Ducks running back CJ Verdell (7) looks for an opening as his offensive line leads him downfield. Oregon Ducks Football takes on the Colorado Buffaloes at Autzen Stadium in Eugene, Ore. on Oct. 11, 2019. (DL Young/Emerald)

USC Trojans

Kedon Slovis - Quarterback - USC 

Due to injuries, USC’s quarterback position has been a revolving door. Freshman quarterback Kedon Slovis has taken the reins of the offense, and with the help of a star-studded group of receivers, has been effective. 

Slovis’ best performance of the season came last week against Colorado, when the freshman led the USC offense to a win over the Buffs. He connected on 30 of 44 pass attempts for 406 yards and four touchdowns. 

Slovis and the USC offense will face a highly touted Oregon defense this Saturday. However, the Ducks’ defensive group — and more specifically the secondary — has been exploited as of late, struggling to limit the passing attacks of both Washington and Washington State. 

With the USC offense firing on all cylinders coming off a huge comeback win against Colorado, the Trojans may have momentum on their side. 

Michael Pittman Jr. - Wide Receiver - USC

At the center of the USC passing attack is wideout Michael Pittman Jr., older brother of Oregon receiver Mycah Pittman. The senior is in the midst of a breakout season, catching 50 passes for 755 yards and seven touchdowns with an average of 15.1 yards per catch. Pittman’s yardage total, through the first eight games of 2019, is just 3 yards short of last season’s sum. 

Pittman has proven that he can come up big in primetime games, having his best performance of the season in USC’s victory over Utah, when he caught 10 passes for 232 yards and a touchdown. 

On Saturday, Pittman’s ability to stretch the field will be put to the test by a talented Oregon secondary. 

Oregon Ducks

CJ Verdell - Running Back - Oregon

After a breakout freshman year with the Ducks, sophomore running back CJ Verdell has continued to develop as an offensive threat in 2019. Although Oregon’s ground game got off to a slow start this season, the Ducks have improved in recent weeks, largely due to several explosive performances from Verdell. 

He currently leads the team in rushing yards with 753 and sits third on the team in touchdowns with five. 

Verdell’s season high came last week against Washington State, when the sophomore running back tallied 257 rushing yards and three touchdowns for 11.2 yards per carry on 23 rushes. 

Oregon’s matchup with USC presents a unique opportunity for Verdell. With the Trojans sitting behind Washington State in rushing yards allowed per game — good for ninth in the Pac-12 — Verdell and the Ducks could very well continue their success on the ground. 

Thomas Graham Jr. - Cornerback - Oregon

The 2019 Oregon defense has been ranked among the best in the nation. The Ducks’ secondary, which includes a plethora of high-end defensive backs, has been a huge part of the team’s success. Among that group is junior cornerback Thomas Graham Jr. 

Graham has performed well this season, deflecting seven passes on the season thus far. The junior tallied a single interception, which came in the Ducks’ first game of the year against Auburn. 

Despite garnering much of the attention in 2019, the Oregon defense as a whole has struggled in the last two games, surrendering over 30 points in each contest. Washington State, in particular, was able to capitalize through the air. The Ducks, who allow an average of 207 passing yards per game, allowed 406 for their worst defensive showing of the year. 

The Cougars’ offense targeted Graham throughout the affair, and for the most part, succeeded. 

With a matchup against one of the Pac-12’s best receiving corps, a massive opportunity presents itself for Graham and the rest of the Oregon defense. This group, if dominant, could make a tremendous statement to not only the Pac-12, but the rest of the nation.