USC vs. UCLA score, takeaways: No. 7 Trojans keep playoff hopes alive by edging No. 16 Bruins

No. 7 USC clinched its spot in the Pac-12 Championship Game and kept its College Football Playoff aspirations alive with an epic offensive showing in a 48-45 win over No. 16 UCLA. The Trojans only punted once while racking up 649 yards and rallying from a 14-0 deficit against their crosstown rival in a massive game for both programs.

A win would have kept UCLA's hopes of reaching the Pac-12 title game intact, but the Bruins had no answer for USC's prolific offense on senior night at the Rose Bowl. USC quarterback Caleb Williams threw for 470 yards and scored both through the air and on the ground while out-dueling UCLA's Dorian Thompson-Robinson.

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

Ever a warrior, Thompson-Robinson played through some obvious pain and answered USC's offense repeatedly in the second half. But when the Bruins finally forced USC's first punt of the night with 2:27 remaining in the game and took possession with a chance to tie or take the lead, another turnover doomed their chances. Korey Forman intercepted Thompson-Robinson with 1:26 remaining, which allowed the Trojans to run out the clock and seal the win. 

Here are more takeaways from Saturday night's wild offensive showing in Los Angeles. 

Caleb Williams makes Heisman case

Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud looked relatively pedestrian in an uninspiring win over Maryland Saturday. Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker was injured late in the Volunteers' blowout loss at South Carolina. Michigan running back Blake Corum went over 100 yards yet again in the Wolverines' narrow win over Illinois, but he was limited in the second half due to injury. North Carolina quarterback Drake Maye threw for 200 yards against Georgia Tech ... but the Tar Heels lost to the Yellow Jackets. 

Overall, it wasn't a great day for the Heisman Trophy frontrunners --  except for Williams. The Oklahoma transfer has now thrown 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 solid Notre Dame defense next week in a game that figures to garner significant national attention, but a good performance there might catapult Williams to the top of the Heisman odds sheet.

The No. 2-ranked quarterback from the 2021 recruiting class showed flashes of brilliance as a true freshman for the Sooners last season, but he has been far more consistent this season. His performance on Saturday was particularly heroic because it came with USC's leading rusher and emotional leader Travis Dye sidelined due to a season-ending injury suffered last Friday against Colorado.

The Heisman is a season-along honor, but this year's race is as wide-open as it's been in a while. How contenders play late in the season matters, and Williams is showing up at the right time. 

Important transfers come up big

Trojans wideout Jordan Addison, the most highly scrutinized transfer of the offseason, delivered for his team in a huge spot with 11 catches for 178 yards and a touchdown. The reigning Biletnikoff Winner as the nation's best receiver from his standout season at Pitt last year, Addison proved impossible to defend for the Bruins. This was Addison's first effective game back since suffering a leg injury vs. Utah last month, and he showed why he was such a valuable addition. 

Another transfer, running back Austin Jones, also delivered when called upon. The former Stanford running back effectively handled an 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.

CFP scenarios

With No. 5 Tennessee falling out of the CFP picture with a 63-38 loss at South Carolina, USC figures to move up at least one spot in the new CFP Rankings on Tuesday night. The victory will go down as the best yet for the Trojans, which could give them a case to surpass No. 6 LSU. The Tigers have two losses and did little to help their résumé in Week 12 by beating Conference USA foe UAB in a nonconference game.

With No. 2 Ohio State and No. 3 Michigan set to play next week, more carnage near the top of the rankings is inevitable. USC will get a crack at a quality Notre Dame team next week at home and then have a shot to polish its résumé even further in the Pac-12 Championship Game.

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

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Memorable win

USC clinches its spot in the Pac-12 Championship Game in Year 1 under Lincoln Riley as Caleb Williams goes off for more than 500 yards. What a performance by the Trojans' offense. Dorian Thompson-Robinson was great for UCLA, but his four turnovers were the difference in the game. Williams threw one interception but was otherwise pretty close to flawless. The Trojans will have an excellent shot to be in the CFP if they beat Notre Dame next week and win in the Pac-12 Championship Game against a quality opponent (likely Oregon).

November 20, 2022, 5:13 AM
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@UCLAFootball via Twitter
November 20, 2022, 4:54 AM
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November 20, 2022, 4:54 AM
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November 20, 2022, 4:51 AM
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November 20, 2022, 4:46 AM
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Huge sack

UCLA FINALLY forces a punt. Laiatu Latu sacks Caleb Williams for a loss of 12 to finally force USC's first punt of the game with under three minutes remaining. Puts the Trojans into a fourth-and-22. Williams will regret not running the football on second down. He had daylight but chose to throw instead and badly misfired.

November 20, 2022, 4:35 AM
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Another UCLA answer

Thompson-Robinson finds Michael Ezeike for his third touchdown of the game as the Bruins answer yet again. Now 48-45 as Dorian Thompson-Robinson continues to play through obvious pain. Took a huge shot on that drive and had to leave the game for a play. But here the Bruins are, down just 3, with 6:38 remaining. Haven't forced a USC punt all night. Now is the time.

November 20, 2022, 4:25 AM
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Another USC score

Too early to be a dagger, but put this 6-yard touchdown run from Darwin Barlow in the basket of "more evidence UCLA won't be able to get a stop" as the Trojans march 75 yards on 10 plays. Caleb Williams is dealing, the USC run game is working and there is just nothing the Bruins can do to get a stop. That was surgical from the Trojans, who are 9 minutes away from securing a spot in the Pac-12 Championship Game.

November 20, 2022, 4:15 AM
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Quick answer

Well, don't count the Bruins out. That's a 55-yard strike from DTR to Kazmeir Allen on the first play of the drive. Beautiful throw from DTR, who has his index finger wrapped. Allen turned on the jets to outrun the secondary after nearly coming to a stop to catch the football. Bruins' defense coming back onto the field. We'll see if they can summon some adrenaline after that big TD.

November 20, 2022, 4:05 AM
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Boom

There it is. Caleb Williams finds Kyle Ford for a 16-yard touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter to make it 41-31. USC's offense has just been unstoppable all night. This margin would be even greater if the Trojans hadn't missed two field goals and failed to convert a fourth-and-short early in the first half. UCLA has its work cut out to rally here, mainly because it can't get a stop.

November 20, 2022, 4:01 AM
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Touchdown Bruins

We are getting the full Dorian Thompson-Robinson experience here on his senior night. While playing through some obvious discomfort, he leads an 85-yard touchdown drive at a huge moment to bring the Bruins within 34-31. He scooped up an errant snap on third-and-2 and made a heroic run for the sticks, then found Michael Ezeike for a 6-yard TD strike.

November 20, 2022, 3:48 AM
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Trojans up 10

Austin Jones just danced in from two yards out to take a 34-24 lead. Trojans capitalize on the fumble and now have all the momentum. Plenty of time left but it's been a long time since the UCLA defense really came up with a stop, and the offense has taken a turn for the worse with three turnovers on its last four possessions.

November 20, 2022, 3:39 AM
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Another DTR turnover

Dorian Thompson-Robinson turns the ball over for the third time tonight as the ball comes loose right as DTR went down. He was hit by Tyrone Taleni. The call stands, and USC takes over at the UCLA 15 with a chance to make it a two-score game. That's three turnovers for DTR tonight.

November 20, 2022, 3:35 AM
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USC leads

For the first time tonight, the Trojans are in front as they score on a fifth straight possession. Caleb Williams hit Jordan Addison for a 35-yard score. Addison is having a monster night with 150 yards receiving already. UCLA has just one touchdown in its last five possessions. Feels like a big one coming here for the Bruins with USC's offense humming systematically like this.

November 20, 2022, 3:30 AM
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UCLA stalls, kicks FG

Nice job establishing the run for UCLA to begin the third quarter, but the Bruins stall out before reaching the red zone and settle for a 46-yard attempt. DTR almost completed a hero-ball heave on third-and-long but it fell incomplete. Nicholas Barr-Mira is right down the middle to make it 24-20.

November 20, 2022, 3:22 AM
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