Friday, December 18, 2020, United Airlines Field at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Clemson, South Carolina, 8 p.m. ET
Ducks at Trojans Betting Preview: Ducks (+3.5), Trojans (-3.5)
Oregon and Southern California were the favorites to reach the title game when the Pac-12 got off to its delayed start, but the Ducks went through some twists and one final unexpected turn to get there.
The Ducks (3-2, 3-2 Pac-12) finished second in the Pac-12’s North Division behind Washington, but a COVID-19 spike in the Huskies’ program knocked them out of the title game early this week after Oregon’s game with Washington last weekend was canceled.
The Ducks were on pace to win the division title until dropping their last two games on the road, 41-38 to Oregon State and 21-17 to previously winless California.
“A lot of excitement about the opportunity, at the same time thoughts and prayers to everyone in Seattle,” said Ducks coach Mario Cristobal said, referring to the Huskies’ coronavirus outbreak.
“You want to settle everything on the field … (this is) the solution (the Pac-12) could come up with.”
Oregon’s Tyler Shough is the conference’s top-rated passer, having completed 91 of 143 attempts (63.6 percent) for 1,389 yards and 11 touchdowns against four interceptions.
His favorite target is Jaylon Redd with 20 catches for 235 yards, but Johnny Johnson III is not far behind with 203 yards on 14 receptions.
The leading rusher is Travis Dye with 336 yards in the five games.
The Trojans (5-0, 5-0 Pac-12) assured themselves of the South Division title with their comeback win over UCLA last week, but it wasn’t until two days later they were able to start tweaking their game plan for Oregon.
“We control what we control, and that’s us,” USC coach Clay Helton said. “We’re just happy to be in this opportunity, and we’re going to make the most of it. We’re going to have a great plan, and we’re going to execute that plan because we’re going to do the things that we do well.”
The Trojans, who rallied from an 18-point deficit to defeat rival UCLA 43-38 last week, knew there was a possibility that Washington, which had the best record in the North, might not be able to play. Helton had his coaching staff prepare for the Huskies during the day and the Ducks at night.
USC’s first three opponents of the season — Arizona State, Arizona and Utah — were playing their 2020 openers when the Trojans lined up against them, so the staff is used to having limited game film to study.
“Not knowing who we’re going to play, I think our coaches make it easy on us,” said USC’s Amon-Ra St. Brown, who has a conference-leading 36 receptions. “I think it’s harder on them than it is on us. They’re making the game plan, doing all the hard work. If we listen to our coaches and go out there and do what they say, I think we’ll be fine.”
St. Brown’s 8-yard touchdown reception with 16 seconds remaining capped the comeback against UCLA, the third time this season the Trojans have rallied to win in the final seconds.
The Trojans might be without their leading rusher, Vavae Malepeai, who sprained his knee late against UCLA. Malepeai rushed for 110 yards and a touchdown in the rivalry game.
USC’s Kedon Slovis has thrown for a league-best 1,601 yards and 15 touchdowns, including five against the Bruins. He is 149-of-212 passing (70.3 percent) on the season.
Ducks at Trojans Betting Pick for December 18, 2020
Despite the abbreviated Pac-12 schedule, the Ducks and Trojans have had two common opponents this season, The Ducks beat Washington State 43-29 and UCLA 38-35 and the Trojans beat the Cougars 38-13 and Bruins 43-38 their last two outings.
Ducks at Trojans Betting Pick:
Trojans 35, Ducks 31
Ducks at Trojans Best Bet for December 18, 2020
The Ducks won the most recent meeting 66-24 but Justin Herbert, who threw three touchdown passes in that game, won’t be around for the Ducks for this one. The Ducks are coming off a season scoring low in a 21-17 loss to California their last game while the Trojans notched a season high in a 43-38 comeback win over UCLA their last outing.
Ducks at Trojans Best Bet: OVER 62