USC (4-4, 3-3) at Oregon State (2-6, 1-4)
Saturday, 7 p.m., Reser Stadium, Corvallis, Ore. TV: FS1. Radio: 1110, 99.1.
USC offensive line vs. Oregon State defensive line. USC coach Clay Helton fired offensive line coach Neil Callaway Monday and moved running backs coach Tim Drevno, who is an offensive line coach by trade, back into that role. With Helton calling plays and in position to get credit for any improved offensive production, the timing couldn’t be more perfect to be playing Oregon State. The Beavers are 126th nationally in rush defense, giving up 267.4 yards per game. Arizona State’s Eno Benjamin rushed for 312 yards against Oregon State. Arizona’s JJ Taylor turned in 284. Aca’Cedric Ware, Vavae Malepeai and Stephen Carr should be looking to combine for a similar total. If they can’t, it may be the most alarming sign yet that the USC offensive line is broken and in need of drastic repairs. Ideally, the Trojans will be able to run at will and then hit the Beavers over the top with JT Daniels throwing to Michael Pittman and Tyler Vaughns.
USC (364.1 ypg/27.1 ppg): The Trojans looked like they had found a rhythm against Arizona State with Jack Sears at quarterback. Daniels will return to his starting role after clearing concussion protocol, and he’d benefit from a similar game plan to what Sears had — plenty of short, safe passes that allowed USC’s playmakers to gain yards after the catch. In previous weeks, Daniels had been asked to do too much.
Oregon State (427.8 ypg/29.6 ppg): The Beavers have been pretty one-dimensional, counting on running back Jermar Jefferson to be their difference-maker. But Oregon State became much tougher to stop in the second half last week in their astounding comeback win at Colorado because of the return of Jake Luton at quarterback. Luton completed 28 of 39 passes for 310 yards and three touchdowns. He should force the USC defense to respect the pass and open up more holes for Jefferson.
USC (356.1ypg/28.8 ppg): The Trojans will miss leading tackler Talanoa Hufanga at safety but will benefit from the return of middle linebacker Cameron Smith and safety Marvell Tell from injury. USC needs a big game from Smith against Jefferson. Ajene Harris will play his second game at safety in place of Hufanga and will need to adjust quickly to a new position.
Oregon State (540.4 ypg/45.6 ppg): There is no way around it. The Beavers have one of the worst defenses in college football. They can only hope that the magic they found last weekend in Boulder traveled with them back to Corvallis. It’s been ugly.
Helton said USC’s punt return coverage team was in good position for N’Keal Harry’s 92-yard punt return last week. He attributed the play to a spectacular athlete doing something special.
USC has lost five times in Corvallis, but four of those have come since 2000.