Thursday Night Football: USC versus Oregon State Preview
by Matt Severance - 09/24/2008
The oddsmakers at Sportsbetting.com list Southern Cal as a 25-point favorite for Thursday night's game at Oregon State, but there are a few reasons that bettors should be wary of wagering on the Trojans.
--There could be a natural letdown factor for USC. The Trojans' last game was the much-hyped matchup against Ohio State, which ended in a Southern Cal rout. Thursday night's game in Corvallis is USC's first game since, and the 1-2 Beavers don't exactly bring the attention that the Buckeyes did. "I don't think anyone holds their focus forever," USC coach Pete Carroll said. "We try, but it doesn't happen."
--There is a 30 percent chance of rain on Thursday night. Why does that matter? Here's a great stat from the USC sports information department: The Trojans are only 21-21-2 straight up "in games in which it rained during a major portion of the contest." Now that's a trend!
--Oregon State has won two of the past three games against USC at Reser Stadium and ended the Trojans' 38-game winning streak in their last trip to Corvallis with a 33-31 shocker. However, USC did win last year's matchup in Los Angeles, 24-3.
Still, despite those three factors, it's hard to imagine USC being upset by the Beavers. After all, the Trojans have won 44 of 50 conference games since 2002 and have not dropped a Pac-10 opener since losing, 34-31, at California in overtime in 2003. And they are 58-9-4 overall against Oregon State in the series and have won 31 of the past 33 meetings.
USC has yielded the fewest points in the nation and is allowing 197.0 yards per game, second-best in the country. The swarming defense has forced seven turnovers and recorded seven sacks and rendered that Ohio State offense inept.
The Trojan offense has been no slouch, averaging 453.0 yards per game with a nice balance between the run (186.0 ypg) and the pass (267.0 ypg). QB Mark Sanchez threw four touchdown passes against Ohio State, and has thrown for 510 yards, seven TDs and two interceptions this season - he must be considered among the early Heisman front-runners.
Oregon State, meanwhile, was considered a sleeper in the Pac-10 this year but has been a disappointment so far, losing at Stanford, 36-28, and No. 12 Penn State, 45-14, before beating Hawaii, 45-7, on Sept. 13 in its home opener.
OSU's passing game has been a strength so far, especially with top WR Sammie Stroughter healthy in 2008 after missing most of last season because of a kidney injury. With Stroughter back in the lineup, the Beavers rank first in the Pac-10 with 307.3 passing yards per game (the Trojans allow 145.5 per game). Stroughter is the Beavers' second-leading receiver with 21 catches, three of which have gone for touchdowns. He also averages 12.1 yards per punt return, tied for second in the Pac-10, and burned USC with a 70-yard punt return for a TD in 2006.
"He hurt us two years ago. We're very aware of who he is," USC safety Taylor Mays said. "It's hard to stop guys like that. You just try to contain him and make him play within what our defense is trying to do."
The line for this game opened at 21 on Sportsbetting.com but has been moving upward consistently, with it currently at 25.