What will it take for USC football to win the Pac-12 title vs. Oregon?
It’s conference championship week! Despite the fact that most USC football fans have made appointments with their cardiologists over the last six weeks, the Men of Troy are right where they wanted to be: playing for a Pac-12 title.
With the Washington Huskies being forced to opt-out of the game due to COVID-19 cases, USC is pitted against the preseason favorite from the North division, Oregon.
Coming off an exhilarating win over UCLA, USC must bounce back in six days to take on a Duck team coming off a bye. It’s not ideal, yet no one is surprised that the Pac-12 isn’t helping out their best team.
Let’s take a look at four keys to victory for USC tonight.
USC football must turn up the heat
The 2020 season for Oregon began with a crippling opt-out from left tackle Penei Sewell. The All-American lineman would have been counted on to protect first-year quarterback Tyler Shough’s blindside, and it’s reasonable to think Shough wouldn’t have spared a single thought to his left with Sewell playing.
However, it isn’t just Sewell that is gone. Oregon lost all five starting offensive linemen from 2019 for various reasons, and even with five games to gel, there is a clear opportunity for USC to terrorize the Duck’s backfield.
Shough’s efficiency has been excellent this season. He has completed nearly 64 percent of his throws with an 11-to-4 TD-to-INT ratio, and when things break down, he is dangerous with his legs (44 rushes for 297 yards).
But when reviewing the tape, it’s obvious that the redshirt sophomore doesn’t fully trust his o-line. If his first and especially second read aren’t there, Shough tends to either force a pass into tight coverage or take off with his legs because his internal clock is blaring.
There’s little doubt that the Trojans’ pass rush is the best the Ducks will see all season. Marlon Tuipulotu is a wrecking ball in the center of the defense, and Nick Figueroa and Drake Jackson make it impossible for opposing offensive lines to double team consistently. Plus, on passing downs, Hunter Echols enters the game and is USC’s most effective pass rusher.
If the Trojans are going to win, they need to consistently pressure Shough while spying him to force him into passes he doesn’t want to make. Yes, that puts a lot of pressure on the Trojans’ corners to win 1v1, but they have been up to the task all season, so this week should be no different.