Side by side: USC (6-0) at OSU (4-3)

USC rolls into Corvallis with a No. 3 ranking and an unblemished record among several other illustrious winning streaks. Oregon State has put together back to back conference wins and are looking for their first conference home win in four tries.

LAST WEEK:  Oregon State continued to rely on the strong play of their defense as the Men in Black limited Arizona to just 183 total yards, including a measly 22 yards rushing, and one measly field goal as the Beavers defeated the Wildcats 17-10.  UA's only touchdown came on a punt return.

The OSU offense started out hot scoring 14 points in the first quarter as the offensive line opened large holes for RB Yvenson Bernard while QB Matt Moore picked apart the defense.  But UA tightened up defensively in the three remaining quarters as both teams struggled to move the ball.

Moore completed 16 of 22 for 181 yards and one touchdown with two costly first half interceptions that kept the game close.  Bernard carried 26 times for 106 yards for his fourth 100 plus yard game of the season.  WR Sammie Stroughter led the team with five receptions for 91 yards and one touchdown.

S Daniel Drayton and LB Joey LaRocque each had an interception in the final three minutes of the game to seal the victory.

LAST WEEK:  The Trojans are coming off a much needed bye week as the players got some rest and the coaches hit the road recruiting. In practices this week we've seen receivers Dwayne Jarrett and Steve Smith return to action (although Smith still isn't 100%) as well as linebacker Oscar Lua.

With a 6-0 record and a rested team, the Trojans appear poised to make a strong second half push for another run at an appearance in the national title game. A lot will depend on the ability of the offense to find a consistent identity and for the defense to become the ball hawking unit we've become accustomed to in recent years under Pete Carroll. Right now the USC kicking game is in fine shape.

This is the time of year that Trojan teams under Carroll have
traditionally hit their stride so we will see if history repeats
itself.
KEY INJURIES: KEY INJURIES:

Steve Smith (ankle, probable), Chris McFoy (shoulder, out), Brandon Hancock (knee, out), Ryan Powdrell (ankle, out), Stanley Havili (leg,out), Josh Pinkard (ankle, out), Kevin Thomas (foot, out)

WHEN OREGON STATE IS ON OFFENSE: Even though the season is halfway over, the offense is still trying to find its identity.  The unit is averaging a respectable 24 points per game (fifth in the conference) while racking up 234.4 yards through the air (fourth in the conference) and 127.4 on the ground (seventh in the conference). 

Progress has been made as QB Matt Moore and company put together a masterful 10-play, 94 yard opening drive against Arizona last week.  But the unit largely stalled in the following three quarters.  Part of their lack of consistency can be traced to momentum killing turnovers as the Beavs have lost 10 fumbles this year.

Moore has cut down on his interceptions with just six this year and his completion percentage is great at 61.6 percent, but he has only six touchdowns.   On the season he has 1,271 yards on 101 of 164 passing.  A few weeks ago when the OSU season was spiraling out of control the calls for backup Sean Canfield were loud.  Riley said he was going to implement a predetermined rotation between Canfield and Moore against Washington and he did.  Canfield looked like a young quarterback playing in a hostile environment as he threw two passes with one being picked off.  He did not play against Arizona and he won't see time against USC unless Moore gets hurt or it is a blowout.

The offensive line has put together two consecutive games without yielding a sack, but are battling some injuries.  RT Josh Linehan has been out since late September, but the versatile Andy Levitre has filled in nicely.  C Kyle DeVan hurt his leg against Arizona, but will play against USC.  DeVan is having a very good season and is one of the emotional leaders on offense.  RG Jeremy Perry is one of the best in the conference and the majority of the running plays go.  LT Adam Koets and RG Roy Schuening, a preseason Pac-10 first teamer, round out the starting five on the line.

TE Joe Newton has had a quite year offensively catching just 21 passes for 236 yards and three touchdowns, none in Pac-10 play.  Opponents are blitzing the Beavers seemingly every play forcing Newton to stay in and block.  Senior Jason Vandiver is the other player in the two tight end set.  He has caught just one pass and is used mainly to block.

RB Yvenson Bernard has rushed for over 100 yards in 10 of the last 15 games, but will be slowed down with an ankle injury he suffered against Arizona.  Bernard is sitting out this week's practice to heal up and will probably play, but in a limited role.  Bernard has a team high 770 yards and seven touchdowns on 155 carries good for a 4.8 yards per carry average. He is the team's second leading receiver with 24 catches for 124 yards.  In Bernard's absence junior Clinton Polk will take over.  Polk is a north-south type of runner with good speed to get to the outside, but has difficulty running between the tackles.  Polk has seen action in five games this year carrying the ball 29 times for 115 yards and one score.  Walk-ons Tony Carrasco and Andy Stewart will backup Polk.

The receivers have been steadily improving, especially junior Sammie Stroughter, who has big play potential.  Stroughter has the conferences top receiving total this year after he hauled in seven passes for 223 yards and one touchdown against Washington.  He is Moore's favorite target with a team leading 34 receptions for 643 yards and two touchdowns.  Junior Brandon Powers mans the slot where he has caught 17 balls for 167 yards.  Anthony Wheat-Brown has just 13 catches on the season for 190 yards and two touchdowns.  He has largely been under used and is due for a breakout performance.  Ruben Jackson is usually the first person off of the bench but will miss the game with an ankle injury.   As a result speedster Chris Johnson, who has just one catch, will rotate in when Wheat-Brown needs a rest.

WHEN USC IS ON OFFENSE: Look for the Trojans to establish Chauncey Washington early in thisgame. Chauncey gave the team a much needed boost during the fourth quarter against ASU and his hard running presence will be key to setting the tone for the offense.

The Beavers are known for being solid against the run so this should be a real nice test of physical football. If Chauncey can get things going, it could also open things up for Emmanuel Moody or C.J. Gable on the outside.

Don't forget about the presence of new fullback weapon Allen Bradford, he had a touchdown reception against ASU that should only be a preview of what is to come from this young
man.
 

WHEN USC HAS THE BALL: The pride of the football team lies with the defense who are playing fast and with plenty of confidence.   The unit currently ranks second in the Pac-10 with 26 sacks and are third in the nation for sacks per game at 3.7.   They are also second in the nation in tackles-for-loss per game averaging 9.1 a game and have held their last three opponents to 17 or fewer points.

Much of the team's success can be attributed to several factors including players getting comfortable in the system, coaches getting more comfortable with the players, different schemes and lots of substitutions.

SLB Derrick Doggett and MLB Alan Darlin led the team in tackles with 45 stops a piece.  Doggett is one of the most athletic players on the team and excels in pass coverage and tracking down the ball carrier.  He has a team high nine tackles for loss with four sacks, two interceptions and two recovered fumbles.  Darlin is a run stopping specialist who plays on the line when the Beavers are in their nickel package. He has 8.5 tackles for loss and three sacks.

WLB Joey LaRocque has really come on of late grabbing over half of his 38 tackles in the last three games.  He turned in his best performance of the year versus Arizona notching a team high nine tackles including one sack, one interception and one fumble recovery.

Tough as nails Bryant Cornell and the quick Isaiah Cook along with the emotional Eric Liava'a Moala also see plenty of time at linebacker.

The defensive line regularly rotates two to three people about every two plays to keep the players fresh. DE Jeff Van Orsow has 27 stops including7.0 for loss while Joe Lemma, who is fighting an ankle injury, has eight tackles, including three sacks. Dorian Smith, who leads the team in sacks with five, won't start over Lemma but will get the majority of the snaps. Smith brings a lot of energy with a good combination of quickness and strength. The speedy Victor Butler (2.5 sacks) excels in passing situations while Naymon Frank does a nice job of taking up space.

The tackles are manned by the fiery Curtis Coker, who demands a double team, and Ben Siegert, who has largely been disappointing in his senior year, but showed marked improvement against UA last week notching two tackles for loss. Quick step Gerard Lee is seeing more and more time each week while Pernell Booth and William Vea (10 tackles/3 sacks) rotate in with regularity.

The backfield is led by strong safety Sabby Piscitelli who has 29 tackles and a team high three interceptions. Bryan Payton will be starting in the place of Al Afalava, who is working through a concussion, at free safety. Daniel Drayton, who has two interceptions, and Afalava will see the field when the nickel is used. CB Keenan Lewis, is struggling through a shoulder injury he suffered against UW in Seattle two weeks ago.  Lewis is rangy and leads the team with five pass breakups.  Brandon Hughes mans the other cornerback spot.  He has 14 tackles and two pass breakups.  Coye Francies, a mean hitter, is the first off of the bench.

WHEN OREGON STATE HAS THE BALL:  With a banged up Beaver running back group you can guess that Trojan coach Pete Carroll will focus his attention on shutting down quarterback
Matt Moore with a lot of defensive pressure.

Right now the OSU runners may still play but chances are they will still be slowed due to the injuries suffered against Arizona. This will give Lawrence Jackson and company a chance to pin their ears back and work on building up that sack total. Carroll loves to take away one element of an opposing offense and right now it appears the best strategy would be to slow the passing offense and take your chances against a battered running back group.

It remains to be seen how successful the Trojans can be in pressuring the quarterback, however, as it has not been a strength of the defense this year.

SPECIAL TEAMS: PK Alexis Serna has been solid after missing his first two field goal attempts of the year. Serna has hit eight of 10 with his longest being a 58-yarder against California, tying a school record. He also handles kickoffs with half resulting in touchbacks.

Freshman punter Kyle Loomis has had his ups and downs.  He started the season averaging 28.0 yards per kick but bumped his average over 40 for the first two Pac-10 games before slipping below the 40 in the last three.  He is the only punter in the conference not averaging over 40 yards a kick, but he can boom them with a 62 yarder to his credit.  Loomis has not had a punt blocked this year.

Sammie Stroughter is fourth in the nation in punt return yards per attempt at 17.9. He has two touchdowns on the year and is getting less of an opportunity each week to return a third one as teams are kicking away from him. Coye Francies is averaging a respectable 22.6 yards per attempt on kickoffs, good for sixth in the conference.

SPECIAL TEAMS:  As mentioned earlier, the USC kicking game is doing as well as we can remember in recent history with Mario Danelo handling placekicks, Troy Van Blarcom putting kicks into or out of the end zone and Greg Woidneck providing excellent punting. We should also mention Will Collins for his role as long snapper, he has always been a consistent performer.
 
OREGON STATE CAN WIN IF: They play a perfect ball game with no mistakes.  An early turnover, weather it be a fumble or an interception, could take the crowd out of the game and put the Beavers in an early hole. USC CAN WIN IF:  They maintain the momentum they found in the 4th quarter against ASU by running the football with Chauncey behind an inspired Trojan offensive line. Many observers believe the Trojans have yet to play their best football of the year and this game would be an opportune time to start putting things together.
 
OREGON STATE WILL LOSE IF: The offense turns the ball over and gives the Trojans a short field.  OSU will also lose if Bernard does not play.

Bernard's injury hurts all aspects of the offense as he is a tremendous runner, a great blocker and a decent receiver.  Bernard must play and be a factor for the Beavers to pull off the upset.  Without him, OSU is hurt mentally before the game starts.

USC WILL LOSE IF:  They fail to get a rhythm on offense and turn the ball over at critical times. Matt Moore and company, especially if the OSU running backs can contribute some big plays, are also more than capable of putting up yards and moving the ball against this Trojan defense.

The last time USC was in Corvallis it was a much closer game than most people remember and this year a large and loud capacity crowd is expected. The Trojans will need to play with a lot of energy in order to come out with a win.

OREGON STATE 2-DEEPS:
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USC 2-DEEPS:
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Dan Norz is the publisher of BeaverFootball.com. Say it with me now - And that's another O....S....U....first down! Garry Paskwietz is the Publisher of WeAreSC.com and WeAreSC magazine, he has been covering Trojan football since 1996.

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