USC Football: Trojans Battle Oregon State Beavers at Difficult Reser Stadium

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USC Football: Trojans Battle Oregon State Beavers at Difficult Reser Stadium
Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images
Reser Stadium in Corvallis, Oregon

In 1967, the No. 1 University of Southern California Trojans were beaten 3-0 by Oregon State.  The Beavers also upset the No. 1 Trojans in 2008 and the No. 3 Trojans in 2006.  All of these shocking upsets were at Reser Stadium in Corvallis, Oregon, with the Trojans heavily favored.  USC hasn’t won in the state of Oregon since 2005.

USC (No. 20*) is once again hosted by Oregon State University (OSU) on Saturday, November 20, at 5pm PT.  Weather has been a factor in some of the previous upsets, and rain and cold are expected.

Last week the Trojans (7-3, 4-3 Pac-10) knocked off then-BCS No. 18 Arizona Wildcats 24-21 in Tucson.  Meanwhile, the Beavers (4-5, 3-3 Pac-10) were upset for the second week by Washington State Cougars, losers of 16 consecutive Pac-10 games.  OSU was in the Top 25 last month and beat then No. 9 Arizona 29-27 on Oct. 9.

USC is currently favored by 4 points, but that means nothing given how unpredictable college football has been and the way that OSU plays against the Trojans in Corvallis.

Last week, Oregon (No. 1**) edged California Golden Bears 15-13 after Cal missed a field goal.  TCU (No. 3**) came back to beat San Diego State Aztecs 40-35.   Stanford Cardinal (No. 6**) edged Arizona State Sun Devils 17-13.  The previous week nine of the top 25 BCS teams lost.

The Trojans have played in more tight games in 2010 than ever before, winning three and losing two by three points or less.  The USC–OSU game should be another close one, and turnover margin is especially important in those games.

Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Lane Kiffin, USC head coach, talking to quarterback Matt Barkley

Despite the Beavers recent struggles, USC head coach Lane Kiffin said, “It doesn’t matter what teams’ records are.  SC is everybody’s big game because of the dominance of what was done here for years.” 

It seems that both teams are highly motivated to win, so expect a real battle.  OSU wants to qualify for a bowl game and continue their winning ways at Reser Stadium.  USC wants to win their last three games and finish 10-3 to improve over last year, a great accomplishment considering the NCAA sanctions.

The Trojans have been inconsistent this year often showing a high-octane balanced offense that was countered by a leaky defense.  USC ranks 16th in total offense (461.9 ypg) and 18th in scoring (35.2 ppg), but only 96th in total defense (421.9 ypg), 116th in pass defense (284.1), and 72nd in scoring defense (27.7 ppg).  Turnover margin is 45th at .20 per game.

The Beavers have struggled on offense especially after the loss of receiver James Rodgers (school career all-purpose yardage leader), but the defense is a little better than the Trojans.  OSU ranks 92nd in total offense (331.8 ypg) and 65th in scoring (26.3 ppg).  The Beavers total defense is 87th (408.8 ypg), scoring defense is 66th (26.7 ppg), and sacks are 14th (2.78 per game).  Turnover margin is eighth at 1.00 per game.

USC must play well offensively, both rushing and passing, and avoid penalties and turnovers.  Special teams need to continue to play well.  The Beavers give up almost three sacks per game, so the Trojan defense needs to pressure quarterback Ryan Katz, while keeping running back Jacquizz Rodgers (99.2 ypg, No. 21 ranking) in check. 

USC will give up yardage, but the Trojan defense has to do a lot better on third downs than the Arizona game last week to get some necessary stops.

Trojan quarterback Matt Barkley needs to manage the offense with consistency and no turnovers.  Third down conversions need to exceed 60 percent.  He has speedy pass receivers in Freshman All-American candidate Robert Woods (No. 19 nationally all purpose runner), and USC career top-15 receiver Ronald Johnson (No. 7 nationally in punt returns).  Versatile fullback Stanley Havili is dangerous running and catching.

The USC defense continues to improve.  Top defenders are cornerback Shareece Wright, safety T.J. McDonald, defensive tackle Jurrell Casey, and linebacker Malcolm Smith.

OSU must take advantage of the weak USC pass defense.  The Beavers will put a lot of pressure on USC quarterback Matt Barkley since they are ranked No. 14 at almost three sacks per game.  Most importantly they must have positive turnover margin, which they have done well with only seven turnovers all season.

The Beaver's offense features running back Jacquizz Rodgers, who has been All-Pac-10 first team for two years and scores 10 points per game (No. 8 nationally).  The loss of receiver James Rogers has hurt OSU.  Receivers Markus Wheaton and Aaron Nichols, and tight end Joe Halahuni have been catching most of quarterback Ryan Katz’s passes. 

OSU has a veteran defense ranked high in sacks and tackles for losses.  Top defenders are 2009 All Pac-10 defensive tackle Stephen Paea, linebackers Dwight Roberson and Keith Pankey, safety Suaesi Tuimaunei and cornerback James Dockery.

Many USC fans believe that the Trojans can win their last three games, and finish 10-3.  But, the USC-OSU game will be hard fought to the end.  Both teams are very motivated to win, and OSU has proven very difficult for USC to beat in Corvallis.

So, I’m predicting another close game with USC edging OSU 31-24.

 

* Week 12 AP Poll
** Week 12 BCS Ranking

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