December 7, 2022

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USC vs. UCLA, Takeaway: The No. 7 Trojans keep playoff hopes alive with a win over the No. 16 Bruins

USC vs. UCLA, Takeaway: The No. 7 Trojans keep playoff hopes alive with a win over the No. 16 Bruins

No. 7 USC clinched its spot in the Pac-12 Championship Game and kept College Football Playoff aspirations alive with an epic offense display in a 48-45 win over No. 16 UCLA. The Trojans kicked just once while racking up 649 yards and overcoming a 14-0 deficit against a slashing rival in a massive game for both programs.

A win would have kept UCLA’s hopes of a Pac-12 title game alive, but the Bruins didn’t have an answer for USC’s prolific offense on graduation night in the Rose Bowl. USC’s quarterback Caleb Williams threw for 470 yards and scored in the air and on the ground while UCLA’s Dorian Thompson Robinson.

In the final home game of his five-year career, Thompson-Robinson accounted for all six of UCLA’s tackles—throwing four and running for two—and the Bruins were up 21-10 late in the first half. But he also committed turnovers on three of UCLA’s next four possessions just as USC settled into an offensive rhythm.

Ever a warrior, Thompson-Robinson played some obvious pain and answered USC’s offense again and again in the second half. But when the Bruins finally forced USC’s first punt of the night with 2:27 left in the game and had a chance to tie or take the lead, another turnover doomed their chances. Corey Foreman intercepted Thompson-Robinson with 1:26 remaining, allowing the Trojans to run out the clock and seal the win.

Here are more takeaways from Saturday night’s Wild Attack show in LA.

Caleb Williams presents the Heisman case

Ohio State quarterback CJ Stroud looked relatively pedestrian in the Uninspired win During saturday maryland. Tennessee quarterback was Hendon Hooker Late wound Loss to the South Carolina Volunteers. Michigan running back Blake Corum went over 100 yards again in the Wolverines’ narrow win over Illinois, but it was limited in the second half due to injury. North Carolina quarterback Drake May threw for 200 yards against Georgia Tech…but the Heels lost to the Yellow Jackets.

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Overall, it wasn’t a great day for the Heisman Trophy front runners – with the exception of Williams. The now Oklahoma transfer threw for 3,480 yards, 33 touchdowns and just three interceptions while leading the Trojans to a spot in the league title game. He will be tested against a strong defense from Notre Dame next week in a game of great national interest, but a good performance there could propel Williams to the top of the Heisman prospect list.

The second-ranked quarterback of the 2021 recruiting class showed flashes of brilliance as a true freshman for the Sooners last season, but he’s been more consistent this season. His performance on Saturday was especially heroic because it came as USC’s leading snob Travis Day was sidelined due to a season-ending injury he suffered last Friday against Colorado.

The Heisman is a season-long tribute, but this year’s race is as wide open as it has been for a while. How the contenders play late in the season matters, and Williams shows at the right time.

Important transfers come in big

Trojans wide receiver Jordan Addison, the most scrutinized transfer from the offseason, delivered for his team in a huge spot with 11 passes for 178 yards and a touchdown. Beltnikov won MVP in the nation from his outstanding season at Pitt last year, Addison proving impossible to defend against the Bruins. It was Addison’s first effective game since suffering a leg injury against Utah last month, and it showed why he’s a valuable addition.

Another transfer, running back Austin Jones, was also delivered on demand. The former Stanford running back effectively handled his increased workload with Dye out, finishing with 120 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries. Jones also caught four passes for 57 yards, making him USC’s second leading receiver behind Addison on the night.

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CFP scenarios

With No. 5 Tennessee out of the CFP picture with a 63-38 loss at South Carolina, USC’s numbers moved up at least one place in the new CFP rankings on Tuesday night. The victory would go as the best yet for the Trojans, which could give them a case to overtake No. 6 LSU. The Tigers had two losses and did little to help their resume in Week 12 by defeating foe Conference USA in a non-conference game.

With No. 2 Ohio State and No. 3 Michigan State set to play next week, more carnage near the top of the standings is inevitable. USC will get a crack at a quality Notre Dame team next week at home and then get a chance to improve its resume further in the Pac-12 Championship game.

It may have seemed like a long shot after the Trojans lost in Utah on Oct. 15 and fell 6-1, but USC has a legitimate shot at making CFP in Lincoln Riley’s first season as coach.