USC vs. Oregon State 2014: The Full Gameday Preview


USC vs. Oregon State

LA Memorial Coliseum | Los Angeles, Calif.7:30 PM Pacific | ESPNAll-time Series: USC leads 60-11-4Last meeting: USC 31, Oregon State 14 in 2013, at Corvallis

To call USC’s loss to Boston College ’embarrassing’ would be an understatement. ‘Unacceptable’ might be more accurate. On Saturday night, a loss to Oregon State would be ‘unfathomable’.

The Beavers come into the Coliseum losers of their last 22 games in the famed arena, having not won since John McKay’s USC coaching debut in 1960.

But while history is surely not on their side, this is a Mike Riley-coached Oregon State team that is very much capable of giving the Trojans all they can handle. They’ve cruised to a 3-0 record and have perhaps the nation’s best pocket passer in Sean Mannion. That makes them dangerous.

Tonight, we find out if the Trojans can overcome adversity. Today is gameday.

Podcast: Listen to RoT Radio, Ep. 33

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When Oregon State has the ball…

Despite losing 2013 Biletnikoff Award winner Brandin Cooks to the NFL, the Beavers come to the Coliseum with one of the nation’s most potent passing attacks, led by senior quarterback Sean Mannion.

Mannion is listed as Mel Kiper Jr.’s No. 2 quarterback in the 2015 NFL Draft and will be the best pure passer that the USC defense will face all year. With the Trojans still being without the services of senior defensive back Josh Shaw, that’s worrisome for defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox.

Oregon State uses their weapons in a variety of ways to create mismatches. Screens, fly sweeps and draws are the bread and butter of the Beavers’ offense, with the goal of hemming in defenders to open up the vertical passing game over the top to veteran receiver Richard Mullaney.

Mullaney is expected lead the OSU receiving corps tonight, as starting flanker Victor Bolden is sidelined with a dislocated finger. Meanwhile freshman Xavier Hawkins is slated to make his collegiate debut as the fly sweep weapon in place of Bolden.

Even still, the key to it all is protecting Mannion. Oregon State’s offensive line is inexperienced to say the least, as the left side has just seven career starts combined.

For a USC pass rush that has struggled to get in a rhythm, Mannion’s deep drops and a methodical pro-style offense could be a welcome sign. But they’ll still need to find a way to contain ball carriers and protect the edge, a place where they were repeatedly beat with Boston College’s option attack.

Click here for an extensive breakdown of how the OSU offense matches up with the USC defense.

Projected Starting Lineups

Oregon State Offense:WR #13 Jordan VillaminWR #7 Hunter JarmonLT #62 Gavin AndrewsLG #65 Ramon SapoluC #50 Josh MitchellRG #70 Grant BaysRT #77 Sean HarlowTE #89 Connor HamlettQB #4 Sean MannionTB #24 Storm WoodsWR #8 Richard Mullaney

USC Defense:DT #90 Claude PelonNT #99 Antwaun Woods OR #52 Delvon SimmonsDE #94 Leonard WilliamsRE #58 J.R. TavaiSOLB #47 Scott FelixMILB #10 Hayes PullardWILB #56 Anthony SaraoCB #13 Kevon SeymourFS #27 Gerald Bowman OR #22 Leon McQuay IIISS #21 Su’a CravensCB #4 Chris Hawkins

When USC has the ball…

Despite the Trojans’ defensive woes against Boston College, the dismal offensive performance has gotten more attention from coaches and pundits. USC had just 20 rushing yards against BC, and struggled mightily on first and second down. That was not helped by ineffective play calling.

Against Oregon State, Cody Kessler and company face a secondary that’s yet to give up a passing touchdown. Then there’s the experienced OSU linebacker corps with 68 combined starts between expected starters D.J. Alexander, Jabral Johnson and Michael Doctor.

Kessler’s had a solid season thus far, having yet to throw an interception or make a poor decision that has led to any form of a turnover. But that’s not to say he hasn’t been pressured into those situations.

USC’s offensive line is giving up one sack for every 16 pass plays, and thoroughly imploded two weeks ago when facing the blitz on third down. They gave up five sacks on third down against BC, including four-straight to start the second half.

Oregon State’s defense may have been licking their lips watching film, as they currently lead the nation in third down defense. OSU’s opponents are converting just 23 percent of the time.

The Trojans have shown that for the Steve Sarkisian offense to be efficient, they need to avoid three and outs. A whopping 41.2 percent of USC’s drives have been not gotten a first down, while 20.6 percent have been of 10 plays or more. Needless to say, drives have been all or nothing in the first three games.

That efficiency could ultimately be the biggest key for the Trojans.

Click here for a more in-depth look at how the USC offense stacks up with the Oregon State defense.

Projected Starting Lineups

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

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