No. 13 USC Football Hosts Oregon In Pac-12 Championship Game
*No. 13 USC, representing the Pac-12 South Division, is playing in its third Pac-12 Football Championship Game, hosting the North Division's Oregon — a replacement for Washington, which was knocked out of the game due to COVID issues — on FOX.
*USC is the only South Division team to win at the Pac-12 FCG (this year's will be the 10th rendition). After a 6-year run at Levi's Stadium in the Bay Area, the game returns to the original home-hosted format due to COVID protocols.
*USC is looking to be 6-0 for the 20th time in its history.
*Oregon is the fifth of USC's 6 opponents this year to have at least a week's rest coming into the game (its home contest versus Washington last week was not played because of COVID issues in the Husky program). USC, on the other hand, will be playing its third game in a 13-day span.
*Although USC has captured nearly twice as many games in the Oregon series as the Ducks (including winning at a near-75% clip at home), the series has been tilted somewhat to the Ducks since the mid-1990s.
*This will be just the 14th Friday game for USC since 1990.
*Coach Clay Helton's 2020 Trojans remain undefeated after posting their third heart-thumping last-minute comeback victory, this time over crosstown foe UCLA. It was a short TD from QB Kedon Slovis to WR Amon-Ra St. Brown with 16 seconds to go that did it. Slovis, 14-1 as a starter against the Pac-12 and now in the prestigious USC career passing Top 10, remains the national leader in completions and highly ranked in completion percentage, passing yards and total offense. St. Brown, who has had 6 TD catches in the past 2 games, is 13th in the country in receptions and he is about to enter USC's hallowed all-time receiving Top 10. Fellow WR Tyler Vaughns is already No. 3 on that chart with 220 career receptions. The way he's going, WR Drake London will be the next one to join the list. USC's rush game showed some spark at UCLA, with TB Vavae Malepeai notching the run corps' first 100-yard performance of 2020. The Trojan defense, although giving up a season high in yardage at UCLA, made plays when it needed them, stopping the Bruins 3 times on fourth down, getting 3 turnovers (bringing the season total to 15 to rank fourth in the nation in turnover margin at +1.4). S Talanoa Hufanga--the national leader in interceptions--was everywhere at UCLA, getting 17 tackles (he had 18 last year versus the Bruins), a pick (for the fourth consecutive game, the first time that has happened at USC since 1996) and a forced fumble. His backfield mate, S Isaiah Pola-Mao, had an interception and fumble recovery at UCLA. DL Marlon Tuipulotu, OLB Drake Jackson and CBs Olaijah Griffin and Chris Steele are also having strong seasons.
*Before the Washington cancellation, coach Mario Cristobal's team had dropped its last 2 games after starting off 3-0. The Ducks are averaging 467.0 in total offense while scoring 34.2 points. Multi-threat QB Tyler Shough is in the national Top 20 in total offense, passing efficiency and passing yards. The run attack is manned by RBs Travis Dye and CJ Verdell, while the top receivers include WRs Jaylon Redd, Johnny Johnson III and USC transfer Devon Williams. The Duck defense features Isaac Slade-Matautia, freshman ILB Noah Sewell and DE Kayvon Thibodeaux.
*USC is ranked No. 13 in both the current AP sports media poll and in the Amway coaches poll. Oregon is not ranked.
*USC holds a 38-21-2 record in its series with Oregon, dating to 1915 (not including Troy's 2005 victory that was later vacated due to NCAA penalty; original record: 39-21-2). However, USC has lost 5 of the past 7 meetings, 6 of the last 9 and 11 of the past 17 meetings (not including the 2005 vacated win; original record: 11 of the last 18).
*USC has a 24-9-1 mark against Oregon in Los Angeles (and 1-0 in Pasadena).
*In 2019 in the teams' most recent meeting, QB Justin Herbert threw 3 touchdown passes to WR Juwan Johnson and No. 7 Oregon scored 28 points following USC turnovers as the Ducks gave the Trojans their first home loss of 2019 and knocked Troy out of first place in the Pac-12 South, 56-24 (USC had a 10-0 lead).
OREGON REPLACES WASHINGTON
*The Pac-12, after consultation with Washington, made the decision on Dec. 14 to replace Washington with Oregon as the Pac-12 North Division team to face South Division representative USC in the Pac-12 Football Championship Game.
*The decision was made under the Pac-12's football game cancellation policy and Football Championship Game policy due to Washington neither having the minimum 53 scholarship student-athletes available for the game nor the minimum number of scholarship student-athletes at a position group, in each case as a result of a number of positive football student-athlete COVID-19 cases and resulting isolation of additional football student-athletes under contact tracing protocols.
*Under Pac-12 Football Championship Game policy, the team with the next best record in the North Division, Oregon, will represent the North Division. Washington is 3-1, while Oregon is 3-2.
USC IN PAC-12 FCG
*USC is 1-1 in Pac-12 Football Championship Game play.
*No. 7 Stanford beat No. 24 USC, 41-22, in the 2015 Pac-12 Football Championship Game. RB Christian McCaffery had 461 all-purpose yards while running for a touchdown, catching another and even and throwing a TD to lead the Cardinal.
*No. 11 USC defeated No. 14 Stanford, 31-28, in the 2017 Pac-12 Football Championship Game. QB Sam Darnold threw 2 touchdown passes, TB Ronald Jones II ran for a pair of short TDs and the Trojan defense made a huge goal line stand in the fourth quarter to spark a 99-yard scoring drive that provided the decisive points. The win, the first for a South Division team in the game's 7-year history, gave USC its first league title since 2008.
PAC-12 CHAMPIONSHIP GAME HISTORY
*The Pac-12 North Division representative has defeated the South team in all but 1 of the 9 Pac-12 Football Championship Games.
*A win on Friday would give USC its first 6-0 overall start since 2006. To date, the Trojans have done so 19 times. USC's 6-0 season starts: 1910-20-21-32-43-51-52-59-62-66-67-68-72-75-88-95-2004-05-06 (2005's wins were later vacated due to NCAA penalty).
CARDIAC KIDS 2.0
*Host Oregon defeated UCLA, 49-31, in the inaugural Pac-12 Championship Game in 2011 (USC finished first in the Pac-12 South that year, but could not play in that contest because of its NCAA sanctions, so the Bruins took Troy's place). Stanford posted a 27-24 win over UCLA in the 2012 game in Palo Alto and the Cardinal beat Arizona State, 38-14, in 2013 in Tempe. In 2014, Oregon dumped Arizona, 53-13, in the first Pac-12 title game played at Levi's Stadium (the previous ones were played on campus sites). Stanford defeated USC, 41-22, in 2015. In 2016, Washington dominated Colorado, 41-10. USC became the South Division's only winner when it beat Stanford, 31-28, in 2017. Washington got by Utah, 10-3, in 2018. Oregon defeated Utah last year, 37-15.
*The 2020 USC football team and its late comeback victories are reminiscent of the 1968 and 1969 Trojans, who were nicknamed the "Cardiac Kids" for their end-of-game heroics (each team came back 3 times in the fourth quarter to win, and the 1968 squad also did so for a tie).
*The 2020 Trojans now have 3 dramatic comeback victories, all in the final 2 minutes: over Arizona State (game-winning score with 1:20 to go), Arizona (0:25) and UCLA (0:16).
*The only other time in USC history that Troy has posted a trio of comeback wins in the last 2 minutes, per available records, was 1969: Stanford (0:00), California (0:57) and UCLA (1:32).
*According to available records, USC's late comeback wins over Arizona State and Arizona this season marked the first time that the Trojans have captured back-to-back contests with game-winning scores in the final 2 minutes.
*USC has played 13 Friday games since 1990: vs. Syracuse in the 1990 Kickoff Classic in East Rutherford, N.J., vs. Louisiana Tech in 1999 in the Coliseum, at Colorado in 2011, at Oregon State in 2013, at Colorado in 2015, at Utah in 2016, 3 times in 2017 (at Washington State, against Stanford in the Pac-12 Championship Game and against Ohio State in the Cotton Bowl), vs. Washington State in 2018 in the Coliseum and 3 times in 2019 (Utah in the Coliseum, at Colorado, vs. Iowa in the Holiday Bowl). All were wins except the 2016 Utah, 2017 Washington State and Ohio State and 2019 Iowa contests.
*In the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s, USC played occasional Friday night games in the Coliseum when sharing the stadium with UCLA.
*USC is 182-67-4 (.727) at night, including 107-30-4 in the Coliseum, 60-29 on the road and 15-8 at neutral sites. (Does not include 5 wins and 1 loss vacated due to NCAA penalty; original record: 187-68-4, .730 overall, 110-30-4 in the Coliseum, 17-9 at neutral sites, USC had a school-record 32-game win streak at home at night from 1997 to 2010.)
*USC has a 452-140-27 (.752) all-time record in the Coliseum since the stadium opened in 1923 (not including 6 wins vacated due to NCAA penalty; original record: 458-140-27, .754). USC's 625 games played in the Coliseum (including the 6 vacated wins) is the third most that any school has played in its home stadium (behind Georgia Tech's 707 in Bobby Dodd Stadium and Tennessee's 627 in Neyland Stadium).
*USC has a 44-29-7 (.594) all-time record while playing in the month of December (not including 2 wins vacated due to NCAA penalty; original record: 46-29-7, .604).
*USC has won 70.2% (479-195-29) of its games against current Pac-12 opponents (not including 9 wins later vacated due to NCAA penalty; original record: 488-195-29, 70.6%).
*USC has 4 players from Oregon on its roster — S Talanoa Hufanga (Crescent Valley HS), DL Brandon Pili (Westview HS), DL Marlon Tuipulotu (Central HS) and ILB Eli'jah Winston (Central Catholic HS) — while the Ducks have 46 Californians (41.4% of the roster).
*USC cornerbacks coach/defensive pass game coordinator Donte Williams was the cornerbacks coach at Oregon in 2018 and 2019.
*USC ILB Eli'jah Winston's brother, La'Mar Jr., was an outside linebacker at Oregon (2016-19).
*USC TB Vavae Malepeai's uncles, Silila (1990-94), Pulou (1993-95) and Tasi (1994-96), played football at Oregon.
*OL Bernard Schirmer's uncle, Matt Toeaina, played defensive tackle at Oregon (2003-06).
*DL Jamar Sekona's uncle is Haloti Ngata, who played defensive line at Oregon (2003-05, earning All- American honors in 2005).
*USC assistant strength and conditioning coach Christian Tupou's brother, Fenuki, was an offensive tackle at Oregon (2007-08).
*USC strength and conditioning coach/director for Olympic sports Josh Heidegger was a javelin thrower at Oregon (2011-12).
*Oregon WR Devon Williams played at USC in 2018 and part of 2019, with 5 career catches as a Trojan.
*Oregon WR Mycah Pittman's brother, Michael Jr., was a wide receiver at USC (2016-19).
*Oregon assistant head coach/co-defensive coordinator/safeties coach Keith Heyward was a USC assistant (2014-15).
*Three Trojans celebrate their birthday on Friday (Dec. 18): S Kaulana Makaula, OL Bernard Schirmer and offensive quality control analyst Seth Doege.