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Kerry says: Another USC-OSU battle, and Trojans have slight edge

Southern Cal presents a similar challenge to Stanford, at least on the defensive side, where the Trojans have a half-dozen NFL prospects and are, with the Cardinal, Utah, Oregon and Arizona State, considered the top defenses in the Pac-12.

SC doesn't have Stanford's kind of offense, though. The Trojans gained only 30 yards rushing in a 19-3 victory over the Utes last Saturday.

The Beavers are banged up for this one. Receiver Kevin Cummings is lost for the regular season, tight ends Connor Hamlett and Caleb Smith are iffy and defensive tackle John Braun and linebacker D.J. Alexander seem out for Friday night's ESPN2-televised affair.

The Trojans don't want to hear about injuries, of course. They were down to their fifth tight end against Utah, though the top two probably will return for the Beavers. And no definitive word on the availability of 2012 Biletnikoff Trophy winner Marquise Lee, who missed the Utah game with a sore knee.

Oregon State won't be able to run much again, so pass protection will be critical. The OSU O-line must be more sound than it was a week ago. Somebody (Micah Hatfield? Malik Gilmore?) will have to step up in Cummings' absence and give something as the third wideout behind Brandin Cooks and Richard Mullaney.

The OSU defense will want to make SC's offense one-dimensional so sophomore quarterback Cody Kessler has to throw. If that happens, it enhances the Beavers' chances to win.

Southern Cal has lost its last three visits to Corvallis -- as the nation's No. 3-ranked team in 2006, No. 1 in 2008 and No. 20 in 2010. This time, the Trojans are 5-3, unranked and still smarting from the effects of the Reggie Bush-induced NCAA sanctions that have left them far below the scholarship limit.

That might not be a good omen for the Beavers. For once, they're favored over the Men of Troy. The mental edge might go to the visitors this time. And remember, Ed Orgeron is going with a bunch of four- and five-star recruits against Mike Riley's crop of two- and three-stars.

Year in and year out, Riley and his staff do an amazing job developing their talent. The Beavers will be ready for battle Friday night. Still, I don't have a good feeling about this one for the Men in Orange.

THE PICK: Southern Cal 26, Oregon State 23