GAMEDAY: Let's talk USC

ON PAPER, the Oregon State vs. Southern Cal Friday night tilt (TV: ESPN2, 6 p.m.) is pretty straight forward...

USC's offense has been sub par at best, and the Oregon State defense has been rising.

USC's defense is awfully good, and the Beaver offense was smacked around pretty good by a Stanford unit that has similarities to the Trojans' D.

As always, there's more to it when you dive into the details.

USC (5-3) has an excellent defensive front but they and the rest of the defense slowly began to lose the mental edge as USC struggled, culminating in Arizona State hanging 62 points on USC. Lane Kiffin was fired. And defensive coordinator Ed Orgeron, who is an exceptional motivator, took over as interim coach. And 'SC has playing stout again on defense.

The Trojans' passing defense ranks third in the Pac-12 and they're ranked No. 1 in total defense in the conference. Nationally, USC ranks No. 11 in total defense. Yes, better than Stanford and yes, even with that horrendous showing against the Sun Devils.

Since Orgeron has taken over, the Trojans beat Arizona 38-31 and emotion played a whole lot in that win. They lost 14-10 at Notre Dame, and then topped Utah 19-3.

In that Utah game, USC forced four turnovers including three interceptions. And yet they could only score 19 points.

Oregon State quarterback Sean Mannion was stifled by Stanford. He still leads the nation in passing yards at 408 hashes per game. He has still thrown 30 touchdown passes with just three interceptions.

And none of that matters unless the Beaver o-line gives him time. That point was driven home and then some against the Cardinal.

But if OSU can provide a better pocket, Brandin Cooks is the kind of receiver who can make some things happen against USC because of his catch and go ability. Cooks leads the nation with 1,256 receiving yards and shares the lead with 13 touchdowns.

USC IS NOT an elite team, but they have an elite defense - or at least they have a defense that is capable of playing at an elite level. But USC ranks 84th in passing yards, 64th in rushing yards, 90th in points score.

Oregon State should win this game. It's not going to be easy, but they should get it done on defense and the offense should eventually break through, although it might be by a "just enough" margin.

NOTABLE NOTES:
  • Orgeron upgraded wide receiver Marqise Lee's game status to "probable" earlier this week. But Lee hasn't been the same player as he was last year and the USC quarterbacks have struggled mightily. So has the offensive line. So have the running backs. So has everything about the USC offense for the most part. Lee has caught a team-leading 32 passes for 403 yards and one touchdown -- and that speaks volumes.

  • The Beavers will debut their all-orange uniforms and helmets before a crowd that has been asked to create an "Orange Out."


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