Q&A: Oregon State under the Microscope

Cal Sports Digest asks Paul Buker of Oregonlive.com some questions about the Oregon State football program and this week's game between the California Golden Bears and the Beavers…

California once again finds itself involved in another big game. The Bears must find a way to put the loss to USC behind them and concentrate on finishing the season strong. Oregon State needs to win its last three games to win the Pac-10 and make it to the Rose Bowl. The Bears still have a sliver of a chance to make it to Pasadena but the Holiday Bowl seems more likely, but they must win the rest of their games starting with this week in Corvallis…

Oregon State has been able to beat USC twice in the last three seasons. Why have the Beavers been successful against the Trojans?

There seems to be a strong "no fear'' factor with OSU when it comes time to play USC. The Beavers feel like they can't match the Trojans five-star player for five-star player (no such thing as a five-star in Corvallis). But they feel like their starters can at least stay with 'em. In 2006, Matt Moore challenged USC deep and the Trojans coughed the ball up. This year, shockingly to many, OSU was simply more physical than the Trojans on both sides of the ball. And of course, those big USC defenders are still trying to catch Quizz.

Oregon State has always had talent on the offensive side of the ball. Why have the Beavers been unable to get off to good starts at the beginning of the season, but are able to finish strong? Has Mike Riley tried to address that issue?

The slow start thing has happened three years in a row. Sometimes, the reason is scheduling, other times, probably chemistry issues. This year, it was the fact OSU had a lot of new starters - all new front seven, for instance - so the defense wasn't quite there yet in Game 1 and Game 2 (to say the least) and QB Lyle Moevao hadn't found a comfort zone. Plus, nobody knew how good Quizz would be. Remember, he came off the bench early on.

Do you feel the Beaver quarterback situation is similar to the one the Bears have? What is keeping either Canfield or Moevao from emerging as the clear-cut starter?

Cal's QB situation is different. Longshore is a statue and he makes too many bad throws. Riley is more mobile but not always consistent. Moevao flat won the job before Game 1 and would still be the starter if he hadn't dinged his shoulder in the third quarter vs. Arizona State. Canfield's bugaboo was always INTs and poor decisions, but he's done much better in going 2-0 as a pinch-hitter while Moevao waits for his shoulder to come around. Moevao is close to being ready to come back, but unless he's 95 percent or more, Canfield - the winning QB last year in Berkeley - will start the game.

Going into this game how would you compare Jahvid Best and Jacquizz Rodgers? Do you feel that those two backs are the best in the Pac-10?

... Easily the best. The kid (Joe McKnight) at USC fumbles too much, even if his runs are breathtaking. Jahvid, when healthy, is more of a finished product than Quizz and probably more explosive. OSU's guy, despite being 5-7, is strong as hell and very durable. He's more of a pound it in guy... few players, whether they're freshmen or seniors, have Quizz's ability to sneak through holes and make jaw-dropping cutback moves. Quizz isn't knock your socks off fancy out there, but he grows on you. Even the games where it looks like he's struggled of late, you look at the stats and he'll well over 100 yards.

The Beavers defense is not talked about as much as the offense. What players are difference makers?

The defensive ends are very good, Slade Norris and Victor Butler. Butler is a good speed rusher. OSU's JC transfer defensive tackle, Stephen Paea, is a former rugby star who doesn't know his own strength. He is impressive...all three LBs are above average, even if they aren't in the Nick Barnett talent mode. The secondary is a veteran group. I think Keenan Lewis (No. 6) is one of the best cover guys in the Pac-10, although not as good as Syd'Quan (Thompson). Key aspect of OSU defense is the fact a lot of players rotate in and out, to keep everybody fresh. Makes a difference in the second half of a close game.

How has beating USC helped the Beavers in recruiting?

I don't think it makes a ton of difference. The blue-chip kid is still gonna consider a school like USC (or UCLA) before he does OSU. The Beavers are content to look under rocks, scoop in as many three-star and four-star guys as they can, and mold them into their system. Head to head, Mike Riley is not going to win many recruiting battles with Pete Carroll...I mean, USC has Will Ferrell on the sidelines... OSU has Al Reser, the macaroni salad guy.

The Beavers have Cal, Arizona and Oregon left on the schedule. With the national media believing that the Pac-10 is horrible, what do you think the Beavers chances of running the table and making the Rose Bowl are?

I think all three finishing games are potentially brutal. If OSU plays well, it can sweep. But the Beavers could also go 2-1. Riley says Cal is a terrific team that is sort of a mirror image of OSU at some spots. Going to Arizona is a difficult [game], as the Bears have already found out…and you know that high-faluting Oregon does not want to spend the off-season answering questions about how it lost three straight Civil Wars games to the little team down the road. ... should be a great finish. ... there is lots of Rose Bowl buzz around OSU, but not within the coaching offices or in the locker room because the Beavers know they have their hands full with the job at hand. And the job this week is Tedford's guys.

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