While No. 22 Southern California (7-3, 5-2) and No. 23 Oregon (7-3, 5-2) haven’t had the seasons many anticipated, there is still plenty for both teams to play for as they ride win streaks into Autzen Stadium in Eugene on Saturday.
The USC Trojans weathered a first-half storm that featured three losses in the first six games on top of a coaching change. They’ve turned things around under interim coach Clay Helton and pulled even in the Pac-12 South with No. 18 Utah after beating Colorado last week while the Utes lost at Arizona. The Trojans own the tiebreaker after a 42-24 win over then-unbeaten Utah on Oct. 24 in Helton’s first victory.
Senior quarterback Cody Kessler has led the charge back to relevance for the Trojans and threw for 204 yards and three touchdowns in the win over Colorado. Kessler has accounted for seven touchdowns and one interception during the four-game winning streak and has 25 total touchdowns to six picks on the season. His No. 1 target, Juju Smith-Schuster, leads the Pac-12 in receiving yards with 1,160, is tied for second with 10 touchdowns and ranks No. 4 with 63 receptions.
"You turn on the tape and quickly get slapped in the face with how good USC is," Oregon coach Mark Helfrich said.
The Ducks allow the third-most passing yards in the country (317.7) and have given up 31 touchdowns through the air in 10 games this season.
With a 38-36 win at then-No. 7 Stanford, Oregon gave themselves a fighting chance in the Pac-12 North but need some help. The Ducks need victories in their final three games and have the Cardinal lose to Cal this week in order to create a tie atop the division. Oregon was affected from the start of the season by a fractured finger suffered by quarterback Vernon Adams Jr., who played hampered before missing time in the middle of the season.
With Adams Jr. back in the fold Oregon has looked like an offensive powerhouse again, averaging 42.3 points during their winning streak. The Ducks have gained 1,712 yards in the four games, including 436 against Stanford last week. Adams Jr. is responsible for 13 touchdowns and 1,092 passing yards since the streak began. ''We're playing a lot faster and I'm a lot more confident in the offense,'' Adams said earlier this week.
Oregon also gets it done on the ground with running back Royce Freeman, who leads the Pac-12 in yards (1,392), touchdowns (12) and has six-straight games eclipsing 100 yards. Southern California has held teams to 83.8 yards per game and 2.7 yards per carry during their win streak.
These teams haven’t met since 2012 when Oregon won 62-51 at the Coliseum. In 2011, USC shocked Oregon in Eugene, 38-35. The Trojans lead the all-time series 37 to 19 with two ties.
Betting Line: Oregon by 4 points
Over/Under: 71.5 points
Prediction: This feels like a coin toss with both USC and Oregon riding winning streaks and second-half resurgences into a game they both need to win. Still, Oregon is the home team and came up with the most impressive win of the eight these two teams have combined for over the last month when they won at Stanford.
Predicted Score: Oregon over USC, 41-35