FACTS & STATS: Site: Reser Stadium (45,674) -- Corvallis, Oregon. Television: ESPN2. Home Record: USC 4-1, Oregon St. 2-2. Away Record: USC 1-2, Oregon St. 4-0. Neutral Record: USC 0-0, Oregon St. 0-0. Conference Record: USC 2-2, Oregon St. 4-1. Series Record: USC leads, 59-11-4.
GAME NOTES: Coming off a tough loss against nationally-ranked Stanford last week, the Oregon State Beavers take on the USC Trojans in a Pac-12 tilt on Friday night in Corvallis.
The Beavers shockingly dropped their season-opener to FCS power Eastern Washington, but rallied back with six straight wins to follow. However, OSU was unable to continue its winning ways this past weekend, as Stanford's defense proved to be too much in a 20-12 loss. At 6-2, the Beavers still have their sights set on a conference crown, with a 4-1 mark in the Pac-12. Oregon State sits a full game behind division-leading Oregon and a half game behind second-place Stanford in the North Division standings.
Despite a change at the top with the firing of Lane Kiffin, USC is still only a game out of first place in the South Division standings at 2-2. The Trojans, who trail Arizona State (3-1), are tied with UCLA and Arizona after moving to 5-3 with last weekend's 19-3 win over Utah. Interim coach Ed Orgeron seems to have the Trojans heading in the right direction, having won two of his first three games at the helm.
USC holds a sizeable 59-11-4 all-time advantage in this series and has won 32 of the last 36 meetings overall. However, Oregon State has won three of the last five meetings and has won three straight against USC in Corvallis.
Simply put, the Trojans are no longer the feared offensive squad they were in the past. USC has posted modest numbers on that side of the football in 2013, averaging 24.6 ppg, on 379.8 yards per game, ranking 11th in the conference in both categories.
A lack of production under center and key injuries have plagued the team this season. Sophomore quarterback Cody Kessler has completed 61 percent of his throws, but it has resulted in only 1,560 yards, with nine TDs against five interceptions. The team's top two skill players, Biletnikoff Award winner Marqise Lee and tailback Silas Redd have both missed considerable time this season with injuries. Lee, who is questionable for Friday with a lingering knee issue, is far off the pace he set last year as the nation's top receiver, having caught just 32 balls in six games, for 403 yards and one TD. Lee's absence and lack of production however, has thrust sophomore WR Nelson Agholor (30 catches, 539 yards, three TDs) into a more prominent role.
Tailback Tre Madden has stepped up in Redd's absence and delivered. The sophomore is averaging 5.3 yards per carry and leads the team with 671 yards rushing (95.9 ypg). He has scored three touchdowns on the ground and another four through the air as a potent outlet out of the backfield.
While the offense has struggled at times, USC's defense is one of the Pac-12's best, currently ranked second in the league in scoring defense (19.2 ppg) and first in total defense (317.2 ypg). The team is second in rush defense (105.4 ypg) and third in pass defense (211.9 ypg).
There are plenty of defensive playmakers on the USC roster, starting with defensive end Leonard Williams, who leads the way in tackles (54) and TFL (11) and tied for the team-lead in sacks (5). Other playmakers of note include fellow ends Devon Kennard (39 tackles, 7.0 TFL, 5.0 sacks) and George Uko (21 tackles, 5.0 TFL, 4.0 sacks), linebackers Morgan Breslin (15 tackles, 8.0 TFL, 4.5 sacks) and Hayes Pullard (49 tackles) and safeties Su'a Cravens (37 tackles, three INTs) and Dion Bailey (35 tackles, two INTs).
The Beavers struggled against Stanford's suffocating defense, but that may be an anomaly when all is said and done. Oregon State definitely knows how to move the football and usually does so via the pass. Despite just a mediocre performance last week, OSU still leads the nation in passing at a hefty 420.8 yards per game.
It certainly has something to do with the nation's most productive quarterback and receiver at the opposite ends of most passes. Sean Mannion has lit up almost every opponent he has faced this season and the numbers are staggering, with the veteran signal caller completing 69.1 percent of his throws, for 3,263 yards, with 30 touchdowns against just three interceptions. Wideout Brandin Cooks has been equally dominant down the field, posting 85 receptions, for 1,256 yards with 13 TDs. His 157.0 yards per game leads the nation by nearly 20 yards over the second-ranked player.
While the offensive numbers are eye-popping, the defensive numbers aren't as prolific. Oregon State is giving up 27.4 ppg and allowing 381.2 yards per game. Where the unit has excelled is in creating turnovers, with 21 thus far.
Safety Tyrequek Zimmerman is tops on the team in tackles with 60 stops. Cornerbacks Steven Nelson (36 tackles) and Rashaad Reynolds (31 tackles) have been ball hawks with five and four interceptions, respectively. Defensive end Scott Chrichton (31 tackles) is the star along the defensive line, leading the team in both TFL (11) and sacks (3.5).
The Trojans will be tested early and often by Mannion and company. However, without a full array of healthy weapons, USC will struggle to keep pace.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Oregon State 31, USC 20
Corvallis, OR (SportsNetwork.com) - Javorious Allen led the way with three rushing touchdowns to lift the USC Trojans to a 31-14 victory over the Oregon State Beavers in a Pac-12 Conference matchup at Reser Stadium.
Allen tallied 133 yards on only 16 carries for USC (6-3, 3-2 Pac-12) as it became bowl eligible and improved to 3-1 under interim coach Ed Orgeron. Silas Redd also had strong showing with 140 yards on 22 carries. Cody Kessler completed 17-of-21 pass attempts for 247 yards with one touchdown and an interception. Marqise Lee made five receptions for 105 yards and a score to record his first 100-yard receiving performance since the Trojans' season opener at Hawaii.
Sean Mannion had a rough outing while under center for Oregon State (6-3, 4-2) as he was picked off a three times. Mannion hit on 25-of-44 of his throws for 268 yards with only one interception. Mannion came into the contest with only three interceptions on the season. Brandin Cooks made an impact with six catches for 88 yards and a score while Terron Ward rushed for 53 yards on eight carries. Cooks now has 91 catches on the season, which is tied for the school's single season record with three games remaining. The Beavers have now lost two games in a row after winning six straight.
Oregon State put itself in position to put the first points on the board as Mannion led the offense into USC territory on the opening drive of the game. However, the hosts were unable to capitalize as Trevor Romaine had his 46-yard field goal attempt blocked after the Beavers were stopped on third down.
The Trojans wasted no time once they took over as Kessler completed a 71-yard touchdown pass to Lee on their first play from scrimmage. Andre Heidari converted the ensuing extra point attempt to put the hosts ahead, 7-0, less than three minutes after the opening kickoff.
The visitor's defense then forced back-to-back three-and-outs to prevent Oregon State from evening the score. USC extended its lead to 14-0 when Allen rushed nine yards for a touchdown with under a minute remaining in the first frame.
The Beavers put together a promising drive on their next possession as they moved the ball inside USC's red zone, but Josh Shaw intercepted Mannion in the end zone to keep them off the board.
After its defense forced a quick three-and-out, Oregon State took over with excellent field position. Mannion completed an 18-yard pass to Woods to set up a 27-yard touchdown pass to Crooks. Kessler had his next pass picked off by Ryan Murphy, who returned the interception 41 yards for a touchdown that tied the score at 14-14 with 9:43 remaining before the intermission.
The Trojans responded with a 10-play, 75-yard drive that was capped off by an 18-yard touchdown run by Allen. Neither side managed to post any more points before the end of the first half, which sent USC into the break with a 21-14 advantage.
Kessler began the second half with a big play as he found Nelson Agholor for a 62-yard gain that put the ball at the Oregon State 13-yard line. The Beavers managed to keep visitors from advancing the ball any further which forced USC to settle for a 34-yard field goal by Heidari.
Oregon State responded with another threatening drive into the Trojans' red zone, but it once again came away empty handed as Romaine missed a 26-yard field goal try.
Allen gave the Trojans a sizeable 31-14 lead as he broke away for a 52-yard touchdown run in the closing seconds of the third period.
Both sides were held scoreless over the final 15 minutes of play. Mannion led the Beavers deep into USC's territory in the early stages of the fourth quarter, but was intercepted by Dion Bailey at the 3-yard line. Kevon Seymour picked off Mannion on Oregon State's next possession to rule out any chance of a late rally by the hosts.
USC tallied 489 yards of total offense and went 7-of-14 on third-down conversion attempts. The Beavers were limited to only 349 total yards and moved the chains on only 2-of-10 third-down plays.