Oregon St-USC Preview
Though the Trojans already have suffered their first loss of 2009, the Beavers are still in great position to deliver another crushing blow to USC's title hopes.
Oddsmakers from online sports book SPORTSBETTING.com have made USC –20.5 point spread favorites (View College Football odds) for Saturday’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 53% of bets for this game have been placed on Oregon State +20.5 (View College Football bet percentages).
The fourth-ranked Trojans look to avoid their third loss in four games against the Beavers with their 22nd straight home win in the series Saturday night.
USC split the national title with LSU in 2003, won it outright in '04 and played in the championship game in '05. Its path toward another shot at a championship in 2006, however, was impeded by a 33-31 loss at Oregon State. The third-ranked Trojans gave up a season-high point total against the unranked Beavers, and after falling to UCLA in their regular-season finale, they settled for a Rose Bowl win over Michigan.
Southern California was ranked No. 1 for its meeting with Oregon State last year but was upset in Corvallis again, falling 27-21 for its only loss in a season capped by a 38-24 victory over Penn State in the Rose Bowl.
As vulnerable as the Trojans have been in Oregon lately, they haven't had much trouble against the Beavers at the Coliseum. They're 39-3-3 when hosting Oregon State, including 21-0 since a 14-0 defeat Sept. 16, 1960.
This year's Trojans (5-1, 2-1) are likely happy to be back playing in Los Angeles after another scare on the road. USC, which lost its conference opener at Washington on Sept. 19, needed a last-minute stand in the red zone to salvage a 34-27 win at then-No. 25 Notre Dame last Saturday. The Irish ran three plays from the 4-yard line and didn't score.
"We had to do a lot of good things late in the game to hang on to make good decisions to position our guys right to finish it off," USC coach Pete Carroll said. "Some of it didn't go quite the way we wanted it to. When it came down to it, we found ways to make our plays."
Carroll couldn't say the same thing at the end of last season's matchup with Oregon State (4-2, 2-1). The Beavers scored the first 21 points and held on for their first victory over a top-ranked team in 41 years. Jacquizz Rodgers ran 37 times for 186 yards and two touchdowns en route to becoming the first freshman named Pac-10 offensive player of the year.
"For whatever reason we just couldn't tackle him," Carroll said after that game. "We'd hit him in the backfield and he'd keep bouncing. Him hiding behind the line of scrimmage was very effective. We had troubles with it all day."
Rodgers' rushing total against USC was a career best until he ran for 189 with four touchdowns in a 38-28 win over Stanford in Oregon State's last game Oct. 10. He had been held to double-figure rushing totals in each of his previous three games, two of which were Beavers losses.
"People had been talking bad about me in the papers. They say Quizz hasn't rushed for 100 yards in three games," Rodgers said. "I took that personally."
Rodgers is second in the Pac-10 with 116.2 rushing yards per game and second in the Football Bowl Subdivision with 13 TDs on the ground.
He could struggle to have another big day against the Trojans, who are holding opponents to 67.7 rushing yards per game and 2.1 per carry to rank among the nation's top five run defenses. They're allowing an average of 11.7 points, fifth-fewest in the FBS.
USC's offense looked nearly as dangerous last week, recording its highest point and yard totals since a 56-3 win over San Jose State in the season opener. Freshman quarterback Matt Barkley completed 19 of 29 passes for a season-high 380 yards, two touchdowns and one interception to lead a unit that totaled 501 yards.
Barkley, who sat out USC's lone loss with a shoulder injury, has helped the Trojans beat ranked teams Ohio State, California and Notre Dame in the first three road games of his career.
"I think you see Matt Barkley is really something," Carroll said. "I love him, the way he plays, battles, competes, the plays he's capable of making. There's no limit."
While Barkley has had some success against Top 25 teams, so has Oregon State. The Beavers are 6-5 in their last 11 games against ranked opponents, starting with their 2006 win over the Trojans. In its only game against a Top 25 foe this season, Oregon State fell 28-18 to then-No. 17 Cincinnati on Sept. 19.
Posted: 10/20/09 4:58PM ET