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Oregon St.-Southern Cal Preview


Southern California is eager to get back on the field after its first defeat.

Oregon State is intent on proving its unbeaten record is no fluke as it tries to win at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum for the first time since 1960.

This series has traditionally been dominated by the No. 18 Trojans, who should benefit from Beavers top receiver Victor Bolden being unavailable Saturday night.

Southern California (2-1, 1-0 Pac-12) hasn't played since falling 37-31 at Boston College on Sept. 13. The Trojans allowed three different players to gain at least 89 yards rushing, with quarterback Tyler Murphy running for 191.

"It's always a little bit more difficult when you come off a loss like that and then you have a bye because you have to sit with the loss much longer than you normally would if you were playing the following Saturday," coach Steve Sarkisian said.

The challenge will be different this weekend against Oregon State (3-0, 0-0) since quarterback Sean Mannion is a pure pocket passer with 11,339 yards as the Beavers' all-time leader. The only Pac-12 players with more are Matt Barkley (12,327) and fellow ex-Trojan Carson Palmer (11,818).

"Sean Mannion I think is a great player and he has been doing it for quite a while and he's in a really good scheme," Sarkisian said. "Coach (Mike) Riley does a great job with the play-action pass game. They do a really nice job with their stack and bunch assignments, running two-man routes and really forcing your secondary to communicate on the fly."

Mannion, however, will be without Bolden, who dislocated a finger in last Saturday's 28-7 victory over San Diego State. Bolden has team highs of 18 catches and 192 yards, and he's even the team's third-leading rusher (54 yards).

The passing attack had already started off slow with Oregon State adapting to life without Brandin Cooks, a New Orleans Saints first-round draft pick who was second in the nation with 16 touchdown catches in 2013. Mannion has four TD passes through three games after he had 12 at this point last year.

The Beavers, who started off 6-0 two years ago, have dropped 22 consecutive road games in this series since a 14-0 win in 1960.

"They're making that well known and we know that's in the back our mind brewing so we want to make history," receiver Hunter Jarmon said.

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Oregon State feels it will feature a more balanced attack this year after rushing for 109 yards against the Aztecs - a team that limited the Beavers to 10 a year ago.

"Last year we only had 10 rushing yards against San Diego (State)," Jarmon said. "Now we have over 100 so we know we can do this."

A lack of balance was a problem in the Trojans' last game.

Cody Kessler was 31 of 41 for 317 yards and his third career four-touchdown effort, but USC ran 29 times for 20 yards and punted on eight straight possessions. The Trojans gained 433 yards on the ground in their 2-0 start, though Sarkisian defended his play-calling.

"I've had worse games than scoring 31 points before," he said. "After every game, win (or) lose, I analyze myself first as the head coach and as the play-caller. I look at myself first."

Javorius Allen was held to 31 yards on 15 carries - his fewest in seven games. The senior totaled 287 yards on 45 rushes in USC's two victories.

The difference when the Trojans fail to run the ball effectively has drawn the Beavers' attention.

"Main thing is we have to stop the run," Oregon State linebacker Michael Doctor said. "We want to hold them and make them one-dimensional."

A better effort can be expected from star defensive end Leonard Williams, who was neutralized with a season-low five tackles and none for loss against BC's option scheme.

Williams could be a major nuisance Saturday on third down, with Oregon State converting at a conference-low 36.8 percent.

USC has captured 33 of the last 37 meetings, though these teams have split the last six. Kessler threw for 247 yards and a touchdown while the Trojans held a 242-92 cushion in rushing yards in last season's 31-14 road victory.

Mannion was 26 of 45 for 277 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions. The Beavers are 2-10 when he's picked off more than once.