The first Power Five conference championship is in the books. The Oregon Ducks are Pac-12 champions after handing the USC Trojans their first loss this season.
That also means Oregon is a conference championship with only a 4-2 record. It might look strange, but that’s par for the course in 2020. This is a team that didn’t even know they’d be playing in this game until Monday.
After Washington was forced to drop out, there were a lot of people saying the Ducks didn’t deserve to be in the game. Well, they proved they belonged, as it was clear they were the better team on Friday night.
The defense kept USC quarterback Kedon Slovis under duress for four quarters. In five previous games, Oregon had only hauled in two interceptions. But against the Trojans, the Ducks picked off Slovis on three separate occasions.
The last interception was the best, too. With USC down 24-31 and driving for a game-tying score, Oregon defensive back Jamal Hill brought in this incredible toe-tapping interception to run more clock and make a comeback more difficult.
— FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) December 19, 2020
The MVP of the championship game was none other than sophomore pass rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux. The former No. 1 overall recruit racked up five tackles, two tackles for loss, a pass breakup and an important late-game sack on Slovis.
In other words, he deserved it.
If you had looked at that 31-24 final score, it might shock you to find out that the Ducks offense wasn’t overly impressive. The quarterback duo of Tyler Shough and Anthony Brown did have four touchdown passes to only one interception, but they also only totaled 107 yards through the air.
In addition, the run game only averaged 3.3 yards with the leading rusher for Oregon only having 55 yards. Still, the defense was more than willing to compensate for the odd performance.
It also didn’t hurt that the Trojan offense was out of sorts. Dropped passes, batted balls, turnovers and other uncharacteristic mistakes doomed this group from the get-go. The team had been playing with fire in close games recently, and it finally fell in the other direction.
But at the end of the day, it’s all about Mario Cristobal and his team. He should be well-worth his recently signed extension.
Follow Clint Lamb on Twitter @ClintRLamb.