Preview: Retooled USC takes on Oregon State in must-win game

The Trojans are coming off their first loss at the Coliseum under Clay Helton.

The unranked USC Trojans will step out of California for the final time in the regular season when they take on the Oregon State Beavers. The game is a must-win matchup for the Trojans, who look to keep their slim shot at the Pac-12 South alive. Meanwhile, the Beavers will look to build off their first Pac-12 win of the season.

Season to date:

The Beavers boast a 2-6 record with wins against Southern Utah and Colorado. The team has lost the majority of their games by wide margins. The Beavers sit at the bottom of the Pac-12 North and are looking to play spoiler in their final four games.
The Trojans are currently 4-4 with a 3-3 conference record. The team is fresh off a loss to Arizona State at home. The loss ended Clay Helton’s 19-0 Coliseum record and pushed USC further out of contention in the Pac-12 South. The team has been marred by myriad injuries and absences all season. The Trojans will look to get back on track against Oregon State and potentially win out their final three conference games before a home finale against No. 4 ranked Notre Dame.

New look:

Following the loss to Arizona State, USC parted ways with its offensive line coach Neil Callaway. Callaway, who hired in 2016 was let go in favor of running backs coach Tim Drevno. Drevno previously held the role in 2014.
Perhaps the most noteworthy change was Helton assuming the role of play-caller. Offensive coordinator Tee Martin was not let go, but was instead stripped of his role in handling such duties. Martin will still help prepare the game plan and advise Helton.

Back in action:

Last week in the loss to Arizona State, USC was without its starting quarterback JT Daniels. Daniels, who suffered a concussion in the loss to Utah did not play. His back-up Matt Fink was also out with broken ribs. Instead, USC operated with its third-string quarterback, Jack Sears. This week, however, Daniels will be back under center.
Also back will be senior captains Marvell Tell III and Cameron Smith. Tell (neck) and Smith (knee, hamstring) both sat out in the loss. Their return will provide leadership and star power on USC’s defense.


USC is currently 62-11-4 against Oregon State all-time. The two teams last met in 2017 when the Trojans handily marched to a 37-10 victory at home.
The Trojans’ largest margin of victory came in 1985 when the team won by a score of 63-0.
The closest victory USC has had came in 2001 under Pete Carroll. The Trojans etched out a 16-13 victory that year.
The last time the Trojans lost to Oregon State was in 2010 by a score of 36-7.

What they're saying:

Currently, USC stands as a 16-point favorite on most sites. This means that the Trojans are favored to win by at least three scores.

What we're saying

USC should have no problem handing the Beavers another loss. USC has experienced less than ideal circumstances throughout the season, but all is not lost. The Trojans are still a very skilled team and with the impending return of Tell, Smith and Daniels, expect an energized USC team.

3 keys to victory

Keep it simple: While JT Daniels has been under center for the majority of the Trojans’ games, he is also coming back from a concussion. Keeping the game plan simple to start out and later expanding it will help ease the true freshman quarterback back in. More so, USC benefitted from a simplified game plan last weekend against Arizona State. With third-string quarterback Jack Sears not having taken many first-team reps, the team opted to keep things simple. USC had one of its most productive days on offense under the simplified approach and should look to a similar game plan early.

Contain the run: Oregon State boasts running back Jermar Jefferson on offense. The freshman tailback has been nothing short of incredible for the Beavers.  In eight games this season, Jefferson has racked up 1,034-yards rushing to go along with 12 touchdowns. He is averaging 6.4-yards per attempt and a total of 129.3-yards per game. In short, he is dangerous. Containing him early and often will be necessary for the Trojans.

Trust the run: Oregon State ranks 125th in rushing defense in the FBS. There are 129 teams. The Beavers have allowed a whopping 2,139-yards this season to opposing teams and 21 touchdowns. Opposing offenses are averaging 6.66-yards per attempt and 267.4-yards per game. USC has three talented tailbacks that will benefit from the lack of rushing defense and a retooling of the line under Drevno.


USC 42, OSU 24