While I feel good about OSU’s chances, there are a few things that OSU is going to need to overcome if they are going to win. USC is a good team with great athletes, but some aspects of their team are going to be especially tough for the Beavers:
1. USC’s Outside Rush vs. OSU’s Offensive Tackles
Whether it is super star defensive end Leonard WIlliams or an array of talented linebackers and defensive linemen that USC can use to rush the ends, Oregon State is going to have to find answers. While Gavin Andrews and Sean Harlow are two of the more physically talented linemen the Beavers have, they are going to have to deal with speed and size unlike anything they have seen in the past this year.
2. USC’s Receivers vs. OSU’s Secondary
I consider OSU’s secondary to be very good. Unfortunately, there is so much size, speed and talent lining up at receiver fir the Trojans, it is going to be a tough road for the Beavs. Against Fresno State, the Bull Dogs gave the Trojan wide outs so much cushion, it was easy for USC to get modest gains, many of which turned into huge gains after the catch. Against Boston College and Stanford, their corners and safeties lined up much closer, but still were unable to shut down Nelson Agholor, who seems to get 9 catches no matter who he plays.
For the Beavers, they need to make sure that they are able to stop the short gains, stop the long gains and stop the short gains that turn into long gains. This is a tough order and will be a big test for this defense.
3. Josh Wilcox vs. Mike Riley
Last year was an anomaly in the Mike Riley versus Steve Sarkesian duel that has gone on for five years now. While OSU had a few big wins early, each team has ruined the other’s season with unexpected losses that change the course of the other’s season. 2010 saw OSU lose a very winnable game against a UW team that had not finished above .500 for almost a decade. 2011, OSU inexplicably pounded what was to be the break out Husky team while OSU was entrenched in their worst season since the first Riley Era. 2012, a hot and undefeated Beaver team rolled into Clink field to lose a close game and hurt their chances at a BCS bowl game. Last year, was a total blow out.
The one constant the last two years was how well Justin Wilcox defenses did against Oregon State’s offense. Last year and the year prior, the Beavers were not able to get anything going on offense and had multiple turnovers that cost them important drives. Wilcox teams tend to also be very physical. It will be up to the Beavers’ coaches to not only get their players ready mentally move the ball on USC, but they will also need to be physically ready.
It is a big challenge and I really hope that the Beavers are up to it. This would be a super huge win for OSU and a great way to start conference play.