LOS ANGELES (AP) — Vernon Adams Jr. was a big USC fan growing up.
Oregon’s quarterback is a native of Pasadena, and like many kids who grew up in Southern California, he was dazzled by the likes of Matt Leinart and the Trojans of a decade ago.
“I used to go to all the home games,” he said. “It was an honor seeing those guys play, seeing how they got it done.”
Adams even has a tattoo that says “SC” with interlocking letters, similar to the Trojans’ logo — although now that he’s a Duck he maintains it’s an homage to his Southern California home, not the school.
Vernon will get a chance to face the team he once idolized on Saturday when the No. 23 Ducks (7-3, 5-2 Pac-12) host the No. 22 Trojans (7-3, 5-2) with conference championship implications for both teams.
Adams, who played three seasons at Eastern Washington before joining the Ducks, has been coming into his own since returning from a finger injury that had hampered him since the opener.
Last weekend in Oregon’s 38-36 victory at Stanford, Adams threw for 205 yards and two touchdowns. In each of the two prior games, he’d thrown for 300 or more yards and four touchdowns.
A season out from an appearance in the national championship, Oregon has struggled with losses to Michigan State, Utah and Washington State. But the Ducks have won four straight and popped back into the national rankings.
Adams is leading the rebound. But as senior transfer, he’ll have only one shot at the Trojans.
“Our energy is high and I’m trying to keep the guys up and positive,” he said. “We have 11 more practices in the regular season, these are my last two home games of my college career so I’m definitely excited and having fun and keeping the energy high.”
Oh, and for the record, Adams patterned his game more off of Reggie Bush than Leinart.
Some other things to consider when the Ducks host the Trojans:
IT’S COMPLICATED: So about those Pac-12 championship game scenarios for both teams? Oregon must beatUSC and Oregon State in the Civil War, but the Ducks also need Cal to defeat Stanford in the annual Big Game on Saturday.
USC controls its own destiny in the Pac-12 South. If the Trojans — who hold the tiebreaker over Utah — win out against Oregon and in the rivalry game against UCLA, they’ll go to the league championship.
HURTING: It’s been a tough week for the Trojans, who lost their starting inside linebackers, freshman Cameron Smith and senior Lamar Dawson, to season-ending injuries. Smith, who led the Trojans with 78 tackles and also had three interceptions, tore ligaments in his knee in last weekend’s victory over Colorado. Dawson has a shoulder injury. Interim coach Clay Helton said the Trojans expect to use four inside linebackers against the Ducks, but wouldn’t reveal details.
JUJU HAS THE MOJO: USC sophomore receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster was named one of 10 semifinalists for the Biletnikoff Award this week. He’s certainly got an impressive resume with 63 catches for 1,160 yards and 10 touchdowns. USC even created a special web page touting his achievements, with a nod to past Trojan receivers. Finalists for the award will be announced later this month.
POLYNESIAN PRIDE: Oregon defensive lineman DeForest Buckner as well as USC linebacker Su’a Cravens and Smith-Schuster were all announced as finalists for the Polynesian Hall of Fame’s College Player of the Year Award. Buckner, a native of Hawaii who is considered a top NFL prospect at his position, has a team-leading 13 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks and 61 overall tackles this season. Oregon’s Marcus Mariota won the inaugural award last year.
THE LAST TIME: The two teams haven’t met since 2012, when the Ducks won 62-51 in Los Angeles. Kenjon Barner rushed for a school-record 321 yards and five touchdowns in the win.
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