The Ducks and Trojans are meeting in a clash of Pac-12 division leaders in Los Angeles. The Ducks have won four of the last six meetings between these two, including a pair of victories in the L.A. Memorial Coliseum.
Oregon (7-1, 5-0 Pac-12) has been among the best in the nation over the last seven games. The Ducks have won seven straight and are off to their first 5-0 start in Pac-12 play since 2013. Oregon is one of the most balanced offenses in the country, led by senior quarterback Justin Herbert. Herbert is widely regarded as one of the best quarterbacks in the country and is one of just two QBs with 20 or more touchdowns and just one or fewer interceptions this season. But the Ducks don’t rely on Herbert alone. Fifteen different Oregon players have scored a touchdown this season, led by junior receiver Jaylon Redd with eight. The Ducks rushing attack is also near the top of the Pac-12, led by sophomore CJ Verdell, who leads the conference with 753 rushing yards.
On defense, Oregon has similar balance. The Ducks lead the nation with 14 interceptions by nine different players. Sophomore defensive back Jevon Holland has four interceptions this season and is one of just three players in the country that have four or more passes picked off in each of the last two years. Oregon also spreads the love when it comes to sacking opposing quarterbacks. The Ducks are fourth nationally with 15 different players that have at least half a sack. These exotic defensive looks have resulted in an all-around strong defense, which ranks first or second in the Pac-12 in nine different categories, including second in scoring and total defense.
USC (5-3, 4-1 Pac-12) has won two straight games, including a come-from-behind victory at Colorado last week, 35-31. The Trojans were without their top three running backs in the last few games, but freshman speedster Kenan Christon stepped up. Against Arizona on October 19, Christon ran eight times for 103 yards and a pair of scores. Last week at Colorado, Christon came through again with 14 carries for 76 yards. But USC’s new Air Raid offense is built on exactly what you would expect, the passing attack. Freshman quarterback Kedon Slovis has played like a Freshman All-American candidate this season and ranks in the top-10 nationally in completion percentage and passing efficiency. Slovis has been aided by perhaps the best trio of receivers in the country, senior Michael Pittman Jr., junior Tyler Vaughns and sophomore Amon-Ra St. Brown. Together, the receiver trinity has compiled 140 catches for 1,825 yards and 16 touchdowns.
The Trojan defense has battled inexperience and injuries all season long, but USC is slowly getting healthier. Freshman cornerback Chris Steele and senior defensive end Christian Rector should return to the field against Oregon, which will give the Trojans a boost. Rector is the most experienced player on the Trojan defensive line and has shown the ability to get after opposing quarterbacks. The Trojans have had trouble containing quarterbacks who can run, and while the Duck’s Herbert isn’t a traditional running quarterback, he has the ability to escape the rush and pick up yardage. USC was able to keep Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate from getting loose, so a similar game plan should be used to keep Herbert in check.
The keys to this game for USC are to protect the football and establish a rushing attack, which will open up the passing lanes. On the other hand, Oregon will need to contain the Trojans passing attack, while also controlling the clock by running the football efficiently.