USC (5-3) at Oregon State (6-2)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Friday, November 1, 9 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Reser Stadium (45,674) -- Corvallis, Oregon. Television: ESPN2. Home Record: USC 4-1, Oregon St. 2-2. Away Record: USC 1-2, Oregon St. 4-0. Neutral Record: USC 0-0, Oregon St. 0-0. Conference Record: USC 2-2, Oregon St. 4-1. Series Record: USC leads, 59-11-4.
GAME NOTES: Coming off a tough loss against nationally-ranked Stanford last week, the Oregon State Beavers take on the USC Trojans in a Pac-12 tilt on Friday night in Corvallis.
The Beavers shockingly dropped their season-opener to FCS power Eastern Washington, but rallied back with six straight wins to follow. However, OSU was unable to continue its winning ways this past weekend, as Stanford's defense proved to be too much in a 20-12 loss. At 6-2, the Beavers still have their sights set on a conference crown, with a 4-1 mark in the Pac-12. Oregon State sits a full game behind division-leading Oregon and a half game behind second-place Stanford in the North Division standings.
Despite a change at the top with the firing of Lane Kiffin, USC is still only a game out of first place in the South Division standings at 2-2. The Trojans, who trail Arizona State (3-1), are tied with UCLA and Arizona after moving to 5-3 with last weekend's 19-3 win over Utah. Interim coach Ed Orgeron seems to have the Trojans heading in the right direction, having won two of his first three games at the helm.
USC holds a sizeable 59-11-4 all-time advantage in this series and has won 32 of the last 36 meetings overall. However, Oregon State has won three of the last five meetings and has won three straight against USC in Corvallis.
Simply put, the Trojans are no longer the feared offensive squad they were in the past. USC has posted modest numbers on that side of the football in 2013, averaging 24.6 ppg, on 379.8 yards per game, ranking 11th in the conference in both categories.
A lack of production under center and key injuries have plagued the team this season. Sophomore quarterback Cody Kessler has completed 61 percent of his throws, but it has resulted in only 1,560 yards, with nine TDs against five interceptions. The team's top two skill players, Biletnikoff Award winner Marqise Lee and tailback Silas Redd have both missed considerable time this season with injuries. Lee, who is questionable for Friday with a lingering knee issue, is far off the pace he set last year as the nation's top receiver, having caught just 32 balls in six games, for 403 yards and one TD. Lee's absence and lack of production however, has thrust sophomore WR Nelson Agholor (30 catches, 539 yards, three TDs) into a more prominent role.
Tailback Tre Madden has stepped up in Redd's absence and delivered. The sophomore is averaging 5.3 yards per carry and leads the team with 671 yards rushing (95.9 ypg). He has scored three touchdowns on the ground and another four through the air as a potent outlet out of the backfield.
While the offense has struggled at times, USC's defense is one of the Pac-12's best, currently ranked second in the league in scoring defense (19.2 ppg) and first in total defense (317.2 ypg). The team is second in rush defense (105.4 ypg) and third in pass defense (211.9 ypg).
There are plenty of defensive playmakers on the USC roster, starting with defensive end Leonard Williams, who leads the way in tackles (54) and TFL (11) and tied for the team-lead in sacks (5). Other playmakers of note include fellow ends Devon Kennard (39 tackles, 7.0 TFL, 5.0 sacks) and George Uko (21 tackles, 5.0 TFL, 4.0 sacks), linebackers Morgan Breslin (15 tackles, 8.0 TFL, 4.5 sacks) and Hayes Pullard (49 tackles) and safeties Su'a Cravens (37 tackles, three INTs) and Dion Bailey (35 tackles, two INTs).
The Beavers struggled against Stanford's suffocating defense, but that may be an anomaly when all is said and done. Oregon State definitely knows how to move the football and usually does so via the pass. Despite just a mediocre performance last week, OSU still leads the nation in passing at a hefty 420.8 yards per game.
It certainly has something to do with the nation's most productive quarterback and receiver at the opposite ends of most passes. Sean Mannion has lit up almost every opponent he has faced this season and the numbers are staggering, with the veteran signal caller completing 69.1 percent of his throws, for 3,263 yards, with 30 touchdowns against just three interceptions. Wideout Brandin Cooks has been equally dominant down the field, posting 85 receptions, for 1,256 yards with 13 TDs. His 157.0 yards per game leads the nation by nearly 20 yards over the second-ranked player.
While the offensive numbers are eye-popping, the defensive numbers aren't as prolific. Oregon State is giving up 27.4 ppg and allowing 381.2 yards per game. Where the unit has excelled is in creating turnovers, with 21 thus far.
Safety Tyrequek Zimmerman is tops on the team in tackles with 60 stops. Cornerbacks Steven Nelson (36 tackles) and Rashaad Reynolds (31 tackles) have been ball hawks with five and four interceptions, respectively. Defensive end Scott Chrichton (31 tackles) is the star along the defensive line, leading the team in both TFL (11) and sacks (3.5).
The Trojans will be tested early and often by Mannion and company. However, without a full array of healthy weapons, USC will struggle to keep pace.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Oregon State 31, USC 20
10/30 10:40:24 ET