BF.C KEYS: Oregon State vs. Stanford

WHEN FACING A standout offense like the one Stanford brings to Corvallis on Saturday (TV: ABC, 12:30 pm) you have to try and do one thing above all else.

Take something away.

You're probably not going to stop all their weapons, not unless you have one of the best defenses in all the land and your guys are playing lights out that day. Further exacerbating the issue is that three practices and a walk-through over a week's time is not really enough time. If you play Stanford in a bowl game, a better defensive game plan can be both crafted and implemented in a way it can't during the regular season.

But Oregon State does not have that luxury. If they are to compete and give Stanford a battle, here's how they can do it:

1. Take away the running game. Or at least make it mortal. Stanford is likely to going to get their total offense yards but USC showed how you can still be right there with 'em in the end. Trying to take away Andrew Luck means pressure and if you don't get there, Luck has shown he can consistently riddle a defense. The lesser of two evils is therefore going after the run. Stacking the box isn't enough, it has to be coupled with well executed run pressures, (some disguised) and when recognizing pass, dropping back to cover the flat and TE passing lanes. Against the best passer in the land, the Beavers are going to have to try and jump some routes. It's a calculated risk, but what do the Beavs have to lose?

2. Limit the tight ends. Stanford loves their tight ends in the passing game, and linebackers have been turned into pretzels trying to cover Stanford's group. Their best pass catching tight end, Zach Ertz, is out injured but OSU still needs to make the tight ends, a big part of Stanford's passing game, a priority. Some safety play on this group is a must but the linebacking corps is going to have to play one of their best cover game to effectively limit the Cardinal here.

3. Run the damned ball. Oregon State's offense needs long sustained drives and that will not happen if Sean Mannion is asked to throw the ball 45-plus times again. OSU got stuffed trying to run up the middle early last week against Utah and so what did they do? They abandoned it, running wide more often than not until they abandoned the run game altogether. No matter what happens, OSU has to stick to the run. If they go away from it and start pressing because they get behind by a couple of scores, their chance at victory drop sharply. Run. Commit to the run. Stay committed to the run. And then run some more.

In the intangibles department, the Beavs couldn't ask for a better scenario. When a good team comes off a big emotional win or loss, they generally play at a lesser level -- they have a letdown. The elite teams, it doesn't get away from them, and they still come away with a win. But it's a closer game, for longer, than many would predict. And the Beavs also get Stanford at home. It won't be a surprise if OSU gives Stanford all they want and more in the first half.

It's then the second half that would be the tall order for Oregon State.


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