USC is still in the hunt for a division title in football

USC quarterback Cody Kessler is hit by Colorado defensive back Chidobe Awuzie as he throws a pass in the third quarter Saturday.

USC quarterback Cody Kessler is hit by Colorado defensive back Chidobe Awuzie as he throws a pass in the third quarter Saturday.

(Justin Edmonds / Getty Images)

A chaotic USC season that at one point seemed anything but in control suddenly offers a clear path for the Trojans.

USC, which has surged to four consecutive victories under interim Coach Clay Helton, can win the Pac-12 Conference South Division title if it defeats Oregon and UCLA.

USC’s 27-24 victory over Colorado on Friday night kept the Trojans in the hunt for the title, and Utah’s 37-30 two-overtime loss to Arizona on Saturday night moved USC into a first-place tie with two games left.

“1st place” linebacker Su’a Cravens wrote Saturday night on his Twitter feed, adding a sunglasses-clad, smiling emoji followed by “#FightOn.”


USC and Utah are 5-2 in Pac-12 play. USC’s 42-24 victory over the then-unbeaten Utes on Oct. 24 would give the Trojans the tiebreaker if both win their last two games.

USC plays Oregon for the first time since 2012 on Saturday at Autzen Stadium. Kickoff is at 12:30 p.m., and the game will be televised nationally by ESPN.

Oregon is coming off a 38-36 victory over Stanford that probably knocked the Cardinal out of contention for the College Football Playoff.

Utah this week plays host to UCLA, which is in third place after Saturday night’s 31-27 loss to Washington State. The Utes conclude their season against Colorado.

USC’s best-case scenario is to defeat Oregon and UCLA, win the Pac-12 championship game and advance to the Rose Bowl for the first time since the 2008 season.

The Trojans’ recent success could land them a low spot in this week’s CFP ranking.

The Trojans on Sunday returned to the Associated Press media poll at No. 22 and the coaches’ poll at No. 24.


Pressure packed

USC had six sacks against Colorado, increasing its season total to 29.

The Trojans rank second in the Pac-12 and are tied for 13th nationally.

USC has 19 sacks in the last five games.

Cravens has a team-best 5 ½ sacks and lineman Delvon Simmons has four. Linemen Antwaun Woods and Kenny Bigelow, and linebackers Scott Felix and Porter Gustin each have three.

The Trojans came on in the second half against Colorado, getting four sacks.

Simmons, who had one in the fourth quarter, said the defense’s mindset changed in the second half.

“We all got together and talked about it,” he said. “The first was poor — we weren’t playing like we should have been playing.

“We believe in Coach Helton, just saying ‘Fight on, Fight on,’ and we went out there and executed.”

Line shuffle

With guard Viane Talamaivao sidelined because of a knee injury, USC’s offensive line will shuffle again.

Redshirt freshman Chris Brown came in for Talamaivao against Colorado.

Talamaivao is the fourth starter to suffer an injury. Center Max Tuerk and guard-center Toa Lobendahn suffered season-ending knee injuries. Tackle Chad Wheeler was sidelined for a game because of a concussion.

USC gave up two sacks in the first half against Colorado, none in the second.

“The O-line was struggling a little bit in the first half,” quarterback Cody Kessler said. “The cool part about it is we got on them. I started getting on them, letting them know, ‘Hey it starts with you guys.’ The second half they came out and played great.”