Still a lot at stake between Oregon and USC


Still a lot at stake between Oregon and USC

EUGENE, Ore. (AP) Back at the start of the season, Oregon's game at USC was circled on lots of calendars.

It appeared at the time to be the marquee matchup of the Pac-12 season, as well as a possible preview of the league championship game, with the Trojans entering the season ranked No. 1 in the preseason poll and Oregon ranked fifth.

Adding to the anticipation was USC's 38-35 upset victory over the Ducks at Autzen Stadium last season.

Eight weeks later, the shine is off the game a bit. USC has lost two games, including a 39-36 loss at Arizona last weekend, and fallen to No. 18 in the AP rankings.

Undefeated Oregon has climbed to No. 2 and has taken aim at a second national championship berth in three seasons. The Ducks are leading the nation with an average of 53.38 points per game. Their vaunted offense is ranked third with an average of 331 yards rushing and seventh in total offense with 540 yards on average.

Oregon hasn't dropped a game since that loss to the Trojans last season, a string of 11 straight victories.

So it follows that the Ducks (8-0, 5-0 Pac-12) are favored to win Saturday night's game in Los Angeles.

But don't count out USC just yet, warned Colorado coach Jon Embree, who has seen both teams.

``With a team like that, you'd rather play them after a win than a loss,'' Embree said. ``They're going to come out fighting and with a different sense of purpose.''

Colorado is the most recent team to fall to the Ducks, losing 70-14 last weekend at Autzen Stadium. The Buffaloes, with just one win this season, really never stood a chance with Oregon leading 56-0 at the half and eventually piling up 617 yards in total offense.

Earlier in the season, the Buffaloes lost to the Trojans 50-6 in Los Angeles. USC quarterback Matt Barkley tied his school record by throwing for six touchdowns.

Washington coach Steve Sarkisian, whose Huskies have also faced both teams - and also lost to both in back-to-back weeks - wasn't willing to pick a winner.

``I think it will be a good game,'' Sarkisian said. ``I think they're different in their style and their approaches. But they're both good teams, both well-coached. It will be a fun game to watch.''

USC's loss to the Wildcats changed the tone of the season for the Trojans, who were picked in the preseason to win the conference championship and now sit at 6-2 overall and 4-2 in the conference.

The Trojans still lead the Pac-12 South after Arizona State's loss to UCLA at home, but they lost a chance to get some separation. They also lost any realistic hope of playing for the national title.

Still, USC did put up some impressive offensive numbers against Arizona, including Marqise Lee's Pac-12-record 345 yards receiving on 16 catches, along with two touchdowns. Lee was named the Pac-12 player of the week.

Barkley threw for a school-record 493 yards and three touchdowns as the Trojans rolled up 618 yards.

But the Trojans hurt themselves with 13 penalties for 117 yards. USC has been the most penalized team in the Football Bowl Subdivision, with 10.25 penalties for 84.63 yards per game.

In contrast, Oregon blanked Arizona 49-0 earlier this season.

``Both teams have great athletes on both sides of the ball, and certainly a lot of guys that are going to be playing on Sunday,'' Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez said. ``Oregon's philosophy is to try to go faster offensively, at a different tempo than USC goes, but I think it's going to be a great ball game.

``You've got a lot of veteran players that understand their systems and it seems that both teams are pretty healthy going into it. We didn't play well at all against Oregon, of course, but there were moments we didn't play well against USC.''

Even though the Trojans aren't living up to expectations, they're still playing for the Pac-12 South and a spot in the league championship game on Nov. 30 - where they could face Oregon again. And a USC upset for the second straight season could derail the Ducks - again - in a bid for a national title.

Oregon's players are aware of what's at stake.

``This game has been hyped all season and it's finally here. But we couldn't focus on them the whole year because then we wouldn't be where we are,'' Oregon safety Brian Jackson said. ``So now it's time to focus on them and they definitely have our attention.''

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PHOTOS: Alex Smith makes an appearance during the Redskins' third day of OTAs

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PHOTOS: Alex Smith makes an appearance during the Redskins' third day of OTAs

Considering how serious that November leg injury was and how difficult the subsequent surgeries were, any time you see Alex Smith out, about and smiling, it's encouraging.

On Thursday, the Redskins posted a couple of pictures of Smith helping out at the team's third day of OTAs. The QB was photographed hanging out with coaches and even tossing a football:

You can't tell in the pictures whether Smith is still wearing the external fixator on his right leg, but regardless of whether he is or not, it's still great to see him in Ashburn around the organization. 

It remains unclear what kind of role Smith will have with the 'Skins in 2019. However, if he's willing, he'd be an ideal mentor for Dwayne Haskins and overall a positive influence on the entire roster, seeing as many players don't hesitate to praise the leadership he displayed in 2018.


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Gilbert Arenas doesn't like bench mobs, gives very on-brand reason

Gilbert Arenas doesn't like bench mobs, gives very on-brand reason

Gilbert Arenas was an attention-grabbing, electric player on the court. That's equally true off it, where Agent Zero has made a name for himself saying outrageous things and playing the jester. 

Arenas was back at it with another controversial take on his No Chill podcast this week. This time, he took aim at bench mobs.

"[The] only thing that irritates the s--- out of me, is when someone scores and they're like shooting the arrows and they havin' this big ole hype party on the bench ... f--- that ... I want your position. I don't want you to do good."

Bench celebrations have to be some of the most fun, light-hearted and beloved parts of an NBA game. Just look at this. 

Sure, players are drawing attention to themselves by cheering on their teammates, but who begrudges guys for rooting for their own team's success?

Arenas, apparently.

It might sound odd that a guy like Gil couldn't relate to goofy antics. Take a closer look at his history, though, and it makes perfect sense. 

Arenas was one of the most ball-dominant guards in the NBA at a time when Kobe Bryant dominated. That's saying something.

Just compare him versus Bradley Beal, for example. 

Arenas averaged 19 or more shots per game in four of his eight seasons with the Wizards. Beal, by contrast, has only done that once.

Arenas also logged 39 minutes per game while playing for Washington. Even last season when Beal's playing time was a concern, he played 37 minutes a night. 

Of course Arenas can't relate to sitting back and watching his teammates take his minutes or his shots. He had no experience doing either of those things.

There's also the indisputable fact that Agent Zero loves to stir up controversy. If the general consensus is one thing, Arenas gets attention by saying the other. 

Look no further than a few weeks ago. When most NBA players and fans were excited about Vince Carter deciding to try to play another year, Arenas came out opposed to the idea on his podcast.

He said Carter should retire to make room for younger players to prove themselves in the league. 

At this rate, if Arenas uses next week's podcast space to argue that Zion Williamson should go back to Duke, no one should be surprised.