In an unusual year there is an unusual championship game ahead in the Pac-12 to kick off a big championship weekend in college football.
With Washington unable to play, North runner-up Oregon has slid into the title game with a rare opportunity to be a conference champion without a division title.
USC meanwhile will look to take a perfect record into the bowl season despite no realistic hopes of getting the call from the College Football Playoff Committee.
Here is a look at Friday’s big game between two prominent Pac-12 squads.
Pac-12 Championship Betting Resources
Pac-12 Championship Betting Odds
Odds Subject to Change
How to Handicap Oregon vs. USC
These teams have only played five games each as it is a small sample ahead of a championship game.
USC is 5-0 while Oregon is 3-2 but the schedules have not been created equally and three of USC’s wins have come in late comeback situations. One of these programs has participated in five of the nine previous Pac-12 title games with four championships won but these teams have not met in this game before.
These teams did meet last season in this stadium and the result was a 56-24 win for Oregon as a slight road favorite last November and that is the only head-to-head meeting between the current head coaches. Entering the season with some serious pressure after years of underachieving, Clay Helton has a chance to deliver a perfect campaign and his second Pac-12 title after also winning in 2017.
Mario Cristobal is 24-9 with the Ducks since taking over in the 2017 Las Vegas Bowl but his team will at best have as many losses as all of last season through 14 games with Oregon winning the Pac-12 and the Rose Bowl last season with a 12-2 record.
The scoring numbers are quite close for these teams despite the contrasting records as USC is +51 and Oregon is +31 over the small five-game sample. Oregon has had to play three of five games on the road where both narrow losses occurred while USC has also hosted only two games this season.
Neither team had to play the top competition in their division this season as USC had to cancel its game with Colorado while Washington cancelled last week’s game with Oregon.
Typically this game has been played in a neutral site in recent years with the past six games in Santa Clara while the first three Pac-12 titles games from 2011-2013 were hosted by the top seeded school, including Oregon winning the initial Pac-12 title game at home in 2011 vs. UCLA. Those hosts won two of the three Pac-12 Championship games.
Oregon originally was slated to play Colorado in Los Angeles as the Pac-12 prepared for the possibility that Washington would not be able to play after the Huskies had to cancel a division title deciding game with Oregon last week.
While the Ducks are catching favorable circumstances to be in this game, they were set to be a six-point favorite hosting Washington last week before the game was cancelled, as odds are they would have earned this opportunity if they had been given the chance.
Betting Analysis – Oregon Ducks
Straight Up - SU, Against the Spread - ATS, Over-Under (O/U)
With a 3-0 start Oregon looked like the best hope for the Pac-12 to crash the national scene and emerge as a College Football Playoff candidate.
Oregon is the only Pac-12 team to have won a college football playoff game as a finalist in the initial season of the format, winning handily over Florida State in its semifinal before falling to Ohio State.
Oregon wasn’t far from being in that conversation last season but a tough luck loss in the opener to Auburn likely knocked them out of consideration. Led by likely NFL rookie of the year Justin Herbert the Ducks finished 12-2 with the only Pac-12 loss at Arizona State.
Oregon dominated Utah in the Pac-12 Championship and also got by Wisconsin with some good turnover bounces in the Rose Bowl for a successful campaign, finishing #5 in the national polls.
Replacing Herbert was set to be a challenge and sophomore Tyler Shough emerged as the choice to lead the Ducks. Shough threw for three garbage time touchdowns last season while appearing in four games and has the size and mobility to excel in this system.
He has posted solid season numbers but did have two costly interceptions in the loss to Oregon State while also had his worst numbers in the loss to California over his past two games. He has averaged over 50 rushing yards per game on 4.9 yards per carry in addition to the passing results.
Oregon as usual has been a successful rushing team posting nearly 1,000 yards on 5.3 yards per carry. A 1,000 yard rusher the past two seasons, C.J. Verdell has fallen behind Travis Dye in the offense as the Ducks share the ball between those juniors in the backfield as they did last season.
The passing game has been less consistent than with Herbert and the Ducks also lost assistant coach and last year’s offensive coordinator Marcus Arroyo who took the UNLV job.
The new offensive coordinator is former Mississippi State head coach Joe Moorhead who has maintained last season’s pace, actually improving to 7.1 yards per play this season after averaging 6.2 yards per play last season, eighth nationally though this year’s numbers are a bit skewed with the shorter and unconventional schedules for many teams.
Oregon is 1.0 yards per play worse on defense this season compared with last season however as last year’s team had a very good defense by Oregon’s standards, understanding that pace of play and offensive success of the Ducks prohibits Oregon from typically posting elite defensive numbers.
Oregon was dramatically outrushed in games vs. UCLA and Oregon State for surprise outcomes and the Ducks have allowed almost 420 yards per game despite a schedule that featured a lot of inexperienced quarterbacks. Add that Oregon faced backup quarterbacks in the wins over Stanford and UCLA and there should be concerns about containing USC’s effective passing game.
The USC Trojans closed the season with three straight covers while posting a 5-0 overall record in their five game season. (AP)
Betting Analysis - USC Trojans
In a critical season for his future at USC, Helton has delivered only wins so far.
The season nearly started disastrously however as the Trojans trailed 27-14 hosting Arizona State in the opener. USC would score a pair of touchdowns in the final three minutes to win. The very next week USC found itself allowing the go-ahead score to Arizona with 1:35 to go but again delivered a late score to win in the final seconds. That result is looking quite suspect at this point given how poorly Arizona’s season has gone.
Wins over Utah and Washington State came more comfortably by virtue of eight turnovers gained while last week’s city rivalry game saw USC trailing 35-23 into the fourth quarter. USC scored three times in the fourth including answering after UCLA went ahead 38-36 with 52 seconds to go. It can be viewed as a charmed campaign with good fortune or the rugged spirit of a championship bound team depending on your perspective.
USC does have a highly regarded quarterback in sophomore Kedon Slovis who some have already projected to be the top quarterback drafted in the 2022 draft.
He beat out J.T. Daniels who is now starting for Georgia is significant and he has completed over 70 percent of his passes this season. Slovis is averaging only 7.6 yards per attempt however and his 153.3 QB Rating is 29th nationally and statistically sits behind Shough who has the top grade in the Pac-12.
Amon-Ra St. Brown and Drake London lead a very talented receiving corps with Brown a projected 1st round pick next spring while the 6’5” London could climb into the mid-rounds in 2022 or 2023 as the team’s leading receiver as a sophomore. Brown has accounted for 17 catches and six touchdowns the past two games and will be the most dangerous threat on the USC offense.
USC has struggled to run the ball consistently with only 546 yards in five games with a 3.5 yard per carry average. Despite playing only five games USC has had three different leading rushers this season and the Trojans have been outgained on the ground in four of five games, only finishing +17 vs. Arizona as the lone positive performance in the ground game.
The defensive numbers for USC are slightly better than Oregon in terms of scoring and yardage allowed per game but on a per play basis the numbers are identical. USC doesn’t have much of an edge in run defense and Oregon has held foes to a lesser QB Rating and completion rate this season.
Oregon can be vulnerable to big plays however allowing 11.4 yards per completion this season as USC could have an opportunity to connect in the passing game even if the Ducks are likely to have a rushing edge in this contest.
All-time, USC has a 38-21-2 edge in this series but the series is 12-12 S/U and 12-12 ATS the past 24 meetings going back to 1986.
Oregon has won and covered in five of the past seven meetings including last season while Oregon has also won in three of the past four trips to the Coliseum.
Last season a top 10 Ducks team was riding seven straight wins ahead of visiting Los Angeles playing as just a slight favorite vs. a 5-3 Trojans team.
The three USC losses had all come in close games vs. quality teams and USC was riding back-to-back wins before hosting the Ducks in early November.
USC led 10-0 after the first quarter but Oregon would score four touchdowns in the second quarter including a dagger with a kickoff return score in the final seconds before halftime after USC had halted the momentum.
Oregon would go on to score four straight touchdowns after halftime in an eventual 56-24 result but the yardage was close at 405-355 and USC had four turnovers.
Oregon scored on an interception return and the kickoff return and the ground game for the Ducks was held in check with modest production of 139 yards on 4.1 yards per carry. Slovis threw 57 times last season with three interceptions and this year’s USC squad may not be able to offer substantially improved balance.
Notable Betting Trends
-- USC is 17-4 SU at home since 2017 but just 9-12 ATS
-- Since 2002 USC is 25-7 SU and 19-13 ATS as a home favorite of fewer than 10 points
-- Oregon is 6-12 SU and 6-11-1 ATS as an underdog since 2016
-- Oregon is 27-18 SU and 27-17-1 ATS in road games since 2011
Pac-12 Championship Predictions
Pac-12 Betting History Results & Notes
History - Betting Notes
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