USC Football: How the Oregon State Defense Matches up with Troy’s Offense


Much like USC football’s defense has faced three fairly different offenses to start the season, the Trojans’ offense has put in three very different performances in the first three games of 2014.

Against Fresno State, the men of Troy flew out of the blocks with an uptempo offense which spread the wealth and got the most out of USC’s talented wide receiving corps, exposing the Bulldog secondary in the process.

The Stanford game shifted the focus to Javorius “Buck” Allen and the running game, which found success on the ground despite facing the Cardinal’s usually stout front seven.

That same ground attack ran into a brick wall against Boston College and it was the passing game which moved the Trojans best, though too little and too late.

This time around, USC faces a defense which is often the afterthought of a team led by the offense. The veteran unit specializes in pass defense, but it’s hard to judge just how strong they are without having faced a quality opponent this season.

Veteran backfield, raw front line

The Beavers boast nine seniors on defense, six of whom populate the linebacker unit and secondary. There are 140 career starts between those six alone, securing the defense as one of the most veteran in the nation.

In fact, there’s not an underclassman to be found among Oregon State’s defensive starters.

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Having faced a super-veteran Boston College squad with disappointing results in the previous game, the Trojans will need the youthful talent of offensive weapons like JuJu Smith and Adoree’ Jackson to win battles against much more experienced defenders like cornerback Steven Nelson and free safety Tyrequek Zimmerman, both of whom can make offenses pay for mistakes by forcing turnovers.

Still, the senior-laden defense isn’t without its weaker spots.

On the defensive line, Oregon State features first year starters at all but one position. Granted, right end Dylan Wynn has more starting experience than anyone on the team, but in the positions alongside him, five linemen on the two-deep combine for just 10 starts.

For the USC offensive line, which struggled mightily versus BC’s front seven, there should be room for a strong response if they can bottle up Wynn, tackle Bud Delva and converted receiver turned pass rush specialist Obum Gwacham.

Something’s gotta give

Led by returning captain and linebacker Michael Doctor, who missed 2013 with an ankle injury, Oregon State’s defense has thrived in the early goings of 2014, particularly in pass defense.

Nelson and Zimmerman own two interceptions apiece this season as the Beavers join USC atop the Pac-12 in picks.

Also like the Trojans, the Beavers have yet to concede a passing touchdown this season.

Oregon State’s three opponents have been held to an average of 141.7 yards per game, but none of them posed the threat in the passing game that USC offers.

With increased production from Allen, as well as tight ends Randall Telfer and Bryce Dixon in the passing game to go along with playmakers like Nelson Agholor, Darreus Rogers and George Farmer roaming downfield, USC could present problems for the Beavers if they spread the field.

Having said that, Cody Kessler and the Trojans were limited by Stanford’s veteran secondary and Kessler’s interception-less start will be seriously tested this week.

What the stats say…

  • Oregon State’s defense isn’t just holding opponents to a 23% conversion rating on third-down. On third down attempts of more than one yard, they have only allowed a total of six conversions.
  • There is room for improvement in OSU’s run defense just as there is room for improvement in USC’s run offense. Conceding 4.25 yards per carry to teams like Portland State, Hawai’i and San Diego State should give the Trojans hope that they can be exploited on the ground.
  • The Beavers rank among the top teams in preventing “explosive” drives, which are drives that average at least 10 yards per play. However, this could also be more of a reflection of the level of opponent they’ve faced. Though USC’s explosive drive percentage isn’t outstanding, it’s quite a step above either of OSU’s three previous opponents.

Projected Starting Lineups

Oregon State Defense:LE #59 Lavonte Barnett OR #48 Jaswha JamesLT #10 Jalen Grimble OR #98 Siafe HautauRT #96 Bud DelvaRE #45 Dylan WynnWLB #4 D.J. AlexanderMLB #44 Jabral JohnsonSLB #40 Michael DoctorLCB #2 Steven NelsonSS #25 Ryan MurphyFS #8 Tyrequek ZimmermanRCB #15 Larry Scott

USC Offense:WR #9 JuJu SmithWR #15 Nelson AgholorTE #82 Randall TelferRT #73 Zach BannerRG #51 Damien MamaC #75 Max TuerkLG #50 Toa LobendahnLT #72 Chad WheelerWR #8 George FarmerQB #6 Cody KesslerFB #31 Soma VainukuTB #37 Javorius Allen