A friend asked me this week to name a conference that did a worse job than the PAC-12 in serving student athletes in this crazy year.
I had no answer.
Had the PAC-12 taken its own initiative instead of following other conferences, these wonderful athletes— especially football players— would have had a smoother road and a greater certainty of games.
Even so, we move on.
The Conference of Champions will produce a champion this week when unranked Oregon (3-2) travels to Los Angeles to play South Division champion #10 USC (5-0).
Both teams have had problems unbecoming a conference champion so I don’t expect the winner to gain ground toward the College Football Playoff.
Oregon’s problem is a season-long fumbling disorder.
The last time the Ducks played, they were three possession favorites against then-winless California. The Ducks led at the half but then failed to score at all the rest of the way thanks to two fourth quarter drives that ended in fumbles. The same thing happened the week when Oregon’s final possession against Oregon State ended in a fumble.
For the season, Oregon is second in the nation for the most fumbles per game.
USC’s season has been better, but then, comparing USC’s issues with those of Oregon gives me the sense that I’m judging between a pig and a hog. One might be more attractive, but neither is better with makeup.
Three Trojan wins came from unlikely comebacks in the fourth quarter. USC opened the season against Arizona State and only by scoring two touchdowns in seven seconds did the Trojans pull out a 28-27 win. The following week, they scored two touchdowns in the final four minutes to salvage things against an Arizona outfit that never did win a game. And last week, the Trojans scored with just 16 seconds remaining to overtake UCLA.
I’ve run some analytics on both offensive and defensive lines and found nothing distinguishable for either team. So, while both abound in skill players, neither is getting the grunt work done up front.
And, neither has a defense that ranks in the top one-third of the FBS and that is likely to be noticed by the bowl decisionmakers.
Despite those issues, both do some good things.
For example: Both have quarterbacks who rank in the top 25 for passing efficiency. Both teams average better than 420 yards of total offense per game. And both are in the top 20 for first down defense, although neither can stop much of anything thereafter.
Oregon should show a stronger rush attack because Travis Dye is a more versatile fit than C.J. Verdell in the Ducks’ new offensive scheme and because USC’s leading rusher Vavae Malepeai is unlikely to play because of a knee injury. Nonetheless, Troy won’t lose much ground because Marcus Stepp is an able replacement and because USC passes much more than it runs.
USC quarterback Kedon Slovis is 7th in the nation for passing yards per game (320) while Oregon’s Tyler Shough leads the Conference in passing efficiency (165.2; 13th nationally).
USC finds ways to come up with winning plays late in the game.
Oregon finds ways to fumble those opportunities away.
USC wins the lipstick, 35-27.
To see all of our FBS predictions, please visit us here at savvygameline.com.
I have a couple of Jeff Foxworthy-like observations from this week in college football:
You know things are bad when . . .
- You tell your athletic director that you are considering a head coaching job somewhere else and your athletic director reduces your buy-out. (Arkansas State and coach Blake Anderson)
- Your punter has three times as much punting yardage as your quarterback has in passing yardage. (Syracuse: 3314 punting; 1058 passing)