The Ducks enter this year’s conference championship after two humbling losses which should’ve ended their bid for a Rose Bowl. However, it didn’t, and while many media outlets think of the Pac-12 as a “Power Mid-Major” league. Oregon still has a chance to finish their campaign on a high note, and dance in the flowers of Pasadena. Here are three reasons why UO will win the conference title.
- Oregon’s Offense has the talent to hang with USC
USC’s offensive has a reputation of being one of the best in the Pac and rightfully so. They average 35.2 points per game which is 23rd in the nation.
However, the Ducks offense is a respectable group which may fly under the pond. Oregon’s offense is averaging 34.2 ppg which is 27th in the country. It doesn’t take an expert to realize that a one-point differential isn’t significant.
More importantly than the points per game statistic, is the Ducks rushing attack. Their 42nd in the nation averaging 189.2 yards per contest on the ground. The combination of CJ Verdell and Travis Dye are vastly underrated, and could dominate the Trojans if not respected.
At the very minimum, if UO can move the ball efficiently in the rushing attack, they’ll should be able to control the time of possession battle keeping them in the matchup.
USC enters this contest with one of the worst running offenses in the nation at 115th, averaging 109.2 yards per game. This number is skewed however, because the Trojans utilize an air raid system under offensive coordinator Graham Harrell.
Putting all the statistics aside. The biggest key to this matchup will be if the Ducks receivers can win in one-on-one matchups.
They haven’t looked like elite playmakers all season and this is their opportunity to shine. Quarterback Tyler Shough may consider targeting sophomore wideout Devon Williams, his 6-foot-5 frame could prove a difficult cover for SC defenders.
But it doesn’t have to be him, whether it’s Jaylon Redd, Johnny Johnson III, or even Dye out of the backfield, someone needs to step up if Oregon would like to pull off the upset.
2. USC Defense Isn’t Elite
The Trojans defense will likely struggle to stop the Ducks. UO’s offensive is loaded with talent whether most media outlets recognize it or not.
While SC’s stopper unit isn’t bad, ranking 41st in scoring defense at 25 points per game. They don’t have enough game changing playmakers to frighten the opposition.
The two most notable Trojan defenders are safety Talanoa Hufanga and defensive end/outside linebacker Drake Jackson. But really Hufanga is the stud on this team, he’s the guy.
To counteract him Oregon would prove wise running the ball on a regular basis. Mario Cristobal’s pedigree as an offensive lineman could show useful in this matchup. USC enters this contest, with the 57th best rushing defense in the nation allowing 157 yards per game.
In regards to SC’s secondary, there allowing 238 passing yards per outing ranked 71st nationally, this is about as pedestrian as it gets.
So again, this comes down to if Oregon’s receivers really want to play?
Outside of Hufanga, Shough should be able to find matchups he can take advantage of. No Ducks wideout has more than 300 yards receiving this year, it’s time to change that trend.
3. Fried Duck
The last couple of weeks UO’s reputation has taken a major fall. A month ago, many media outlets believed this team had an outside shot of making the College Football Playoff, the players probably felt the same way.
Two losses later, and now many Pac-12 fans are wondering if Oregon is even deserving of being in the title game.
This feels like a team who drank the media “Franzia,” and forgot to execute the little details that often prove the difference between winning and losing.
But it’s more than that. It’s the Dawg.
The Ducks haven’t played with a killer instinct since the opener against Stanford. Their going to unleash their inner beast and play with a passion they haven’t show thus far this year.
And while grit isn’t enough to win football games alone, please don’t forget, Oregon is still arguably the most talented team in the conference.
USC hasn’t faced an opponent as athletically gifted as the Ducks this season, and their not ready for the noise.
Oregon is tired of being cooked in the media and their ready to defend their Pac-12 Championship.