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Odds Favor Quick Start, Happy Finish for USC in Pac-12 Championship

USC faces an unexpected foe in the Pac-12 championship game Friday in Los Angeles, as Oregon replaces Washington in the matchup for the conference title.

The 13th-ranked Trojans (5-0) ride a strong offense into the title game, averaging 35.5 points per game, and are a 3-point favorite with a -155 moneyline according to Bovada.

The Ducks (3-2), who have a +135 moneyline, scored 35 or more points in four of their five games but stumbled to just 17 points in a loss to Cal in their last game on December 5.

The over/under for total points is 64.

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See Bovada for updated lines and odds.

Ducks Seek Better Execution

One concern for the Ducks – who have lost two in a row – as they try to defend their Pac-12 title is that offensive output against previously winless Cal, in which they did not score on two trips inside the red zone. Quarterback Tyler Shough is second in the conference in passing yards (1,389) and third in touchdowns (11). He completed 14-of-26 passes for 231 yards and a touchdown against Cal but lost a fumble, one week after throwing two interceptions in a loss to Oregon State.

Oregon’s odds to win a close game (six points or fewer) are +450, and if the contest is that close, the Ducks have to be more disciplined. Oregon was penalized nine times for 60 yards against Cal, and with last week’s game against Washington postponed the Ducks have not won a game since beating UCLA on Nov. 21.

The Ducks defense got a scare when linebacker Noah Sewell left the Cal game in the fourth quarter with a left shoulder injury, but he would have been available last week. Sewell, who earlier this season left the UCLA game on a cart with a right leg injury, averages 6.4 tackles per game. Oregon limited Cal to 88 yards rushing and looks for a repeat of last season’s matchup with USC when the Ducks forced four turnovers in a 56-24 road victory.

USC Hopes Hinge on Aerial Attack

Quarterback Kedon Slovis will be anxious to make up for his three-interception performance against the Ducks a season ago. He passed for 344 yards and five touchdowns against UCLA and has been outstanding for the Trojans throughout 2020, leading the Pac-12 in yards passing (1,601) and touchdowns (15). His 320 passing yards per game ranks seventh nationally. Slovis is the linchpin of the offense, and the odds have USC at -400 to win by at least a touchdown.

Oregon has allowed just five passing touchdowns this season but will be challenged by a talented trio of USC targets. Amon-Ra St. Brown, Drake London, and Tyler Vaughns have combined for 1,213 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns through five games. The Trojans have scored at least 28 points in each game this season, despite a rushing attack that’s last in the conference at 109.2 yards per game.

They shouldn’t be rattled if they trail late, either. The Trojans have rallied from fourth-quarter deficits three times this season. USC is second in the Pac-12 in scoring defense, allowing 25 points per game, but need a better performance than last week. USC trailed 28-10 early in the third quarter and 35-23 entering the final quarter. Safety Talanoa Hufanga has intercepted a pass in four consecutive games for USC.

Fast Start and One-Sided Margin Favor Trojans

The over/under for the first half is 33, an interesting play considering how prolific the USC and Oregon offenses have been overall this season. Given the Ducks did not know they were playing in this game until Monday, the odds lean toward USC getting off to a faster start and leading at halftime (-150 to Oregon’s +115). The odds also favor USC if the game turns one-sided, as the Trojans are +750 to win by more than 12 points vs. Oregon at +1000.

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