After facing four straight opponents that provided a significant offensive punch, Arizona faces an Oregon State offense that ranks 70th nationally in total yards per game. UA's four losses have demonstrated just how behind the curve the Wildcats' defense is, but the hope is that the Beavers' lackluster offense has less success than the opposition did in Arizona's previous four losses.
The OSU offense is led this season by freshman quarterback Sean Mannion, who beat out Ryan Katz for the starting job after Oregon State began the year rotating quarterbacks. Mannion has had an up-and-down beginning to his career in 2011. He has completed 97 out of 156 passes for 1015 yards with two touchdowns but has also thrown five interceptions.
Mannion's favorite target thus far has been junior wideout Markus Wheaton. The receiver leads the Beavers in receiving with 32 catches for 390 yards. Unfortunately for OSU, none of those 32 receptions have gone for a touchdown.
Junior receiver Jordan Bishop has been another of Mannion's favorites with 18 receptions for 244 yards and a score. At 6-foot-3, Bishop provides Mannion with a big target that can be effective on both the inside and outside.
After missing a large portion of the season a year ago with a knee injury, senior James Rodgers was expected to have a big year. He finally returned to action a couple of weeks ago against UCLA and has totaled 10 catches for 108 yards and a touchdown since then. Having Rodgers back is huge for OSU as the team has been more efficient offensively with him on the field.
Oregon State may also utilize freshmen Brandin Cooks and Obum Gwacham at wideout. Each player has made an early impact in the passing game and could factor in against UA's suspect secondary.
The Beavers have also used tight ends Joe Halahuni and Colby Prince in the passing game. The pair has combined for 14 receptions for 85 yards and could provide Mannion with safety nets over the middle of the field.
Running back Jordan Jenkins has made his impact mostly in the passing game as well. The junior has caught 13 passes for 104 yards out of the backfield and has been a consistent receiving threat throughout the early portion of the season.
The back that makes the biggest impact on the ground for OSU is Malcolm Agnew. The freshman has carried the ball 33 times for 223 yards – an average of 6.8 yards per carry - and three touchdowns. Agnew is a scat-back that can do a lot in space and the Wildcats could expect a healthy dose of him Saturday given Mannion's overall inexperience.
The Beavers' offensive line has been average thus far. The unit has allowed eight sacks, which ranks them seventh in the Pac-12. The run blocking hasn't been overly impressive either as OSU's line is paving the way for a meager 3.8 yards per carry. UA's inconsistent defense could be just what Oregon State needs to get going on the offensive side of the ball if the Wildcats continue to struggle to stop the opposition.
Five Keys –
1. Pressure Mannion – The freshman quarterback has been shaky in the early going and keeping him under duress will make things tough for him and the OSU offense.
2. Limit the Beavers' time of possession – Oregon State is going to want to keep Arizona's offense (specifically its passing game) off the field as much as possible. If UA can make stops at the right times, it could really hinder OSU's plans.
3. Locate Rodgers and Wheaton – These two killed UA at Arizona Stadium a year ago and while Rodgers is still working himself back to where he was before getting hurt, he is still a big threat to the Arizona secondary.
4. Keep an eye on Agnew – The scat-back has a lot of explosiveness and that shows in his numbers. Overall, Oregon State's rushing attack is suspect but Agnew's presence is more than enough to keep the Wildcats on their toes.
5. Stop Oregon State on third down – Arizona's opponents are converting nearly half of their opportunities on third down and OSU has been successful on a shade over 42 percent of its chances on third down. If UA wants to come away with a victory, it must stop the Beavers from succeeding on those opportunities.
Oregon State offensive preview
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