KICKOFF: Saturday, 8 ET
SITE: Reser Stadium, Corvallis, Ore.
SERIES: USC leads 59-10-4 (last meeting, 2009, USC 42-36)
RECORDS: USC 7-3, 4-3; Oregon State 4-5, 3-3
POLLS: USC (20 AP)
PREDICTION: USC 35-14
KEYS TO THE GAME
-- For USC: Keep running the ball. Oregon State has given up 431 yards on the ground in the past two games, both losses, so the Trojans need to keep taking their shots and perhaps wear down the Beavers' defense. A ground attack could negate any literally cold hands in the passing game.
-- For Oregon State: Get some points. The Beavers need more than the 14 points they scored in each of the past two games to keep up with USC. More of an issue is the Beavers finding enough balance for the offense to stay on the field and not let the Trojans take advantage of an Oregon State defense that can't hold up for as long as it has been asked to do the past two weeks.
SCOUTING THE TEAMS
-- USC has excellent balance on offense, and the offensive line took center stage last week against Arizona when the Trojans rushed a season high 46 times and controlled the clock for more than 37 minutes. USC is 29th nationally in passing (262.3 ypg) and is 22nd in rushing (199.6 ypg).
USC hasn't been very good in the secondary all year, especially when it comes to giving up big plays. The Trojans have been a bit better in that area lately, at least making the opposing offense have to work its way down field. Against Oregon State, stopping RB Jacquizz Rodgers is where it all begins -- he had 113 rushing yards vs. USC last season, and he had his breakout game with 186 rushing yards when the Beavers upset the Trojans early in the 2008 season.
The problem lately for Oregon State has been simply keeping the offense on the field. In consecutive losses to UCLA and Washington State, the Beavers have averaged a possession time of 22:04 and 50 plays, or 25 fewer plays than their opponents. Oregon State hasn't been able to get far enough into its playbook to show the balance it would like to exhibit, and which might make it more successful. In the past two games, RB Jacquizz Rodgers has a total of 29 rushes.
The Beavers haven't been able to stop opposing rushers of late, allowing an average of 215 rushing yards in losses to UCLA and Washington State. Now comes USC, which six times this season has gone over 200 rushing yards. Oregon State is thin at defensive tackle and the ends aren't making enough plays, leaving the Beavers vulnerable to good rushing teams.
Trojans: USC is 1-2 in its past three trips to Oregon State. ... Starting LB Devon Kennard earned second-team Pac-10 All-Academic honors, announced Tuesday. QB Matt Barkley, OL Khaled Holmes and C Michael Reardon were honorable mention. ... DT DaJohn Harris was back in the starting lineup last week. That will keep Armond Armstead, who can play inside or outside, at end. ... Special teams continue to come up big for the Trojans. They blocked a field goal and got a first down on a fake field goal in the win over Arizona. It was the fifth blocked kick, including a partially blocked punt against Arizona State, for the Trojans this season. ... Barkley is sixth among career passing leaders based on number of completions) in USC records with 5,253 yards. Ahead of him are Carson Palmer, Matt Leinhart, Rob Johnson, Rodney Pete, and John David Booty.
Beavers: Oregon State needs to defeat USC to avoid its first three-game losing streak since 2002, which was Dennis Erickson's final season when the Beavers finished 8-5 despite consecutive midseason losses to USC, UCLA and Arizona State to fall to 4-3. ... The Beavers won't play USC again until the 2013 season. The new Pac-12 schedule will require each team to miss two league opponents, and Oregon State's misses the next two seasons will be the Trojans and Colorado. ... RB Jacquizz Rodgers needs his average game of 108 yards to move into the Pac-10's top 10 career rushers. Rodgers has 3,586 rushing yards to rank 12th in conference history. Steven Jackson, who rushed for 3,625 for Oregon State, is 11th, and USC's Ricky Bell with 3,689 yards is 10th on the league list. ... DE Brennan Olander still hasn't made a decision on whether to have shoulder surgery, but Oregon State coach Mike Riley said he is assuming Olander won't play again this season. Probably the only way Olander could have played again was if the Beavers qualified for a bowl game, and that seems extremely unlikely.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
RB Marc Tyler -- It's time for an encore after he rushed 31 times for 160 yards against Arizona last week. The junior showed quick moves at the line of scrimmage and the ability to push the pile for a few yards when he was surrounded.
LB Malcolm Smith -- He has made big plays in each of the past two weeks, returning an interception 74 yards for a touchdown against Arizona State on Nov. 6 and forcing a fumble from Arizona WR David Douglas at the USC 15 last week.
S T.J. McDonald -- The sophomore leads the team with 78 tackles, and he is tied for the team lead with three interceptions. He has been the team's most consistent defensive back, coach Lane Kiffin said.
P Johnny Hekker -- While inconsistency remains an issue -- about once a game Hekker has a poor kick, usually in critical situations -- there will also be a definite challenge this week in getting enough hang time on kicks and being put in the right spot with USC's Ronald Johnson one of the nation's top returners, averaging 17.3 ypr. USC's offense will be enough of a challenge without getting great field position from a punt return.
QB Ryan Katz -- USC will center its defense on stopping the running of RB Jacquizz Rodgers, who led the upset of the Trojans two years ago. That puts it on the quarterback to deliver. In a similar situation last year, Sean Canfield responded by completing 30 of 43 passes for 329 yards and three touchdowns as the Beavers hung close with the Trojans before losing 42-36. If there is a vulnerable area on USC's defense, it's the secondary.
S Lance Mitchell -- He and fellow safety Suaesi Tuimaunei will be challenged to offer run support, without being sucked in by USC quarterback Matt Barkley faking handoffs and then passing the football. The USC wide receivers are too much for Oregon State's cornerbacks to handle on their own, so the safeties will be playing on a dangerous edge between run support and coverage in the middle of the field.
T.J. McDonald has been a key member of USC's improved special teams units.
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