Who has the edge at each position group? We take a look and analyze each team's roster.
Photo: Steve Dykes/Getty Images
Article by Nick Battey
Oregon and USC are the presumed favorites to win the Pac-12 North and South, respectively. Let's take an early look at what could be the Pac-12 Championship in December and go through position by position to see which team looks more primed for a championship run in 2020.
Oregon’s QB room is as deep as it has ever been with the likely starter being RS-Soph. Tyler Shough. The Ducks also have graduate transfer Anthony Brown and freshmen Jay Butterfield and Robbie Ashford. What the Ducks lack in experience they make up for in depth. USC on the other hand has the best returning QB in the conference in star Sophomore Kedon Slovis. USC Backup Matt Fink also has some starting experience and in the end no team in the Pac-12 can match who USC has in the QB room right now.
Oregon has their entire RB stable returning for the 2020 season, led by explosive Junior CJ Verdell. The Ducks also boast underrated stud Travis Dye back along with goal-line back Cyrus Habibi-Likio. RS-Fr. Sean Dollars could also provide some depth and Oregon is well positioned to have the top RB core in the conference. The Trojans have a pair of Seniors in the backfield in Stephen Carr and Vavae Malepeai. The Trojans should have plenty of running lanes with a veteran Offensive Line and Kedon Slovis at QB but the Ducks get the nod here.
Oregon has returnees Jaylen Redd and Johnny Johnson III starting along with Mycah Pittman. The Ducks also had a big addition in former USC 5-star recruit Devon Williams who transferred to Oregon and has a chance to be a star player in Joe Moorhead’s new offense. That said, USC still has far and away the best WR core in the Pac-12. Amon-Ra St. Brown, Tyler Vaughns, and Drake London form a scary good passing attack once again.
Tight end is a very interesting position for both teams. Sixth year senior Cam McCormick could be a big part of Oregon’s offense if he stays healthy but Oregon also has Spencer Webb as an extremely talented pass catcher and Hunter Kampmoyer as a formidable blocker. USC returns Senior Erik Krommenhoek as the main option with RS-Fr. Jude Wolff in the equation as well. The USC offense doesn't use Tight End sets very often and Oregon's talent and depth gives them the edge.
When you think of offensive lineman in college football, you instantly think of the insanely talented Penei Sewell. Unfortunately for the Ducks, Sewell has opted out and now Oregon has to replace all five starters on the OL. Mario Cristobal has recruited the position well and is ready to restock with Jonah Tauanu’u and Steven Jones leading the way.
The Trojans are in the complete opposite situation as their whole line will consist of juniors and seniors, including Frank Martin II and Andrew Vorhees. The Trojans also just received good news when they found out projected 1st Round Pick, Alijah Vera-Tucker, had opted back in and will play for USC this Fall. Oregon has the talent to restock well, but the offensive line uncertainty gives an edge to USC.
Kayvon Thibodeaux might be the best pass rusher in college football and along with senior leaders Austin Faliou and Jordon Scott, the Oregon front is looking as stout as they’ve ever been. Meanwhile USC has been able to build up a solid front three of their own with veterans Connor Murphy, Marlon Tuipulotu and Caleb Tremblay. These are two of the best DL’s in the conference but the Ducks are scary to any OL with Thibodeaux on the edge.
Oregon has to to replace four year starter Troy Dye and that will be a tall task but while the group is young they are very talented. Isaac Slade-Matautia is the lone starter returning but they have Dru Mathis and MJ Cunningham ready to produce. Oregon's depth has an exciting duo of five star recruits with Justin Flowe and Noah Sewell primed to break out.
USC is once again in a spot with veteran players ready to take over. The Trojans feature Drake Jackson, Palaie Gaoteote, Jordan Iosefa and Hunter Echols at the top of the depth chart. USC may get better linebacker play in the beginning of the season but by late December the Ducks will be performing at a high level. We will call this one a tie.
Oregon has had a fascinating year with their secondary. They originally were going to have Thomas Graham, Brady Breeze and Jevon Holland patrolling the secondary but they have all opted out of the season. Mykael Wright will be a definite starter now alongside Deommodore Lenoir. Nick Pickett provides talent at the safety position but what was once one of the best secondaries in the nation now has some uncertainty. As for USC, it starts with strong safety Talanoa Hufanga as one of the most talented players in the conference. From there you also have the duo of Chris Steele and Olaijah Griffin as the top two corners. This is another very tough pick to choose from, but at the end of the day the Ducks have more proven talent and arguably better depth.
Kickers are important! There is a stark difference between Oregon’s Camden Lewis and USC’s Chase McGrath. Lewis missed multiple PATs and short FGs last year while McGrath has had a long successful career. Both teams have great returners in Mykael Wright and Amon-Ra St. Brown but the kicker spot is important and USC has a massive edge there.
Mario Cristobal has only been the head coach for two seasons at Oregon but he already has had the top recruiting class in the Pac-12 twice and is working on a third class which is currently ranked #3 in the country. Add that in with a Rose Bowl win and hiring some very highly touted assistants like OC Joe Moorhead and DC Andy Avalos and Oregon has aspirations for the College Football Playoff with Cristobal leading them. Meanwhile, in Los Angeles things could not be more different for USC. Clay Helton has been able to hold onto his job the past few years despite a couple mediocre seasons and fans calling for his firing. The addition of OC Graham Harrell was a big success for the offense last year but that isn't enough to close the gap on the Oregon coaching staff.
Special Teams: USC
Oregon comes out on top with an ever so slight advantage in 5 spots compared to 4 for USC.