Oregon State has another daunting task ahead of them on Saturday afternoon as they face the nationally ranked USC Trojans on the road. BeaversEdge.com tackles five burning questions heading into the Pac-12 matchup.
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1. Can Oregon State do anything offensively?
The Beavers have been abysmal on offense this season as they rank No. 112 out of 129 FBS teams in total offense. There are only five teams in Power Five conferences that rank below OSU in total yards per game (Vanderbilt, Boston College, Rutgers, Illinois, and surprisingly, Florida State).
USC's defense certainly isn't the same as Washington's top ten defense as they rank No. 78 in the country in total yards allowed per game.
It's actually interesting when you look at team defensive statistics. The Beavers mightily struggled to move the ball in three of their four losses - against Washington, Washington State, and Minnesota. Those three teams all rank in the top 12 nationally in defense.
The Colorado State defense that the Beavs moved the ball well against ranks No. 97 in the nation.
So maybe, just maybe, it's more about the opposition's defense being very strong, and not so much on the Beavers' offense being that bad? That's probably too optimistic of a viewpoint, but hey, the Beavers could come out with some extra juice on Saturday afternoon.
2. Who will be able to play for Oregon State on the injury report?
Oregon State has a long, long injury report heading into this game.
The Beavs' top cornerback, Xavier Crawford, is listed as out for the game, but he was also listed out for the Washington State game and ended up playing. Cornerback depth is really hurting though in addition to Crawford as Dwayne Williams is still out and Jay Irvine is doubtful. Expect to see a lot of Kyle White, Shawn Wilson, and Isaiah Dunn on Saturday. Brandon Arnold could make an appearance in the nickel as well.
Running backs Ryan Nall and Artavis Pierce were bit by the injury bug against Washington. Pierce is listed as probable for the game and Nall is doubtful. The Beavs still have a stable of running backs even if those two aren't able to play as Thomas Tyner and Trevorris Johnson are more than capable to carry the load. Honestly, it might be a good thing to get some fresher, more healthy guys in at running back.
3. Can the Beavers force Sam Darnold turnovers?
If Oregon State has any chance to upset the Trojans, they need the inconsistent Darnold to show up. Darnold has thrown eight interceptions this season and an interception in all five games this season.
Oregon State needs to keep Darnold's trend going, but it will be tough with the cornerback depth concerns. However, a lot of Darnold's mistakes come when he forces passes into tight windows, so the Beavs will need guys like Manase Hungalu and David Morris to step into passing lanes and make big plays.
4. Will there be any postgame drama this time?
Oh goodness. Who will Oregon State randomly bench? Hopefully there is no postgame drama like last week when Gary Andersen deflected Isaiah Hodgins' benching to his offensive coordinator. I haven't been covering college football for decades or anything, but that was one of the oddest situations I've ever seen.
I hate to beat a dead horse. But let's recap what the facts of what happened: Oregon State did not play their leading receiver, and the head coach said that he did not know anything about it and noted that Hodgins was available to play. When Kevin McGiven was asked about it on Tuesday, he said that "the game plan didn’t have as many receivers involved." Even though Xavier Hawkins and Timmy Hernandez, who is usually an outside receiver, played in the slot.
It was just so bizarre, and for the sake of the fans, media members, and players, the Beavers can't afford to have more head scratching personnel decisions.
5. Any chance of an upset?
Darell Garretson will need to play like the 2012 Heisman winner Johnny Manziel in order for this upset to happen. A dual-threat quarterback can hide offensive line struggles, and it can allow more time for the struggling Oregon State receivers to get open.
But will the Beavs play it conservative Garretson to keep him from getting hurt? Oregon State might just wave the white flag on offense and live to fight another day. The WSU-UW-USC stretch of games has been incredibly tough, but it's not like it gets that much easier the next two matchups as the Beavs face Colorado and Stanford - both are at home though.
I'd say there's about a 5% chance the Beavs can pull off the upset.