Oregon vs. USC Odds & Betting Pick: Can Air Raid Spark Trojans’ Upset?
Jennifer Buchanan, USA Today Sports. Pictured: Justin Herbert
- The latest Oregon vs. USC odds list the Ducks as short road favorite on Saturday night (8 p.m. ET, FOX).
- Did Washington State give the Trojans a blueprint on how to beat Oregon? Our experts give their picks.
Oregon at USC Odds & Pick
- Spread: Oregon -4
- Over/Under: 62
- Time: FOX
- TV: 8 p.m. ET
Model Prediction for USC-Oregon
- Spread: Oregon -5.7
- Total: 55.1
Have Oregon’s Flaws Been Exposed?
The Trojans were lucky to survive against an inferior Colorado team in Boulder last weekend. The Buffaloes led for most of the game and USC’s injury-ravaged defense had trouble keeping Colorado out of the endzone.
The Trojans should get back two key contributors on defense for Saturday, as cornerback Chris Steele and defensive end Christian Rector are expected to play. Defensive end Palaie Gaoteote IV is still questionable and if he’s able to go, that further improves USC’s chances against Justin Herbert.
One thing that isn’t questionable is that Oregon struggles against the Air Raid. The Ducks have not covered against Washington State since 2009 and they needed a last-second field goal to pull out a win over Wazzu last weekend. That was Mario Cristobal’s first win over Mike Leach as a coordinator or a head coach.
USC’s Air Raid should give the Ducks fits. Under Graham Harrell’s tutelage this year the Trojans rank inside the top-10 in passing success rate. And unlike Washington State, the Trojans have a more efficient defense suited to take on Herbert.
The injury to Oregon tight end Jacob Breeland may not have made much buzz, but a look at how the Ducks performed in the red zone with and without Breeland tells an interesting story.
The Ducks scored via power runs with CJ Verdell or they settled for a field goal. Herbert was held to zero touchdowns last Saturday. That should play a large factor in this game, as USC is 10th in opponent red zone touchdown scoring and boast a top-20 rank in points allowed per red zone trip.
The Bet: USC +4 or better
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Stuckey: Will Oregon’s Air Raid Struggles Continue?
After completely buying into the Oregon hype over the first half of the season, the defense has started to show a few cracks the past two weeks, especially against the pass. Just take a look at the Ducks’ past two games, which they won in comeback fashion by a combined six points:
- Jacob Eason (Washington): 23-for-30, 289 yards, 9.6 YPA, 3 TD, 0 INT
- Anthony Gordon (Washington St): 32-for-50, 406 yards, 8.1 YPA, 3 TD, 2 INT
The Ducks were really fortunate to win both of those games and their struggles against the Air Raid were apparent last week.
Graham Harrell is a Mike Leach disciple, and while seeing this type of offense for the second week in a row may help Oregon, there are some real issues in the secondary and I’m not sure any defensive backfield in the country can slow down USC’s elite receivers. The Trojans might have the best receiving corps in the country outside of Tuscaloosa. Plus, quarterback Kedon Slovis has looked much more comfortable at home as you’d expect for a true freshman.
The USC defense does concern me as it has looked downright terrible at times. For the season, the Trojans are allowing 5.8 yards per play (81st) and have particularly struggled against the run (4.8 yards per carry allowed, which ranks outside the top 100). In fairness, a lot of their problems on defense can be attributed to horrible injury luck. One area they’ve really been exposed is with runs off the edge, especially by mobile quarterbacks.
On the surface, that should be a scary proposition against an Oregon running game that really got going last week behind one of the best offensive lines in the country. However, at a minimum, USC will be getting a couple key starters back on defense with the potential of a few more.
Also, Herbert isn’t the type of quarterback that will kill the Trojans with his legs. USC should be able to stack the box against the run-loving Ducks, who will be without Breeland, their most reliable pass-catcher.
Also, don’t sleep on the special teams advantage that the Trojans should have on Saturday. The only thing Oregon does on special teams better than USC is return punts. The Trojans are better in every phase, especially when it comes to kicking field goals. Per S&P, USC ranks 30th in special teams this year while Oregon sits at 110 in the nation.
I’m rolling with the home dog Trojans and would feel comfortable taking anything 4 or better in a game I think we’re getting value in after Oregon stole two wins the past two weeks.
If you’re going to back Clay Helton, the best time to do it is at home. During his tenure at USC, Helton is 8-18-1 ATS (30.8%) on the road or at neutral sites compared to a more respectable 14-12 ATS (53.8%) at home, including 2-0 as a home ‘dog, including an outright victory over Utah earlier this year.
The Bet: USC +4 or better
Kyle Miller: Expect A Shootout?
The injuries are mounting in Southern California and even though Clay Helton and the Trojans got the win last week in Colorado, they showed some of their warts on defense. Luckily for Helton, he has one of the best offensive minds in the country in offensive coordinator Graham Harrell.
Harrell has USC’s offense clicking despite almost no depth at running back. Receivers Michael Pittman, Tyler Vaughns, and Amon-Ra St. Brown are future pros and they’ve all gotten the ball in this high-powered, Air Raid offense. Kedon Slovis was an afterthought coming into the season but he’s been extremely impressive as a true freshman.
I’m not worried about the USC offense getting the requisite amount of points in this game. I’m worried about the Trojan defense. They haven’t been good against the pass but they’ve been very susceptible to the run.
USC ranks 101st in average yards per carry allowed and 68th in percentage of explosive run play allowed. More importantly, they’re 103rd in defensive line score, which is a major problem against an excellent Oregon offensive line.
Oregon’s defense has been really good this year but they’ve been figured out a bit in the last couple of weeks. Teams that can pass the ball effectively are going to have some success against these guys. USC’s Air Raid offense certainly fits the bill. I’ll take the over 62 in this one and hope for a Pac 12 After Dark shootout.
The Bet: Over 62