OSU vs. UA: Position breakdown, who has edge?

CORVALLIS -- The stat sheet indicates a fair fight will occur when Oregon State and Arizona meet head to head in Tucson on Saturday. But position by position, who holds the edge? We tell you..

Arizona got manhandled by Oregon this past weekend, and OSU is coming off two tough early season victories accompanied by a fresh seat in the Top 25. Short and sweet, OSU has the momentum heading into this weekend's contest -- but Arizona is out to prove they won't be kicked to the curb like a wounded sheep again. And reclaiming their own Top 25 spot in the process.

Quarterback:
Sean Mannion and Matt Scott are pretty evenly matched on paper. Scott was practically running a touchdown clinic for Arizona's first three games, racking up seven TD's through the air and amassing nearly 1,000 yards total prior to Arizona's outing against the Oregon Ducks, a clown-stomping that left Arizona scoreless and Scott hanging out to dry with four picks. Mannion has been at best steady and reliable for the orange and black, with three passing scores for 655 yards and one interception in two games. Scott is very a fluid athlete when running away from pressure by the opposing defensive front seven – and he will see a lot of pressure come Saturday. Will he be able to successfully avoid the defensive end speed of Oregon State? Edge goes to Mannion and OSU

Tailback:
Arizona has run the ball 178 times for nine touchdowns, and amassed 913 yards between Scott, Ka'deem Carey, Daniel Jenkins and Jared Baker. UA's new coach Rich Rodriguez is known for having pioneered the up-tempo, no-huddle offense with a very efficient running attack, and we are expecting the run game, with numerous variations, to be the centerpiece of the Arizona offense. Storm Woods and Malcolm Agnew meanwhile have combined for a mere 48 attempts by comparison, notching up 190 yards and a touchdown (Woods). A well-orchestrated rushing defense from Arizona could very well throw some water on the flames. Edge goes to Arizona

Tight End:
Arizona has incorporated Terrence Miller into their aerial attack. The senior tight end has 10 receptions for over 100 yards and a touchdown. The combined forces of Connor Hamlett and Colby Prince for OSU have mustered nine receptions and 74 yards at this stage. But Mike Riley and Co. are persistent about incorporating the tight ends primarily into the run-blocking schemes, and have the passing attack centered around the wideouts (and after the UCLA win, um, no wonder.) So if Arizona focuses on taking away the Beav receivers, is this the game the OSU TEs jump up? Maybe, but hypotheticals don't change the advantage here… Edge goes to Arizona

Offensive Line:
With rare exception, the OSU front five has been a force to be reckoned with during the first two games. They have held their own against two strong defensive lines and allowed minimal pressure on Mannion. In short, they've looked good and are doing their job. Arizona enters the contest with an offensive line that boasts four seniors, granted. But unless they can put up an about-face performance compared to their outing in Eugene last weekend – this time against a tenacious OSU D-line - Scott and Carey will struggle all game long. Edge goes to OSU

Wide Receiver:
A tough one when it comes to calling who has the edge here. The starting three primary receivers for Arizona (Dan Buckner, Austin Hill and Richard Morrison) have put up 813 yards and four touchdowns, a statistic that makes Brandin Cooks and Marcus Wheaton's cumulative 492 yards and three touchdowns look like chump change. But bear in mind that Arizona has played in four games to OSU's two, however – and only two of the Wildcat's opponents (Oregon and Oklahoma State) posed any real threat, whereas both of OSU's victories have come against ranked opponents. A major factor will be the performance of each team's secondary and their respective ability to apply pressure – Cooks and Wheaton are speed demons that possess a knack for eluding defenders and picking up a lot of YAC and they're coming off a monster game. The Wildcats may have more diversity in targets – but is it enough to make the OSU secondary slip up? We say no. Edge goes to OSU (by a hair)

Defensive Line:
Oregon State takes this one all the way to the bank. Guys like Castro Masaniai, Dylan Wynn, Scott Crichton and a rising Andrew Seumalo plus super sub Rudolf Fifita were arguably the driving force behind the Beavers last two W's, and we don't foresee that changing. They have been relentless and annoying for opponents, offsetting game plans and forcing a wealth of three-and-outs. Collectively, the defensive front four of Arizona has been mediocre at best and struggle to bring consistent pressure on opposing QBs. Consistent, overbearing pressure (or lack thereof) will weigh heavily on the outcome of this matchup and all signs point to the advantage being with the visitors. Edge goes to OSU

Linebackers:
D.J. Welch and Michael Doctor have been studs so far when it comes to stopping two of the NCAA's premier tailbacks in Montee Ball and Jonathon Franklin. They possess sheer speed and have a good presence on the outside edges of the pocket – something that may well throw Scott and Carey for a loop when testing the edges. Welch and Doctor have effectively funneled the runs back to the middle, where Masaniai, Seumalo and Feti Unga (Taumoepeau) have been waiting. Jake Fischer and Sir Thomas Jackson for the Wildcats have the stats (they've combined for 69 stops total and are 1-12 in the conference in tackles, compared to Welch/Doctor's 24), but stats sometimes don't tell the whole truth and the Beavs are playing better football in the box. Edge goes to OSU

Secondary:
This is a slam dunk for OSU, right? Well… Yes. It's been top-of-the-line for OSU with Jordan Poyer and Rashaad Reynolds starting to get pass protection down to a science -- and if they can tackle the way they did against UCLA, it will be tough for Arizona's athletic receiver corps to get some breathing room. Nearly a third of the 989 passing yards against Arizona came during last week's loss in Eugene - prior to that the Wildcat secondary looked like they could combat most offenses and come away successful. On paper, these two units are pretty evenly matched in regards to size, speed, and awareness downfield and it feels like UA is going to be primed to bounce back. Edge: Tied (with one caveat -- if the game comes down to pass defense in the fourth quarter, the edge goes to OSU.)

Coaching:
It's hard to discount how integral coaching has been to OSU's last two victories. Yes, the players played and played well, but the offensive and defensive playcalling has been sublime. Riley and defensive coordinator Mark Banker have smartly schemed to the opponent's strengths/weaknesses each time out – and with two completely different opponents -- and they've come out on top. Rich Rodriguez is in his first year with Arizona, and he's both smart, great experienced and an innovator – he has tricks up his sleeve. He will also have one advantage that Jim Mora and Bret Bielema did not – at least a decent amount of game film to study prior to hosting the Beavers on Saturday. Still, the evidence in hand in 2012 points to one thing. Edge goes to OSU

Intangibles:
Arizona has the home field advantage and Wildcat fans will be amped up. If the noise gets as intense as it has been in the past in Tucson, Mannion and crew could be affected. Rodriguez is likely to pull out all the stops early to set the tone. Conversely, if OSU is the one connecting on their roundhouse hooks in the first quarter, the crowd sits on their hands and Arizona might not be as resilient coming off a shellacking last week. Edge goes to Arizona

Final Thought:
Oregon State has accomplished what very few expected of them – starting off 2-0 against ranked opponents and laced up their big boy cleats each weekend. The Beavs have slapped the college football pundits in the face basically.

Arizona fell out the rankings like a high-school gravity experiment and Mannion looks strong, much more so than last season. The Beavs have controlled the clock and moved the chains. Combine that with a defense that is making a play for the conference's elite, and all signs point to a 3-0 start for OSU unless things get out of Riley's hands in Tucson.


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