INSIDE SLANT: OSU vs. Cal

THE BEAVERS CONTINUE to move towards school records for pass attempts and completions. Nearly 61 percent of OSU's plays have been passes this year, and now, if it plays out the way many expect, OSU must attempt to live by the pass against the Pac-12's best pass defense in Cal.

The big defensive number for the Beavers is that in four Pac-12 losses, they've allowed opponents to rush for an average of 211 yards. In OSU's two conference wins, the Beavers have allowed an average of 68 yards.

The closer they hold Cal to the lower number, the better opportunity to record a victory.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THIS WEEK: Oregon State at California, Nov. 12 -- The Beavers are in the path of Cal becoming bowl eligible.

CRITICAL TO THE GAME: Can the Beavers run with some success to keep the California pass rush at bay? If it's open season on OSU QB Sean Mannion, the passing game alone doesn't look to be enough to overcome the Bears.

PLAYERS TO WATCH:
CB Jordan Poyer -- The OSU junior is tied for second in the nation with 14 passes defended, and he'll certainly be challenged by his assignment, whether it's Marvin Jones and Keenan Allen, the Cal receivers who rank as one of the best pairings in the Pac-12.

C Geoff Garner -- The sophomore is expected to make his second start with regular C Grant Johnson doubtful with an ankle injury. He'll have a major challenge going against Cal NG Aaron Tipoti.

QB Sean Mannion -- Through seven games as the starter, the freshman's numbers rank up with the best of any of the first-year starters that OSU has had in the past 15 years. But can he keep that up against the Bears, who rank 12th in the nation with an average of 3.0 sacks per game, and use that pressure to allow aggressive play in the secondary. Mannion will need to make some quicker decisions against Cal.

ROSTER REPORT
--Feti Unga is listed as doubtful to play against Cal due to his injured knee, but the Beavers may have backup Tony Wilson back from a concussion to play middle linebacker.

--OSU's offensive line may regain RG Burke Ellis, out last week with an ailing back, but C Grant Johnson seems likely to miss another game. --Through nine games, the players who started the season opener have now missed a combined 45 games, and that total is likely to keep climbing. A total of 17 projected starters have each missed at least one game, and that doesn't include DL Dominic Glover, who was expected to contend for a starting role but didn't play this season due to academic issues.

--OSU's emphasis on recruiting offensive linemen continues with a commitment from 6-6, 290-pound Garrett Weinreich of Arroyo, Grande, Calif. He is the sixth high school senior to commit to the Beavers who is expected to play offensive line in college. The Beavers lose four senior offensive linemen after this season and have little proven depth behind them.

ON PAPER, IT'S not all that appealing. The Bears have the Pac-12's top pass defense, and OSU's offense doesn't seem to do much but pass. Cal's running game seems to have come to life, and the Beavers have been run on successfully on a number of occasions. But Cal held similar advantages in recent years and OSU was the one who came out on top.

What does give OSU (2-7 overall, 2-4 in the Pac-12) hope against Cal (5-4, 2-4)? The Beavers do have a run of success going against the Bears, including four consecutive wins, the past three each by at least two touchdowns.

But those were certainly better OSU teams than the current version.

"It's just one of those old coach's cliches, that whoever plays the best that day wins," OSU coach Mike Riley said. "We've played well against Cal."

The Beavers have only done that this season against a couple of teams with records similar to OSU, in Arizona and Washington State. The Beavers have yet to defeat an opponent with a winning record, and Cal won't have won if it loses to OSU.

NOTES: --James Rodgers needs two touchdown catches to tie the OSU record shared by Mike Hass and James Newson, each with 20. Those are also the only players with more career receptions than Rodgers, who has 212, with Hass at 220 and Newson 213.

--While AT&T Park, Cal's temporary home this season, is a new experience for most of the visiting teams, OSU has played in the baseball facility before, winning the 2007 Emerald Bowl by a 21-14 score over Maryland.

--OSU's special teams have been at their best either punting or returning punts. Johnny Hekker's average of 44.5 yards, if it continues, will rank as the second-best ever at OSU behind only Dainard Paulson's 45.6-yard average in 1959. On returns, OSU is averaging 18.1 yards, which would be a new school best for a season.

SERIES HISTORY: California leads the series 33-30, though the Beavers have won the last four meetings.

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