Saturday, 1 p.m., Coliseum. TV: Pac-12 Networks. Radio: 710
USC passing game vs. Oregon State’s secondary: Last week, the Trojans endured their worst passing game in quarterback Sam Darnold’s time as a starter. He completed just 15 attempts for 164 yards, with one interception and no touchdowns. No tight ends or running backs had a reception. Now, USC returns injured starter Steven Mitchell Jr. Oregon State is without two starting cornerbacks. If the passing game doesn’t put up big games in this one, when will it?
USC (459.0 ypg/35.0 ppg): USC's offense has been afflicted with issues in short-yardage situations, problems passing the ball and play calling that has at times been ineffective. The result: USC has had one great offensive game this season, against Stanford, but otherwise production has declined.
Oregon State (321.6 ypg/21.2 ppg): Oregon State is last in the Pac-12 Conference in yardage and scoring. It will likely be without two of its best players. Quarterback Jake Luton has a spine fracture, and there is no timetable for his return. Darell Garretson started against Washington last week and completed just 11 of 22 passes for 74 yards. Running back Ryan Nall hasn’t had the breakout season many expected. He has 341 yards in five games, and he is doubtful for Saturday's game with an ankle sprain. If he can’t go, he’ll be replaced by Artavis Pierce (137 yards this season) and Thomas Tyner (72 yards).
USC (388.6 ypg/25.8 ppg): USC gave up conversions on eight of 18 third downs against Washington State, including five of eight from 10 yards or longer. USC’s pass rush has been a bright spot, with 13 sacks in the last three games. Linebacker Uchenna Nwosu has forced or recovered a turnover on the opponent’s goal line in consecutive games.
Oregon State (490.2 ypg/46.4 ppg): Cornerbacks Dwayne Williams and Xavier Crawford are both out. The Beavers have just six sacks and seven forced turnovers in five games. The team leader in tackles for loss is linebacker Manase Hungalu. He has just 3.5. Oregon State ranks 128th out of 130 teams in scoring defense.
Neither team has been very explosive in special teams, particularly on punt returns. USC has failed to return or even fair catch more than half of the punts it has faced this season. Oregon State’s returner, Trevon Bradford, has only one return this season. It went for zero yards.
Oregon State last defeated USC in Los Angeles in 1960, a 23-game home winning streak for USC. … The Beavers have the ninth-hardest schedule in the nation, according to ratings guru Jeff Sagarin.
Oregon State has 27 players from California on its roster, including starting receiver Jordan Villamin (Fontana) and starting cornerback Shawn Wilson (Pomona).
Defensive tackle Marlon Tuipulotu is the only USC player from Oregon, though defensive tackle Brandon Pili, who is from Alaska, attended an Oregon high school for one season.
Follow Zach Helfand on Twitter @zhelfand