USC TROJANS (5-3)
at OREGON STATE BEAVERS (6-2)
Kickoff: Friday, 9:00 p.m. ET
Line: Oregon State -5, Total: 53.5
USC looks to go 3-1 under its new coach Ed Orgeron, but it won't be easy to win on the road against an Oregon State team with the top-ranked passing offense in the nation.
The Trojans' struggles have been well documented this season, but since the firing of Lane Kiffin after a 62-41 blowout loss on national television against conference foe Arizona State, they have gone 2-1 and nearly beat Notre Dame (14-10) in South Bend. The Beavers have used their passing game to score more than 40 points per game this season, leading them to a 4-1 record in conference play. Their sole loss in the Pac-12 came against Stanford last week, where the Beavers were held to only 271 yards in the air, and threw an incompletion in the end zone down 20-12 with one second left on the clock. Since 1992, USC has dominated in this series, going 13-4 SU against Oregon State, but only 9-8 ATS. These two programs last squared off in 2010, when the Beavers (as 3-point underdogs) defeated the Trojans 36-7 at home. In that game, there was only 585 yards of combined offense between the two teams, with the difference maker being the two turnovers by USC. Oregon State is an impressive 9-3 SU over its past 12 games at home, but has gone only 2-4 ATS in its past six at Reser Stadium. The Trojans are uncharacteristically 1-4 SU (0-5 ATS) in their past five road games. This will be the first time in the past 20 years that Oregon State is favored in this matchup, with USC averaging a two-touchdown spread advantage in those games. Trojans star WR Marqise Lee is questionable for this game with a knee injury.
Which Pac-12 school will prevail in Friday's matchup? For the answer, connect to College Football Best Bets for all the StatFox Experts picks throughout the 2013 regular season and bowl season. The four experts are a combined 56% ATS (86-68-7) in college football Best Bets for the season, led by StatFox Gary who is 65% ATS (13-7-1) in college football Best Bets over the past seven weeks and 58% ATS (14-10-1) this year. StatFox Dave is also 58% ATS (28-20-2) in Best Bets this season, while StatFox Brian is 57% ATS (21-16-1) for yearly CFB Best Bets.
USC has relied heavily on its defense this year to stay in games, as its offense has struggled (24.6 PPG) and has had to deal with injuries to their number one talent, WR Marqise Lee. He has not played in two of the past three games, and had only two catches for 18 yards in his last game played against Utah on Oct. 19. QB Cody Kessler has made due in Leeís absence and has gone 36-for-62 (58.1%) for 431 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions in the two games. On the season, Kessler has thrown for 1,560 yards, nine touchdowns and five interceptions. With Lee out, WR Nelson Agholor has taken over the role of No. 1 receiver, and has 347 yards on 19 receptions (18.3 avg.) and two touchdowns over the past three games. HB Tre Madden has done well this season with 671 yards on 127 attempts (5.3 YPC) and three touchdowns. He has also added a lot to the passing game with 201 yards receiving (14.4 avg.) and four touchdowns. In his past two games played (did not play against Notre Dame on Oct. 19), Madden has only 17 total attempts. The Trojans defense has allowed just 19.3 points per game and 317.3 yards per game against on the season, including giving up only 201 total offensive yards against Utah in their last game, a 19-3 USC victory.
Oregon State has torn up opposing defenses through the air and has QB Sean Mannion to thank. Mannion leads the nation in both passing yards (3,263 yards) and passing touchdowns (30), and has thrown for 360+ yards with 3+ touchdowns in every game but one this season. He struggled last week against the Stanford defense with only 271 passing yards and one touchdown. Amazingly, in Mannionís 391 attempts on the season, he has only three interceptions. Accompanying Mannion atop the nationís offensive leaderboards is WR Brandin Cooks, who leads FBS in both receptions (85) and receiving yards (1,256) and is also tied for the lead in receiving touchdowns (13). Cooks has caught a touchdown in all but one of the Beavers eight games, including five multi-touchdown games, and has eclipsed 130 yards in six of eight games this season. Oregon Stateís rushing attack has added only 533 yards on 219 attempts (2.4 YPC) this season, but does have 10 touchdowns. The Beavers have needed to put up a ton of points since their defense has not been that good, giving up an average of 27.4 PPG, including giving up a season-high 49 points in their first game of the year, a stunning loss against FCS school Eastern Washington.