Five things to watch for the USC Trojans against Oregon State:
1. Figuring out Reser: The reason there is so much being made about the recent USC struggles in Corvallis is because the Trojans have struggled a lot in Corvallis. The Beavers have beaten the Trojans in the last three meetings at Reser Stadium, including some dramatic upset victories over highly ranked USC teams. The Trojans come in as the underdog in this matchup as they try to reverse recent history in a hostile environment.
2. Slow down Mannion: OSU quarterback Sean Mannion leads the nation’s top-ranked passing attack and he is going to be throwing the ball a lot. Mannion averages nearly 50 pass attempts a game and many of them go to Brandin Cooks, the nation’s leading receiver. The Trojans will need to get pressure up front, something the Stanford Cardinal did in their victory over the Beavers last week. USC will be without leading sack-man Morgan Breslin but look for Leonard Williams, Devon Kennard and J.R. Tavai to pick up the slack.
3. Balance on offense: It stands to reason that the Trojans are going to need to score some points in this game as the Beavers offense can be explosive. The Beavers defense, on the other hand, has been stingy lately so USC is going to need to get more consistency on offense in order to see success. That will come with balance on offense -- last week the Trojans only ran the ball for net-30 yards -- but both Silas Redd and Tre Madden are expected to be available so that should help.
4. Will Lee have an impact: Marqise Lee was able to take part in limited action during the USC practice on Wednesday so that gives optimism to USC fans that he will be available for the game. Lee has been slowed this year with injuries and untimely drops but at some point you figure he is due to break out with a big game. Why not have it come during a nationally televised game to showcase his return to the elite level of college football? This is a player who was named the best receiver in college football as a sophomore, you don’t keep those guys down for long.
5. Little brother stepping up: With the rash of injuries the Trojans have seen to front-line players, USC interim coach Ed Orgeron told the team that when the big brother is away, the little brother needs to take care of the household. This is a message to the younger and less experienced players who they may be called upon and they will be expected to step in. Last week it was Darreus Rogers and De’Von Flournoy on offense and Demetrius Wright and Leon McQuay III on defense. Don’t be surprised if a new name emerges on Friday night.