Oregon Ducks vs USC Trojans Features Quarterbacks With Something To Prove


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Following disappointing 3-3 starts to the season, both the Oregon Ducks and USC Trojans are riding four game winning streaks heading into the two teams’ match up at Oregon’s Autzen Stadium in Eugene, Oregon. While neither team will reach its preseason goal of winning a National Championship, both teams are in the midst of saving a previously “lost” campaign and Saturday’s matchup go a long ways towards said redemption.

One reason for each of these teams’ turnarounds is the improved play of their quarterbacks. Both Vernon Adams Jr. of Oregon and Cody Kessler of USC were predicted to be top quarterbacks in the Pac-12 and while each has been decently successful, it can be argued that both have fallen short of preseason expectations. Despite this, each quarterback has played a significant role in turning around their team’s season and the play of the two will be a major factor in the outcome of Saturday’s game.

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In the case of the Oregon Ducks, graduate transfer Vernon Adams Jr. has arguably been the number one reason for the Ducks’ recent success. Adams transferred from FCS school Eastern Washington University, and his outstanding performance there had many Oregon fans believing the team had found a great replacement for Marcus Mariota. Adams started the season strong, but ended up breaking a finger and thus performed poorly or not at all following the injury.

Now, Adams is now fully recovered and has been a huge boost to the Oregon Ducks Offense. Despite having thrown three interceptions across the team’s four game winning streak, Adams has shown the ability to properly run the Ducks’ fast-paced offense. This has lead to the defeat of four straight quality opponents, topped off by an upset over 7th ranked Stanford in which Adams completed 10 of 12 passing attempts for 205 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions.

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As much as Adams has improved over the course of the season, Cody Kessler has improved just as much, if not more. While Kessler was never injured and had some strong performances early in the season, two of his worst performances resulted in losses for the Trojans. While Kessler performed well in USC’s loss to the Stanford Cardinal, his play in their losses to Washington and Notre Dame left much to be desired. He had what was likely his worst game versus Washington in which he completed just 55% of his passes for 156 yards, 2 interceptions, and 0 touchdowns and while he managed 365 yards and 2 touchdowns versus Notre Dame, he also threw 2 key interceptions.

While he has sputtered in important situations, Kessler has been on fire during the team’s four game winning streak. In those four games, he has completed 78 of his 113 attempts, good for a 70% completion rate, while throwing 6 passing touchdowns as opposed to just one interception. It is no secret that the Oregon Ducks Defense leaves much to be desired, and they will have to focus on shutting down Kessler if they hope to win this game.

This is a game that features two teams in very similar situations, with both team dying for a victory over the other. Football is a game that contains many moving pieces, but the quarterback is often considered the most important piece and that will prove to be very true in this game. While it is not guaranteed, it is very likely that whichever quarterback performs better will win the game.

The Oregon Ducks and USC Trojans kickoff on Saturday from Autzen Stadium at 12:30pm Pacific Time on ESPN.