Oregon State Offensive Preview

Oregon State's offense is much different than what Arizona has faced this season. Read on to see why, the players the Wildcats will have to contain, and more.

After facing one of deadliest offensive attacks this past weekend in Oregon, Arizona returns home to host an Oregon State squad who has been inconsistent through two games on the offensive side of the ball. The Beavers looked much improved in their second game, however, and travel to Tucson looking to upset the Wildcats.

Through two contests, OSU has averaged 427.5 yards of total offense per game, which is good for 51st overall in the country. The passing game has been impressive so far and ranks 13th in the country with a 327.5 yards-per-game average through the air.

The rushing game is a bit more suspect. Oregon State has averaged 100 yards on the ground as a team over the first two games, but that puts the Beavers at 114th nationally.

The disparity between the passing and running games could be problematic for OSU. Yes, Arizona's passing defense has had its fair share of issues in the early portion of the 2012 campaign, but a suspect running game from OSU could make things a little simpler on the defensive side of the ball for the Wildcats.

The amount of production the Beavers' offense puts up will likely correlate with how well quarterback Sean Mannion plays.

The sophomore signal-caller has completed 64.6 percent of his passes while passing for three touchdowns compared to just one interception. Those numbers are more impressive when you consider the fact that most other squads have faced lesser competition while Oregon State has played two ranked opponents.

Mannion has two receivers this season who have performed at high levels. Sophomore wideout Brandin Cooks has caught 12 passes for 255 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He also leads Oregon State in yards per reception with 21.3.

The big name to keep an eye on though is senior Markus Wheaton. The wideout has been a big contributor for the past two years and is off to a great start in 2012 with 17 receptions for 237 yards and a touchdown.

Their one mark against the receiving core is that it's thin in the depth department. If Arizona can contain Wheaton and Cooks, it will likely disrupt Oregon State's entire offense.

What can really boost Oregon State's offense is if either running back can provide enough support to take pressure off the passing game. Storm Woods has 132 yards rushing through two games and a 4.4 average on the ground. Woods is also coming off a big game against UCLA with 96 yards rushing and a touchdown.

The other running back, sophomore Malcolm Agnew, has compiled 55 yards and a 3.1 yards-per-carry average. Behind Agnew and Woods isn't much and the pair must find a way to make more of an impact if they want to help take focus off of the passing game.

The offensive line is solid, but has struggled to make rushing lanes for Woods and Agnew. The pass protection has been average, but not spectacular, as Mannion has been sacked four times through two games.

Players to watch

#4 – QB, Sean Mannion: The Beavers quarterback is a very accurate passer who has developed a strong chemistry with his two top receivers. He doesn't make many mistakes and he is what makes the Beavers offense click.

#7 – WR, Brandin Cooks: Averaging over 20 yards per reception over the first two games, Cooks has proven to be a big play maker that gives Mannion the much-needed speedy wideout who can stretch the field. If Cooks gets into space, he can cause major problems for the Wildcats' entire defense.

#2 – WR, Markus Wheaton: Wheaton is an experienced receiver who gives Mannion an extremely reliable target to throw to. The senior from Chandler has great hands, but also has plenty of speed and quickness to help him make big plays.

Wheaton's athleticism also makes him a threat on the ground, as he has carried the ball 67 times in his college career to date.

#24 – RB, Storm Woods: Oregon State hasn't rushed the ball very well yet this season, but Woods is a very talented rusher who is capable of putting up big numbers. Only a freshman, Woods had a very strong day against UCLA this past weekend and now faces an Arizona defense still trying to find its way.

Five keys to victory

1. Pressure Mannion: Oregon State's line has done a solid job of protecting Mannion so far. UA has to figure a way to change that, but it won't be easy. The Wildcats have only sacked opposing quarterbacks three times through four games.

2. Stop the run: Arizona is giving up over 160 yards per game on the ground, but now face a Beavers' squad that has struggled to run the ball consistently.

If the Wildcats can solve their problems on defense against the rush, they have a very good shot at disrupting the Oregon State offense.

3. Prevent big plays from Cooks and Wheaton: Both players have the capability of creating havoc all over the Arizona defense and will likely be heavily involved in OSU's plans this weekend. The Wildcats must figure out a way to solve one, if not both, of these talented receivers or it could be a long night for the defense.

4. Force Turnovers: Oregon State has been successful largely due to how well it has held on to the ball. The Wildcats, however, are tied for 20th in the nation in forced turnovers and if they can continue their success in that department this Saturday, UA will be in a good position to win the game.

5. No surprise stars: Arizona cannot be caught off guard by anyone on Oregon State's roster. Mike Riley has a history of getting a lot out of his team and there are always players on his roster that can sneak up and be a thorn in the side of the opposition. If someone catches Arizona off-guard, it could prove to be costly.

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