USC Trojans poised to challenge Oregon Ducks for Pac-12 title
The Oregon Ducks will look to repeat as Pac-12 Conference champions this year, but don't count out the USC Trojans, who could challenge them for the title when the NCAA football season kicks off in September.
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Fri, November 27 2020, 5:01 AM
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Ducks offense transitions from the Justin Herbert Era
There were only two blemishes last season for the Ducks, starting with a heartbreaking season-opening loss to Auburn.
Apart from that and a late-November road loss to Arizona State, the Ducks put together an impressive 2019 campaign, capped off with a convincing victory over No. 5 Utah in the Pac-12 Conference Championship Game, and a thrilling 28-27 victory over No. 8 Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl.
Quarterback Justin Herbert threw for a career-best 3,471 yards and 32 touchdowns, while only tossing six interceptions, cementing his standing as one of the top quarterback prospects in the 2020 NFL Draft.
Herbert eventually went sixth overall to the Los Angeles Chargers, and now it will be up to the Ducks to successfully transition to a new starting quarterback if they are to repeat as conference champions.
Tyler Shough has been dubbed as successor to Herbert at Oregon. Shough saw action in five games last season – all in blowout victories for the Ducks, when the outcome was no longer in question – and completed 12 passes on 15 attempts for 144 yards, three touchdowns, and zero interceptions.
The next step in his development will be to lead this offense right out of the gate in 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic could factor into that.
The next step in his development will be to lead this offense right out of the gate in 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic could be a factor.
As a result of ongoing efforts to limit the spread of COVID-19, Oregon has been limited to just a few spring workouts, and a lack of reps for the new starting quarterback and his receivers could present early challenges for the timing of the offense at the start of the season.
Shough is also working with a new offensive coordinator, as Joe Moorhead takes over in Oregon.
In his first year at Penn State, Joe Moorhead produced:— Zach Barnett (@zach_barnett) June 9, 2020
- a 57-spot jump in yards per play
- a 79-spot jump in scoring offense
- a 64-spot jump in passing efficiency
- a 4-win increase
If he makes a similar impact at Oregon, the Ducks are Playoff boundhttps://t.co/p1pQzgTXbL
Oregon’s offense will have a much different look in 2020, with a new quarterback, new coordinator, new system, new receivers, and as many as four new starters on the offensive line.
The Ducks open their season against North Dakota State on Sept. 5, and follow that up with a pivotal test against the Ohio State Buckeyes.
Expectations are higher for the Trojans
After finishing second in the Pac-12 South Division last season, the USC Trojans are expected to overtake the Utah Utes and challenge for the conference title, their first since 2017.
The Trojans averaged 32.5 points per game last season, and finished the year by winning five of their last seven games after some tougher results against Washington and Notre Dame earlier in the year. One of the Trojans’ final losses of the season was a 56-24 drubbing at the hands of the Ducks in November.
Unlike Oregon, several returnees are slated to run the Trojans offense once again, beginning with quarterback Kedon Slovis, who enters his sophomore season.
Slovis threw for 3,502 yards and 30 touchdowns, while giving up eight interceptions. He has odds of +3800 at BetAmerica to win the Heisman Trophy entering the 2020 season.
Slovis took the Pac-12 by storm, particularly in the second half of the season. He recorded at least 400 yards passing in four of five games before the San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl in December.
Slovis will be the focal point of the offense, but USC also boasts an impressive group of receivers led by junior Amon-Ra St. Brown, who caught 77 passes for 1,042 yards last year.
Given the leading characters that USC will bring back for the 2020 season, this offense could have the advantage over a rebuilding unit in Oregon.
The first meeting of the season between the Trojans and Ducks is scheduled for Nov. 7, in what could be a preview of the Pac-12 title game a few weeks later. Circle the date on your calendar now.