The USC Trojans are looking to turn the page after their tough loss last week on the road against Washington State. They now turn their attention to the Oregon State Beavers, who currently sit at the bottom of the PAC-12 standings. Here are three key matchups to keep an eye on as the Trojans face off against the Beavers in the Coliseum.
RB Ronald Jones II vs LB Manase Hungalu
It’s a safe bet to say senior linebacker Manase Hungalu is the best player on this OSU defense right now. Hungalu is not just a run-stopping threat, as he also has 1.5 sacks and a pick-six on the season. While his pass rush and coverage skills are two other facets of his game to look for on Saturday, pay attention to #55 on run plays. The 6’1 240 pound backer leads his team in tackles (40), but has struggled to penetrate the line of scrimmage with only 3.5 tackles for loss. If he has difficulty getting to Ronald Jones before he hits his holes, it could be a long day for the Beaver defense. Jones has already rushed for 450 yards on only 73 carries (6.2ypc) with six touchdowns. With his speed and elusiveness, the Beavers must make it a priority to meet him behind or near the LOS. Hungalu will have to have a great performance if he’s looking to limit this Trojan running game.
QB Darell Garretson vs DE/OLB Christian Rector
Coming into the season, junior college transfer QB Jake Luton was given lofty expectations. However, his performance was subpar at best. Luton on the season had completed 83 of 135 throws (61.5%) for 853 yards with four touchdowns and four interceptions before injuring his spine two weeks ago against WSU. Stepping up in his place is backup Darell Garretson. In his first start last week against Washington, Garretson 11 for 22 with 74 yards. In comes Christian Rector. The sophomore has recorded four sacks and forced two fumbles in his past three games. He, along with Rasheem Green and Josh Fatu, have created one of the best pass rushes in the nation. Garretson was elusive at times, as the Huskies failed to record a sack against him. How much Christian Rector can get to him and disrupt his rhythm will be one of the biggest defensive keys for the game.
WR Deontay Burnett vs CB Shawn Wilson
The Oregon State secondary took two big hits earlier this season, as they lost starting cornerback Dwayne Williams to a knee injury week three and now other starter Xavier Crawford to a back injury last week against Washington. While there are multiple corners who will step up in place and cover Deontay Burnett and company, Shawn Wilson is a name to keep an eye on. The sophomore defensive back has 15 tackles and two tackles for loss on the season (with one recorded start). Like Burnett, Wilson is a small guy sizing up at 5’9 187 pounds. Burnett has been considered the best receiver for the Trojans this season with 39 receptions for 507 yards and five touchdowns. As a result of the impressive performance from Tyler Vaughns last week, less attention will be drawn to Deontay Burnett, giving him space to work with against an inexperienced OSU secondary. Wilson will have his hands full trying to deal with the shifty, talented slot receiver.
The Trojans are favored in each of these matchups, and should they gain the edge in all three, this should be a big win for SC.