Two years ago USC was rolling along. They had big wins against Arkansas and Nebraska and while things weren't as crisp as they were in 2005 USC seemed to be humming along and in the hunt of another trip to the BCS title game...then they went up to Corvaliis and it all changed.
SC was manhandled as they let the Beavers get out to a 30-10 lead and the crowd was going crazy. SC made a comeback but John David Booty's pass on the two point conversion with seconds to play was intercepted and that was that. A humbling experience to say the least...But that was then and this now as those were two different teams. SC won't fall into that trap this year as just about everyone who was on the team then does not want a repeat of that fateful October afternoon this year. This year they have been beat by Stanford in their first game and Penn State in their second game before finally getting on track against a depleted Hawaii team a week and a half ago.
Oregon State is struggling to find their identity on defense as they look to replace all of their starters from the front seven that ranked in the top 10 of just about every defensive statistic in 2007. The Beavers led the nation in run defense, finished fifth in tackles for loss and tied for tenth overall in sacks. But this season is a completely different story as the line has combined for two sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss in three games. They have some gamers at the defensive end position with Slade Norris and Victor Butler but just like Ohio State they are vulnerable up the middle so I would expect the game plan to much of the same as we saw against Ohio State. So while I won't ever discount any team ever again I have a hard time seeing USC not being able to run anywhere at any time against this Oregon State defensive front.
Linebacker is a little more of the same story as it is a talented unit but they have yet to come together and they have been exploited a lot this season and because of that look for USC to use a lot of tight end and running back sets out in the flat to create a lot of mismatches similar to the type of play that Sanchez hooked up with Havili on against Ohio State.
Oregon State's cornerbacks are a different story. This is talented tandem and because the front seven are so vulnerable they don't get tested as much as they would like. But they aren't as good as what USC face against Ohio State. Safety Greg Laybourn leads the team with 25 tackles while Al Afalava has ten tackles this season because they have had to supplement the deficiencies of the front seven. Both are under six feet tall so SC should have a height advantage but both can also hit so the receivers need to hang onto the ball.
On the offense look for Oregon State to put it up in the air. The Beavers are ranked 9th in passing yards with 307 per game. QB Lyle Moevao has settled into the starting role and he has put it up a lot going 79-of-129, a 61.2% completion rate, for 922 yards and six touchdowns against four interceptions so far this season. SC saw him a bit last year in garbage time but he is more confident this season. He is not a flamboyant QB but SC has been burned by guys like that in the past so while he isn't the most mobile if makes smart throwsand not make mistakes its the best way to keep the Beavers in the game. Moevao hasn't see a defense like this up close so you know SC is going to throw the kitchen sink at him in order to rattle him into making mistakes.
Moevao has three pretty good receivers to get the ball to if he has some time. Led by Sammie Stroughter, he is the Beavers best deep threat, and the Beavers need to get the ball in his hands early and often if they are to have a chance. If Stroughter is making plays then it could open up the field for Oregon State's other receiver Shane Morales who actually leads the team with 22 receptions for 284 yards. He isn't a speedster but he is a true pocession reciver and if he hangs onto the ball against SC's defense he can be effective in helping the beavers move it down field. he #3 option is James Rodgers his main goal will be to try and stretch the USC defense laterally using the "fly sweep" a play that is designed to have him run parallel to the line of scrimmage and takes a direct handoff from the quarterback. This also gives the QB the option to fake the handoff and give it to a tailback coming toward the line of scrimmage, or fake the hand off and drop back to pass. Rodgers gained 39 yards on that play last year against SC so you they will try to run it again but SC should also be looking for it. Oregon State will rotate 4 TE's but none are as good as former Oregon State standout Joe Newton.
At running back the Beavers will go with Jacquizz Rodgers (brother of WR James) and Ryan McCants with Rodgers getting the bulk of the work. Jacquizz may be only 5-feet, seven-inches tall but he has no fear of running between the tackles. He isn't a speedster but hi low center of gravity will make it a bit more difficult to tackle him with out wrappig him up and taking him down. He is the second option in the fly sweep os SC neds to keep an ey on him. McCants is a seviceable back but he hasn't yet made the impact that Beavers hoped he would carrying the ball just eight times for 19 yards in the Beavers first two games while getting 14 rushes for 60 yards in the win over Hawaii.
The offensive line has been a question mark as well but look for both left tackle Tavita Thompson and Offensive guard Jeremy Perry to be in the game bolstering an O line that has to find a way to keep the SC rundefesne in check while also giving Moevao tie to throw. That is going to be a pretty tall order.
Here is Mike Riley on Mason and Ireland last week.
Here is Riley during his Monday press conference.
|Four questions (with answers) for Mike Riley|
This should be a fun game on Thursday as SC needs to come out and set the tone early for a convincing win...