LOS ANGELES -- With Oregon State's Sean Mannion being talked about as potentially the top senior quarterback in college football and USC's defense coming off a poor performance in a loss to Boston College, I was fascinated to see how that matchup would play out Saturday night at the Coliseum.
That battle turned out to be a one-sided affair. Here are my observations on some of the top prospects from the game:
Cravens puts on show
USC DL Leonard Williams gets mentioned as one of the top defensive prospects in college football, but Trojans outside linebacker Su'a Cravens stole the show vs. the Beavers.
Cravens, a sophomore, returned an interception 31 yards for the first score of the game and was the most impressive player on the field Saturday, recording a team-high six tackles, including a sack and another tackle for loss. I had a chance to watch Cravens when he was still in high school -- he was a highly touted recruit out of Los Angeles and didn't disappoint last season, earning Freshman All-American honors as a safety. However, I think moving him to outside linebacker this season was a smart decision by head coach Steve Sarkisian and defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox. They appear to be following the same blueprint they used with Shaq Thompson, who also had a big day Saturday vs. Stanford, at Washington before leaving for USC after last season.
I think Cravens is a better fit at linebacker. He's really instinctive and tough. I think he projects as a weakside linebacker at the next level. The NFL is looking for linebackers that can cover, and Cravens has that ability. As a safety, he might be a step slow, but as a linebacker, he's ultra-athletic for the position.
He caught my eye, too, making a tackle on a kickoff return in the fourth quarter when USC had the game well in hand. That gives you an idea of how serious he is about the game.
Mannion unimpressive in defeat
It was a rough night for Oregon State QB Sean Mannion. He threw a pick-six in the first quarter and struggled throughout the game. Given all the talk about him possibly being the top senior quarterback in college football, I came away very unimpressed. He was indecisive and took some bad delay of game penalties, which is not something you expect to see from a senior quarterback with as much experience as Mannion has. He has good size, but his arm strength is average and he made some poor decisions on Saturday. It was an all-around bad game for him.
Williams doesn't play to expectations
USC DL Leonard Williams had an effort sack in the first half, showed good instincts and flashed some explosiveness, but it wasn't a dominant performance. He should have been more disruptive against that unit. Williams has battled injury and gets double-teamed a lot, but expectations are very high for him. I know he has more in him than he showed on Saturday.
USC rushers bounce back
After a dismal performance by the USC running game against Boston College, RBs Javorius Allen and Justin Davis both had good performances Saturday. They ran hard, and I think both can play on all three downs -- Allen had a team-high five catches vs. Oregon State, and Davis had three catches for 30 yards and a TD.
Woods, Mullaney stand out
The lone bright spots for the Beavers on Saturday were RB Storm Woods and WR Richard Mullaney. Woods rushed nine times for 61 yards and had a nice one-handed grab among his three catches. Mullaney caught a couple fades early in the game and had a game-high 78 yards receiving.