BF.C KEYS: Oregon State vs. Arizona

IF YOU'RE A college football fan close to the action, you're used to hearing a lot of dirty words. If it involves Oregon State this year, you're probably hearing more of them than you can ever recall. But brace yourselves, because I'm about to say the two dirtiest words of all...

"Rebuilding year."

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This is a season where Oregon State has started, and played, more freshman and true freshman than any other year since the wishbone was a term used in earnest rather than derision. Not coincidentally, it's also the roughest start the Beavers have slogged their way through since that era.

And that's why capitalizing on the most winnable games on the schedule is so crucial.

Oregon State has a chance to come away with a victory - their first of the season – on Saturday against the Arizona Wildcats. Arizona is equally motivated to pick up a victory, having lost to nine FBS opponents in a row, with only a win against FCS Northern Arizona to break up the painful monotony.

Historically, Arizona has played the Beavers tough under Stoops, with five of the seven games being decided by a touchdown or less. This year's version of the Wildcats feature a nice running back in Keola Antolin but UA doesn't have much of a running game, their offensive line is hobbled by injuries and plagued with inexperience, which sounds kind of familiar.

Both teams feature suspect defense – and good plays followed by bad.

What the Cats DO feature, however, is a powerful and efficient passing attack. Senior Nick Foles is in command of the Wildcat aerial show, and posted utterly video game-like numbers against USC last week, going an eye-popping 41 of 53 attempts for 425 yards and 4 touchdowns.

Quite simply, it will take the Beavers' best game of the year to come away with a victory in this game. But it most certainly can be done. And here's how they can do it:

1 - Tick Tock, Tick Tock. For the Beavers to have a chance, they are going to need to limit the amount of time their defense is on the field by winning the time of possession battle. The Beavers are going to need to find a rushing attack -- and some offensive balance -- to get this done. OSU needs to truly commit to both of them.

2 - Welcome to the show, Jordan Poyer. Poyer broke out last week against Arizona State, with two exceptional picks off Sun Devil QB Brock Osweiler and holding dynamic receiver Aaron Pflugrad to just 30 yards receiving. He will need to perform equally as well this week to shut down Juron Criner - an absolute must-do in order for the Beavers to come away with a W.

3 - Don't kick field goals in a touchdown game. The redzone offense for the Beavers this season has been utterly atrocious. Without a reliable rushing attack this is not only no surprise, but a predictable result. The defense has a 12th man in the back of the endzone and it gets exponentially tougher to move the football near the goal line. For OSU to win this game, they can't settle for field goals.

Final thoughts: This game along with the contest against the two Utah schools represent the most attractive games remaining on the schedule for the Beavers. For momentum and overall mental health of the program - for both the team and the fans - this game is about as close to a must-win as you can get. It doesn't mean that Riley is on the hot seat if the Beavers don't win, he has enough good karma in the bank to weather even a zero-win season. But the road back to competitiveness gets longer and harder with each additional loss, especially one that the Beavs are capable of winning.


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