How Oregon State can beat No. 1

OREGON STATE FACES No. 1 USC a week from Thursday. The Beavs played their best of the season this past week but work clearly remains. Two seasons ago, the Beavers snapped USC's 27-game Pac-10 winning streak and one of the biggest reasons why wasn't found in the box score or in reviewing game tape. It's the one thing OSU must have if they are going to beat the Trojans two of the past three years.

Belief.

A Beaver fan I know is fond of saying, "In college football, if you believe you're good, you are."

And he's right. Call it what you want; mental toughness, the ability to triumph over adversities faced, the Beavers will need to be in that kind of mental zone when they step on the field against USC. A precedent comes from two years earlier.

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Oregon State never trailed in the '06 upset win. The Beavs led at halftime, and ran off 17 unanswered points to start the second half not because they wanted to win or hoped to win, but because they firmly believed they would win.

And when USC mounted a furious comeback, they were the odds-on favorite that year to play in the BCS title game after all, Oregon State was mentally strong enough to turn them away one final, decisive time.

Not many people are counting on Oregon State to be able to do it again when they play a week from Thursday on ESPN.

USC flicked aside No. 5 Ohio State with ease. Oregon State looked good beating Hawaii but the Beavers are 1-2 and the Warriors are rebuilding this year.

Oregon State was a 15-point underdog in '06 and the point spread figures to be at least that wide this time around.

But not many of the talking heads you'll hear over the next week-plus gave Oregon State much of a chance two years ago either in the week before the win over Southern Cal.

ONE OF THE more decisive matchups will feature the Oregon State offensive line vs. the USC front seven on defense. The Beavers pounded away at Hawaii up the gut and that could help to lay some of the groundwork.

USC has considerable speed on defense and to beat them wide on enough occasions, teams will probably have to first prove they can run up the middle. Jacquizz Rodgers found little running room at times in the middle of Hawaii's defense, 15 of his 26 carries went for three yards or fewer.

The Beavs o-line and Rodgers will likely have establish a power game that churns out more yards per against USC. It will be a tall order. But if they do, that will in turn open up other things on offense.

And if they succeed up front, they'll do it without Tavita Thompson. A television report said the senior offensive tackle might return early in time for USC, ahead of the Nov. 1 return date the NCAA mandated in what can best be described as a ruling that was curious at best, inconsistent, overly punitive and absurd at worst. Regardless, Riley shot down that report that Thompson could return by USC, saying it was untrue.

Jeremy Perry is week-to-week and getting the guard back could provide a good-sized boost. But given how Perry has been ruled out each week for the first three games, Beaver fans might not want to get their hopes up too high. Even if Perry were to return, there could be rust to knock off. He didn't participate in spring ball, his participation in fall camp and during the practice weeks has been limited and he hasn't played in a game since last year's Civil War.

If the o-line is to win enough of the battles up front against USC, it will probably be dependant upon the starting five against Hawaii -- Andy Levitre, Adam Speer, Alex Linnenkohl, Gregg Peat, Mike Remmers -- to make it happen.

THE MOST IMPRESSIVE thing about QB Lyle Moevao on Saturday, from this chair, was the number of times he hit his receivers on the play side.

The term "play side" refers mostly to the diagonals and crossing routes, and throwing to the play side doesn't impede the progress of the receiver or appreciably slow him down.

No one has yet been able to effectively do that, or much of anything else, against USC this year.

ON THE USC offense, the big worry is how they can score points in bunches. Drop your guard or start hanging your head, and they can pile up the scores quickly.

Ohio State took a 3-point lead and then watched USC score 21 unanswered in a little under 13 minutes to close out the first half. Prior to that, the Trojans led 21-0 over Virginia with over four minutes to go in the first quarter.

The Beaver defense will need to build on what they did against Hawaii, including getting some more of those crucial, momentum killing turnovers.

The Beavs' defensive line and linebackers had a very good game against Hawaii, after some uneven play to start the season. They'll need to be even better against USC. And it all starts with confidence that turns into belief.

Mike Riley and staff have some extra time this week to work on the game plan. And the players have a few extra days to get to that place where they don't hope to win, but believe it.

Not many besides the guys in the locker room will believe they can. But they're also the only guys who will determine whether they make it happen.

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