After the third week of college football, USC remained at No. 7 in the AP Poll with a 3-0 record. Even after a commanding win over the Fresno State Bulldogs, Wednesday’s practice was focused on intensity.
The Beavers’ offense is 100% on scoring in the red-zone this year while the Trojans’ defense has only allowed scores on 53.8% of opponents’ red-zone trips, a percentage USC’s defense will have to continue to uphold if the Trojans are to beat OSU.
“It’s just battling and not giving in,” USC defensive coordinator Alex Grinch said on how the defense is going to combat Oregon State’s high red-zone conversion rate. “It’s about having awareness about you to make them run another play, make them run another play. No magic here.”
The USC defense made a heroic stand on fourth-and-goal late in the Fresno State game. A true nail in the coffin, though it meant nothing to the outcome of the game, it was a testament to Grinch’s strong red-zone defense to get four-straight stops within the 10-yard line.
Though the Oregon State offense is good, Coach Grinch is well-versed in the Beavers’ ways. Grinch is very familiar with Oregon State’s head coach Jonathan Smith. Back when Grinch was defensive coordinator for Washington State, Smith was the offensive coordinator for the Cougars’ rival, the Washington Huskies. Grinch has nothing but good things to say about Smith’s Oregon State team now, though.
“They play fast, they play hard, they play physical,” Grinch said. “You can tell they’re developed.”
The challenge of playing at Oregon State will once again be hard to overcome. Last year, the Beavers crushed the Trojans 45-27 on USC’s home turf. To add insult to injury, the Beavers have not lost at home since 2020. Redshirt freshman cornerback Ceyair Wright talked about the challenges posed by the Beaver offense.
“We know they’re a really good team,” Wright said. “They’re always a competitive team. They like to run the ball and they’ve got some fast talented receivers, so I’m excited to get on the field with them.”
Wright had more to praise than just the Beavers’ offense; he also shined a light on USC’s third-down offense, which has been very solid so far this season. The Trojans boast a 48% third-down conversion rate on the season and converted on half of their third downs against Fresno State.
“Our offense did really well on third down,” Wright said. “It definitely showed at the end of the game, so that will be a point of emphasis for us.”
Stopping redshirt junior quarterback Chance Nolan and the Oregon State offense on third downs will be crucial to build momentum for the USC offense. Though the Trojans’ offense has been electric in every possible way, sophomore quarterback Caleb Williams still hopes for more consistency from himself.
When asked where he thinks he can improve the most through three games, the Heisman-hopeful had a lot of points on his mind.
“Being more consistent and being more accurate, getting through my reads instead of wanting the big post ball, the big go ball, the intermediate, just taking a checkdown,” Williams said. “Just making the defense play true to our offense.”
Williams’ drive to improve and the team’s drive for consistency will be key this weekend in Corvallis as the Trojans take on their biggest test of the season so far.