Two high-powered offenses meet on Saturday afternoon at Autzen Stadium when the No.23 Oregon Ducks (7-3, 5-2) host the No. 24 USC Trojans (7-3, 5-2). Both schools will be without key defensive players in what was already expected to be a high-scoring game.
Oregon defensive back Tyree Robinson and outside linebacker Christian French are both out, and so is USC freshman linebacker Cameron Smith. The Trojans are expected to start sophomore Olajuwon Tucker in Smith’s place. Clay Helton’s defense is also without experienced linebacker Lamar Dawson.
The Ducks lead the Pac-12 in scoring at 41.8 points per game, and the Trojans are not far behind at 36.4. But USC is third in the conference in scoring defense (22.7), while Oregon is last (37.1). Oregon ranks No. 126th in passing yardage allowed (317.7), and will be facing quarterback Cody Kessler, who has thrown for 23 touchdowns and six interceptions while averaging 271.5 yards per game.
Both programs have been on a hot streak with four consecutive wins, with Oregon coming off a big road win over then-No. 7 Stanford, while USC has maintained their momentum from a victory over then-No. 3 Utah on Oct. 24. But USC looked vulnerable against a rather weak Colorado Buffaloes squad that held a 17-6 lead at halftime before the Trojans got their act together behind three touchdown passes from Kessler.
“I would much rather have a team that finishes,” USC interim head coach Clay Helton said. “I want a complete game, that’s great, but I think you want a team that finishes and I think that’s what we’ve been able to do.
“The name of the game at the end of the day is to outscore your opponents.”
The Trojans may have trouble outscoring the Ducks. Oregon has scored 20 points or more in every game this year, and averaged 47.6 points per game in their last three games. But head coach Mark Helfrich is aware that USC has plenty of talent on the defense, even without two of their linebackers.
“They’re playing extremely well, and they kind of got it all,” said Helfrich. “I know everybody is making a big deal of the linebackers going down, which is unfortunate. But they have some very talented guys, and experienced guys behind them. Their secondary is playing extremely well.”
The last time USC and Oregon met was in 2012, with Oregon prevailing at the Coliseum, 62-51.
Betting Line: Oregon by 4 points
Over/Under: 72 points
Start Time: 3:30 pm ET
TV Channel: ESPN
Live Stream Info: Watch ESPN
Prediction: Getting defensive stops will be tough for both schools, but Oregon will have the advantage in their loud stadium. Expect a big game from USC wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, but Oregon should counter with a stronger effort from running back Royce Freeman.
Predicted Score: Oregon over USC, 41-30