Oregon Holds Off USC For Pac-12 Title
With perhaps its best game of the season, Oregon earned a second consecutive conference championship on Friday night, ending USC's undefeated run with a 31-24 win.
Here are the top takeaways from the 2020 Pac-12 Championship.
1. Takeaways and giveaways
This season has been defined by slow starts and even sloppier play at times for USC.
Friday night was more of the same from the Trojans – but this time, their mistakes continued for four quarters of football, as turnovers spelled the difference between a conference championship and heartbreak.
USC quarterback Kedon Slovis tossed an interception on the Trojans' opening drive, a mere three plays in, helping stake Oregon to a 7-0 lead just over a minute into the game.
Later in the first quarter, Slovis threw another interception, allowing another easy, three-play, 32-yard drive for the Ducks.
Next up, 'SC turned it over on downs; on the night, the team converted just 33.3 percent of its third-down attempts.
Even a perfectly executed and recovered onside kick resulted in a three-and-out for USC.
Finally, Slovis threw one last interception late in the game to seal the Trojans' fate.
Oregon had just four takeaways coming into Friday, but those three timely picks turned the tide for the Ducks – and meant 4-2 Oregon is the Pac-12 champion over 5-1 USC.
2. No fourth-quarter heroics
Speaking of that fourth-quarter interception, USC tried to make things interesting late, as they'd done already this season in comeback victories against Arizona State, Arizona, and UCLA.
Down 31-17 with just over six minutes remaining and facing fourth-and-goal, the Trojans found pay dirt to make it a one-score game.
But with the pressure at its highest, Oregon's defense came up big, as it did all night, winning the game with physicality.
In fact, Oregon had over 100 fewer yards of total offense (358-243) on the night, but Ducks quarterbacks Tyler Shough and Anthony Brown combined to toss just one interception (to four passing touchdowns), allowing the defense to lock up Oregon's second consecutive Pac-12 title.
3. Conference of Parity
While Oregon is now a back-to-back conference champion, the Pac-12 this season might as well have been a game of musical chairs.
The Trojans and Ducks were two of four Pac-12 teams to enter the season in the top 25, including Utah and Arizona State.
USC slowly climbed the ladder, coming in at No. 13 prior to their upset loss to Oregon ('SC was favored by three points on Friday night, according to FOX Bet).
The Ducks rose to No. 11 this season before falling to Oregon State in Week 12, then Cal in Week 13. (OSU sits at 2-4, while the Bears are 1-3.)
Yet due to extenuating circumstances involving Washington, Oregon found its way into the conference title game – and, in coming away with the win, the Ducks crushed any outside chance of a Pac-12 school having a shot at a potential college football playoff berth.
Instead, that picture will continue to shake out with the slew of conference title games on Saturday, beginning with the Big Ten Championship Game on FOX at 12 p.m. ET, where Ohio State is an 18.5-point favorite against Northwestern.