Oct 19, 2013; Berkeley, CA, USA; Oregon State Beavers wide receiver Brandin Cooks (7) runs with the ball to score a touchdown against the California Golden Bears during the second quarter at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

USC vs. Oregon State: Previewing the Beaver Offense - Mannion Is Biggest Test To Date

Oct 26, 2013; Corvallis, OR, USA; Oregon State Beavers quarterback Sean Mannion (4) looks to pass the ball during the first half against the Stanford Cardinal at Reser Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

The Oregon State Beavers without a doubt present the USC defense with the stiffest challenge they have faced this season thus far. That should worry Trojan fans considering the drubbing they faced against Arizona State, their last road test against one of the more elite offenses in the Pac-12. Oregon State ranks in upper echelons nationally in a host of offensive categories: 15th in scoring, ninth in passing efficiency, eighth in first downs, fourth in time of possession, first in passing offense. The Beavers score on a touchdown on 38.9% of their drives, which is good for ninth in the nation. That’s not to say they don’t have their weaknesses too. With hardly a running attack to speak of, Oregon State ranks 122nd in rushing.

The Beaver offense begins and ends with junior quarterback Sean Mannion. With a pass completion percentage of 69.1%, Mannion leads all Pac-12 quarterbacks.  A fact that should concern the USC secondary, Mannion has cut out the mistakes that plagued him in his first two years as a starter. After double digit interception totals in 2011 and 2012, Mannion has only thrown three interceptions this year. He also tops the nation in passing totals, yards per game and passing touchdowns.

Most of those touchdowns find their way into the hands of Mannion’s favorite target, Brandin Cooks. Though Cooks isn’t the household name that Marqise Lee is nationally, he’s a player on that level this season. It is harder to find a receiving category in which he doesn’t lead the nation than one he does. His 13 touchdown receptions, 157 yards per game, 10.6 receptions per game, and 1,256 total receiving yards are the best in the country. To put his numbers in perspective, he has 16 more receptions, 342 yards, and six more touchdowns than the next leading receiver in the Pac-12 in those categories.

Cooks isn’t alone in the passing game. Sophomore Richard Mullaney and senior Kevin Cummings are also supply Mannion options, while sophomore and junor tight ends Caleb Smith and Connor Hamlett also get in on the action. Having said that, Mullaney and Cummings combined don’t boast even close to the production of Cooks.

If the Beavers have a weakness its the rushing offense. They enter the Dia De Los Muertos match up averaging 66.6 yards per game. Sophomore Storm Woods starts at runningback though he has more yards receiving (305) than rushing (214). Junior Terron Ward leads the team in running yards with 224 and adds 219 in receiving. The two runningbacks have four touchdowns apiece. However, Ward’s 3.34 and Woods 2.97 per rush average put them at the bottom of the Pac-12 among rushers with a minimum of four rushing attempts per game.

A second weakness for Oregon State has emerged from a position of strength coming into the season. Shake ups on the offensive line due to unexpected illness and injury has disrupted the effectiveness of the line. The game against Stanford last week was the first time the Beavers started and finished a game with the same five players on the offensive line as the week before. Anchored by freshman All-American Isaac Seumalo at center, the Beaver offensive line that will start against the Trojans features seniors at three of the five positions. However, the line has allowed 55 tackles for loss this season including 17 sacks. Given USC’s excellence on the defensive front, this could be the match up that decides the game.

Projected Starting Line Up:

SE #8 Richard Mullaney
SLOT #84 Kevin Cummings
LT #77 Michael Philipp
LG #69 Josh Andrews
C #56 Isaac Seumalo
RG #71 Grant Enger
RT #78 Sean Harlow
TE #89 Connor Hamlett
or #10 Caleb Smith
or #83 Kellen Clute
QB #4 Sean Mannion
TB #24 Storm Woods
FL #7 Brandin Cooks
FB #33 Tyler Anderson

Check out our preview of the Beaver defense.

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Tags: Oregon State Beavers USC Trojans

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