Despite being ineligible for BCS bowl games as well as the Pac-12 South Division title game, the USC Trojans (8-2, 5-2 Pac-12) continue to play out another great season with confidence, but will get the biggest challenge on their schedule yet as they head to Autzen Stadium to take on the 4th ranked Oregon Ducks (9-1, 7-0 Pac-12) in tonight’s featured NCAA Football match-up.
Ducks continue to roll through their competition and ascend the Top 25 rankings, coming off a dismantling of the previously #3-ranked Stanford Cardinal 53-30. At home tonight, the Ducks could find themselves moving up into the Top 3 behind unbeatens #1 LSU and #2 Alabama, taking advantage of last night’s huge upset to #2 Oklahoma State that has the Cowboys all but out of any title hopes this season. Oregon has been one of the most impressive home teams in the nation under head coach Chip Kelly, amassing a solid streak of 22 straight wins at the rockin’ Autzen Stadium, while also maintaining a 19-game winning streak against conference opposition. With USC basically playing for little other than pride and having lost two straight games against the Ducks (interestingly enough they haven’t won in Oregon since 2005 against both the Ducks and the Oregon State Beavers), one of the focal points for this match-up will be to see how the improving and talented young Trojans defense stacks up against Oregon’s 5th ranked rush attack (291.8 yards/game) led by Heisman Trophy candidate LaMichael James. Ranking 7th in the nation allowing just 100.4 yards per game, should the Trojans stand a chance at coming through with an upset victory this evening, they’ll simply have to do better than the Stanford Cardinal did last week, as their 6th-ranked rush defense allowed 232 yards on the ground, including 3 TDs and 146 yards to LaMichael James alone.
Though the Oregon Ducks have been known for years for their fast-paced spread offense, the USC Trojans have some great offensive weaponry of their own to bring to the table in this solid Pac-12 match-up. Starting with quarterback Matt Barkley (2782 yards, 29 TDs, 6 INTs, 152.5 passer rating), the Trojans look to exploit the Oregon defense by passing the ball early and often against a secondary that is allowing 236.7 yards/game through the air. They’ll simply have to get more points on the board than usual though (scoring 34.1 points/game vs. Oregon’s 46.7) if they want to contend on the road tonight, and that starts with hooking up downfield to the Trojans’ key wide receiver threats in Robert Woods ( leading the FBS with 92 catches, and also compiling 1126 yards and 11 TDs) and Marqise Lee (52 catches, 732 yards, 8 TDs). It’s still in question as to whether Woods starts this game (ankle, shoulder issues), and watch carefully for more information regarding his status, as that could great effect the Trojans’ scoring line tonight. That aside however, the 23rd-ranked passing game led by Matt Barkley will surely find success one way or another through the air, but will also benefit from a reasonably pliable Oregon rush defense, which gives up 147 yards per contest on the ground. Therefore another key point for the Trojans’ success will be establishing the run with lead back Curtis McNeal (113 carries, 787 yards, 5 TDs) to try and eat up some game clock against one of the fastest scoring offenses in College Football. Though there’s good balance in the USC offensive plan, USC also must maintain poise against a Ducks offense that will score, and score a lot. If they can keep the points bleeding to a minimum and work in a game plan to take out the biggest scoring threat (James) in the Oregon offense, this could be a much closer game than many would expect yet.
The main reason the Oregon Ducks will have success in today’s Pac-12 battle is the fact that they simply don’t care who opposes them on defense, and no matter how good of a squad opposes them, they are going to run the ball and likely run it well. In last week’s Stanford v Oregon match-up, I went out on a limb to predict the Cardinal to win, mainly on the hopes that the vaunted Stanford defense could hold strong against the Ducks rushing attack…which they failed miserably at, and lost the game by 23 points. With confidence in LaMichael James (153 carries, 1207 yards, 12 TDs) at an all-time high, expect Oregon to change very little from the game plan against Stanford last week, and continue to pound the ball on the ground as much as possible. However, assuming that Oregon is unbalanced on offense in the run-pass game would neglect attention to play caller Darron Thomas at quarterback, who despite only throwing for 150 yards last week, still netted 3 touchdowns, and is a threat to score at anytime through the air while helming an offense that gets down the field in under 3 minutes a possession. Despite lacking big yardage numbers (1704 yards vs. Barkley’s 2782), he’s still thrown for 22 TDs to only 5 picks with a 160.8 rating, and not surprisingly 15 of those TD passes have come at home this year, where he’s had a 209.9 rating as a passer. Limiting mistakes has been essential for Thomas and for the Ducks, and at home the mistakes come very few and far between, or simply become overlooked due to the punishing offense they dole out at Autzen. Nonetheless, even if the ground game is going full-tilt, expect a few surprises from the Ducks passing game, as they exploit the extra focus on their top rusher in LaMichael James.
Betting Lines for #4 Oregon vs. USC at Sportsbetting.ag
Following the betting lines at the featured top sportsbook reviewed at Sportsbetting.ag today, it’s no surprise to see the Oregon Ducks a lofty favorite on their home turf, getting -600 odds to win outright against their lower-scoring opponent USC. The Trojans, for the quality of play they possess, could be an interesting underdog pickup today with +450 odds to win, however as we look at the side-by-side comparison between these two teams and also what’s at stake for the both of them, we certainly see a very risky proposition hoping for USC to pick up a road win in Oregon for the first time in over 6 years against one of the best offenses in the country. Therefore, the best betting lines on today’s match-up will be with the points spread, which is at a conservative 14.5 points in favor of the Ducks. Judging by Oregon’s ability to score late (as they did last week against Stanford, a team that squeaked past USC on the road the week before) and very quickly, the Trojans could find themselves in a landslide defeat in a hurry should the Ducks rip off a couple consecutive TD drives. At -110 odds going with Oregon to cover 14.5 points or USC to stay within that amount, the safest play is to side with the Ducks, who average 12.5 points more per game while holding opposing offenses to 3 points less than USC does. Though that doesn’t give much breathing room, perhaps more comforting to online sports bettors today will be the historical aspects of these two teams meeting each other. Last year, on the road, the Ducks came away with a 53-32 win, beating the spread handily, and at home, they could inflict even more damage on USC if the Ducks get out to an early start. Expecting a lot of offense any which way, the 69 points slated for the over/under betting line looks easily beatable, with two of the Pac-12’s most veteran teams in play, and two great scoring offenses going to work.
Our Pick to Win:
Oregon simply has the better team in this match-up, and with more on the line for the Ducks, at home, we don’t expect to see any shocking surprises like what happened yesterday to #2 Oklahoma State (losing in double overtime to Iowa State). The book stays open on Oregon’s plight for a national championship, as they become the top-ranked 1-loss team in the country after a sound home defeat of USC and a lock-down of the Pac-12 north division title. The Ducks, running right through the USC defensive line, put up another strong effort at home in tonight’s game, winning by a score of 49-28 and will move up to 3rd in the nation come the next poll release.