Linebacker Palaie Gaoteote is a game-time decision for USC football’s home tilt against Oregon on Saturday, while two other starters are set to return to action. USC football may get a trio of starters back this Saturday, though a handful of other key players remain unlikely to suit up against Oregon.Linebacker Palaie Gaoteote is officially listed as a “game-time decision” after participating in practice on Wednesday and Thursday.
Head coach Clay Helton said the sophomore “looked good,” but the Trojans would see how he feels tomorrow before making a determination about his status for Saturday.
There appears to be more clarity with regards to defensive lineman Christian Rector and cornerback Chris Steele. Both missed USC’s comeback win over Colorado but are “definitely back” for the Oregon game, according to Helton.
That’s a big boost for USC’s defensive line, which will likely be without fellow defensive end Drake Jackson, who remains unlikely to play on Saturday.
Officially, Jackson is day-to-day, along with a number of other Trojans who have not been able to practice all week. Those include linebacker Jordan Iosefa, linebacker Abdul-Malik McClain, safety Talanoa Hufanga, running back Stephen Carr, running back Vavae Malepeai and running back Markese Stepp.
Despite their hopeful “day-to-day” status, it seems unlikely any will be available, based on their lack of practice time.
As a result, USC will continue to rely on Kana’i Mauga at linebacker, Chase Williams at safety and Kenan Christon at safety to guide them through a tough Top 10 matchup.
It’s a potential preview of the Pac-12 title game when the USC Trojans host the seventh-ranked Oregon Ducks on Saturday night. The Trojans are 5-3, but have lost just one conference game. They have relied on their depth in dealing with numerous injuries and come off a struggle against Pac-12 bottom-dweller Colorado. The Ducks have been rolling with balance, winning seven straight since an opening loss to Auburn. Their last two wins have been by a combined six points, most recently a last-second 37-35 victory against Washington State last week. Kickoff is set for 8 p.m. ET at the Coliseum. The Ducks are 4.5-point favorites in the latest Oregon vs. USC odds, while the over-under for total points scored is 62. Before making any USC vs. Oregon picks, you have to see what SportsLine’s resident Ducks expert, Emory Hunt, has to say.
Hunt is the founder and CEO of Football Gameplan, which has been supplying analysis of all levels of football since 2007, and a former running back at Louisiana-Lafayette. He knows the game from a player’s perspective.
This season, Hunt is the No. 1 college football expert on SportsLine, going an incredible 67-37 on college football picks against the spread, returning $2,720 to $100 bettors. In addition, he has his finger on Oregon’s pulse. In fact, he is 7-3 on his last 10 against the spread picks involving the Ducks. Anyone who has followed him is way up.
Now, he has looked at USC vs. Oregon from every possible angle and locked in another confident against the spread pick. That one is available only at SportsLine.
Hunt knows the favorite is 9-2 against the spread in the last 11 meetings between the teams, and the Ducks’ defense can make big plays. Oregon is plus-11 in turnover margin and leads the nation with 14 interceptions, returning two for touchdowns. Jevon Holland leads the team with four picks, while Verone McKinley has three. Senior linebacker Troy Dye leads the team with 38 tackles.
The Ducks are efficient and balanced on offense, led by quarterback Justin Herbert, who completes 68.3 percent of his passes and has 21 touchdown strikes. Running back CJ Verdell has 753 rushing yards and five TDs. He had a career-high 257 yards and three scores against Washington State.
But just because the Ducks get it done on both sides of the ball doesn’t mean they will will cover the USC vs. Oregon spread on Saturday.
This is the Trojans’ second time as home underdogs this season. The first was against Utah, when they were nine-point dogs, and they won outright 30-27. USC has plenty of young talent, and freshman quarterback Kedon Slovis has stepped in to steady the offense. He is completing 72.3 percent of his passes for 1,625 yards and 13 touchdowns. He has an elite receiving corps, with Michael Pittman (755 yards, seven TDs), Tyler Vaughns (638-5) and Amon-Ra St. Brown (432-4).
USC’s defense is anchored by linebacker John Houston, who has 70 tackles, 2.5 sacks and a fumble recovery. It is also solid up front, producing 22 sacks, with Jay Tufele (2.5), Marlon Tuipulotu (1.5) and Caleb Tremblay (1.5) holding it down while leader Drake Jackson (3.5) recovers from a high ankle sprain.
We can tell you Hunt is leaning over, but his much stronger play is on the spread. He’s found a critical x-factor that makes one side of the spread hit hard on Saturday. He’s sharing what it is, and who to back, only at SportsLine.