing game Tyler Shough leads the conference in QB Passer Rating with 277 yards per game, 11 TDs, 4 interceptions, and 2 rushing TDs. Shough’s favorite target Devon Williams, who is coming off consecutive 100 games before missing the Cal game last week, leads the team with a healthy 20.5 yards per catch, with 2 TDs. Slot receiver Jaylon Redd leads the team with 20 receptions and is an offensive swiss army knife allowing the Ducks use him as an extension of the run game with fly sweeps and in the screen game. The Ducks also hope that Johnny Johnson and Mycah Pittman can get going to put consistent pressure on the Trojans passing defense.
Defensively the Ducks are led by Isaac Slade-Matautia with 33 tackles and Noah Sewell with 31 tackles. The Duck defense gives up 28 points per game while allowing 235 passing and 189 yards receiving. All season long the Ducks have struggled to stop the run game and the goal of the Duck defense this week will again be to slow down the Trojans when they run the ball. They have to be able to get ball carriers, wether they are receivers or running backs on the ground with initial contact and limit yards after catch. The next important thing to ensure a win is to get more pressure on Slovis with a pass rush that has been missing all season. Kavyon Thibodeaux who only has two sacks on the year will look to get at least that many against USC. In pass defense, the Ducks will look to play a lot of zone to limit big play opportunities, limit the Trojans to Field Goals in the red zone and force turnovers. But without putting pressure on Slovis it’s gonna be tough to slow the Trojans down.
Having said all of that both teams are actually pretty evenly matched statistically.
I think this will be a high scoring game with the last team who has the ball needing a score to win.
Ducks 42 Trojans 38
This Friday, Oregon gets the chance to play for the Pac12 Title, a week after missing out of the chance to win the North. USC and Oregon face off to break a tie for Conference Championships in the past 15 years. Each have 5.
Statistically speaking, these teams are very close to each other. USC leads the league in passing, while Oregon trails close behind at 2nd. They are 2nd and 3rd in points per game as well, and only 3 points different in points allowed.
Both teams are coming into this game as healthy as they've been all season, barring any late week issues. Oregon should benefit from having the extra week off. A healthy Devon Williams and CJ Verdell both are healthy and should have bounce back games. If Oregon's defense can play like they were expected to this season, they could dominate just like last year.
I predict Oregon wins a very close game, 45-42. Go Ducks