The Oregon State football team is coming off a bye as it prepares for its Pacific-10 Conference showdown at No. 4 Southern California on Saturday.
And that's a good thing.
The Beavers have won their last seven games after a bye. Since coach Mike Riley's return in 2003, they are 8-2.
Even in his first two years of a major rebuilding process in 1997-98 the team went 1-1 following a bye.
What's his secret?
"You hope if you have momentum you can keep it going," Riley said. "You hope you get refreshed. The mental break is as big as the physical break."
Riley focuses on teaching players and uses bye weeks more to fix his team rather than using two weeks to prepare for a specific opponent.
There was some USC prep mixed in last week, but he didn't tell the players. Most of the extra week was used to sharpen what the Beavers haven't been doing well. Riley also updates the schemes for games down the road.
"We were on a roll; we were clicking," offensive guard Gregg Peat said. "Some might think it might deter us to have a bye. I think the break was huge for us. We needed it, and we'll be ready."
Running back Ryan McCants is back full speed and will be the No. 2 ball carrier this week. This will be his first game since having offseason knee surgery.
Receiver Darrell Catchings remains out due to a high ankle sprain. The earliest expected return is the Nov. 14 Washington game.
Offensive tackle Wilder McAndrews returned from his wrist injury, but broke a finger on the same hand. He'll practice with it heavily wrapped.
Safety Anthony Watkins will miss two more games due to a bruised shoulder suffered two weeks ago.
Third down conversions
The Beavers held their last two opponents, Arizona State and Stanford, to 5 of 27 (19 percent) on third down conversions during the wins, compared to the previous two losses to Cincinnati and Arizona at 10 of 25 (40 percent).
In the last two victories, opponents have been third-and-5 or less twice and failed to convert both times. Those same two teams have been unsuccessful at third-and-9 or more at 0-for-5.
The Beavers have converted 13 of 26 (50 percent) of their third downs in the last two contests as opposed to 12 of 32 (38 percent) in the previous two.
OSU has the longest road winning streak in the Pac-10 at five games. There have been six wins away from Reser Stadium counting the Sun Bowl, but that's considered a neutral site.
The Beavers haven't won six straight road games since capturing five in a row in 1969 (Iowa, Arizona State, Washington, California and Oregon) and the first road game of 1970 (Oklahoma).
Passing first downs
The Beavers have been more successful gaining first downs through the air with a Pac-10 leading 76. They have 41 on the ground. Opponents have managed 81 first downs passing, but only 34 on the ground.
Saturday's game is sold out in the 93,607-seat Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. That will be the largest OSU-USC crowd ever.