Pre-Game Match Up: USC

On a rare Saturday afternoon moment,  I wanted to break down my grades for this game and which team has an edge going into tonight’s contest. I will break it down by position group:

1. Quarterback:
NAME                  CMP    ATT    YDS    CMP%    YDS/A    TD    INT    RAT
Sean Mannion    76       113    903      67.3         7.99       4       2     142.5
Cody Kessler       71       100    846      71.0         8.46       8       0     168.5

While their numbers are virtually identical, their trajectories are not.  Against a horrid Fresno State team (who gave up over 52 points in each of their first three games) Kessler was 25 of 37 for 394  yards and  4 touchdowns. That is basically half of his stats in one game.  Since then he is 46 of 63 for 452 yards in two games, along with four touchdowns.

That is pretty good, but not amazing.  Meanwhile Sean Mannion has averaged around 300 yards per game, but has improved his completion percentage, passer rating and touchdowns as the competition has gotten harder.  His best game was probably their last game where they dispatched by far their best opponent 28-7.  Not only was Sean sharp, but he hit ten different receivers and moved the ball around well even after losing one of his top targets (and their backup) early in the game.

You also factor in that this is Sean’s 4th year as a starter in a very familiar system and that this is Kessler’s first year in their system and only second year starting, and I give the nod to Mannion and OSU,

ADVANTAGE: OSU

2. Running Backs:
While OSU has capable to exceptional backs in Ward and Woods, USC has probably one of the best backs in the conference with Javorius “Buck” Allen.  A great combination of speed and moves, Buck is probably the best running back on the field for either team tonight.  While OSU is running the ball better this year than last, and USC did get stuffed for only 20 yards rushing on 29 carries two weeks ago.  Much of that has to do with the struggles they have on the offensive line.  In terms of pure running backs, I have to give the edge to USC.

ADVANTAGE: USC

3. Receivers:
Again, USC has a lot of talent at receiver and with the injury to Bolden, the Beavers are a little short staffed. Nelson Agholor is one of the premiere receivers in the country (Nelson Agholor    23  catches for   212 yards and   3 td’s

ADVANTAGE USC

4. Tight Ends:
OSU has the premier tight ends in the conference, and the second leading receiver in OSU’s tight end squad, Caleb Smith (6), has more receptions than all of USC’s tight ends combined (3).  Connor Hamlett is OSU’s second rated receiver and would be USC’s as well.

ADVANTAGE OSU

5. Offensive Line
Both OSU and USC had offensive line questions heading into the season.  USC, has three freshmen in their rotation and start three players that have never started prior to this year. OSU, on the other hand, has a relatively healthy line with the exception of their best offensive lineman Isaac Seumalo, who has yet to participate in a practice in 2014. That being said, Oregon State’s offensive line has improved each week, USC’s has struggled and is very thin in regards to bench support.  While USC has a lot of talent, they are not gelling yet and have taken some steps backwards while OSU seems to be moving forward and playing better together.

ADVANTAGE OSU

6. Defensive Line
This is the strength of both teams, but any team that has Leonard Williams.  While OSU may be close as a whole, USC has some very good pieces on their line.  The Beavers have more quality depth but the Trojans stars are pretty bright.  I have to give a slight edge to the Trojans, but this week will give us a good idea of where the Beaver defensive front rates. I think they may be very special, but there is no proof yet in terms of quality opponents.

ADVANTAGE USC

7. Linebackers
USC is the original Linebacker U west.  They have a lot of talent to work with and while two of their top linebackers were lost for the season in fall camp (or at least one was, the other is marked as being lost indefinitely) their backups are talented, fast and have played three games now. Unfortunately for USC, in this match up, there are few if any teams  that I think can match the depth, experience and talent of the OSU linebackers.  They are six deep with players that have all either started or played extensively. Their three starting linebackers have at least two years of starting experience and the speed they have far exceeds any unit in the past, with the exception of maybe the 2000 team.

While I will concede that USC has more talent, I think that this is an extremely special group for the Beavers and have to give them the edge.

ADVANTAGE OSU

8. Secondary
Both secondaries are talented and do a great job. Especially in terms of their role with the rest of their defenses.  Both teams are atop the Pac -12 in interceptions and neither has given up a passing TD yet this year.

So , actually, I have no idea who is better.  OSU has more experience, but USC is putting all four and five star players out there.  So I give this a push. One of these units will come out of this game slightly more damaged than the other one and that is really the only way to settle it.  On the field of battle so to speak.

9. Coaching
People want to make this about Sark and Riley, but to be honest, it isn’t it is about Wilcox and Riley.  Since Wilcox has been in the conference, Riley and his offense has struggled against their brand of defense.  The 3-4 that they implement caused the Beavers fits in 2012 and 2013. Last year was a ridiculous game all around, but it did show a major flaw in OSU if they are going to produce against Wilcox lead teams.

Toughness.

In both games, the Huskies were the hammer, and the Beavers were the nail.  For this game to end differently than the last two against the former Montlake Purple People Eater coaches, then OSU is going to have to be EVEN TOUGHER than they have been in the past, because they are going against amazing athletes as well.

It will be a great matchup to see, but for now, I have to give the edge to USC in coaching because OSU has yet to match up with Wilcox.

ADVANTAGE USC

CONCLUSION:
I want the Beavers to win, I want to pick them. I think they can win. But they are going to have to play very well, without many mistakes and as tough and violently as they ever have.   If they do, OSU will win. If they don’t they won’t. I never make score or win predictions\ because I am always wrong.  I just think that this is the game that will set the tone for the rest of OSU’s season.  A win has them in the winners lane, and puts a target on their back. A loss may not be devastating, but it forces them to rely on others for them to reach all their goals.  It also puts a damper on the momentum in Beaver Nation.

So I will close with GO BEAVERS!  Beat the Trojans!

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