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Oregon State Football: Three Storylines Heading Into Saturday’s Game At USC

Do the Beavers stand any chance at knocking off the Trojans on the road this weekend?

NCAA Football: Texas at Southern California Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

1. USC’s Offensive Line

One of the biggest storylines coming out of the Trojans 30-27 defeat at the hands of Washington State last week, was the fact that USC ended up without three of their starting linemen by half-time of the game, with guard Viane Talamaivao, left tackle Toa Lobendahn and right tackle Chuma Edoga all leaving the game due to injury. For Talamaivao, the diagnosis was a torn pectoral muscle and he’ll now undergo season-ending surgery sometime soon. In the meantime, he’ll be replace by freshman true Andrew Vorhees, a 6’ 6”, 310-pound talent out of Kingsburg, California.

At the tackle spots, the good news for head coach Clay Helton is that Lobendahn is expected to play this week against the Beavers, while the bad news is that the status of Edoga is still unknown. As reported by multiple news outlets, Edoga has not practiced so far this week. While injuries are a reality of the game, the re-shuffling on the offensive front leaves a bit of a weak spot up-front for a severely more talented Trojans group. It’ll now be the job of Oregon State’s front-seven to try and exploit these weaknesses and put pressure all-game long on the USC backfield.

2. Oregon State’s Injury Woes

While USC may be hurting up-front, Oregon State has it’s own set of injury problems to deal with across the board, beginning with cornerback Xavier Crawford, who will miss the game with a back injury. With cornerback Jay Irvine also listed as “doubtful”, the Beavers already-weak secondary will be severely depleted against a dangerous USC passing offense. Trojans’ quarterback Sam Darnold came into the 2017 season as a potential Heisman candidate but his recent rash of interceptions has dampened both his Heisman chances and his future NFL Draft stock. However, Darnold has still thrown for over 1,300 yards this season with 9 touchdowns.

If the Beavers could use more help on the defensive side of things, they also won’t be aided by the likely loss of running back Ryan Nall, who like Irvine is listed was listed “doubtful” earlier in the week with an ankle injury. With Nall obviously being the focal point of the team’s back-field, his absence would open up more opportunities for Artavis Pierce, the team’s second leading rusher, Oregon transfer Thomas Tyner and goal-line threat Trevorris Johnson. A serviceable rushing game would be a major help for quarterback Darell Garretson, who managed just 74 yards through the air in the first start of the 2017 campaign.

3. The Task At Hand For USC

The Trojans are now a one-loss team, which in the world of college football means your margin for era is just about gone. If USC wants to still find themselves at the end of the season as both Pac-12 Champions and potential contenders for a College Football Playoff spot, they’ll have to continue to find victories along the way and avoid any more slip-ups. More than anything, it’ll test the mental fortitude of this group, to see how they bounce back against a lesser team in Oregon State and what level of focus and execution they bring to the table. Will the Trojans allow the agony of defeat to continue to build or will they learn from their loss to the Cougars and move forward?

Despite dropping a game last week, this match-up is viewed as a bit of a “trap-game scenario” for USC, with a meeting against a Top 25 group in Utah looming next week and a road trip to rival Notre Dame not too far down the road. It can’t be ignored that the Beavers are simply not an exciting opponent for most teams, especially who is reeling from their first loss of the campaign. Unfortunately for Oregon State, it is believed that the Trojans will find their footing once-again, evident by the game’s massive spread to start the week. However, it would be great to watch the Beavers grab one of the more impressive road upsets in recent memory, if they could somehow find a way past USC in Los Angeles.