BF.C Keys to the Game: Utah

THERE IS A strong temptation to feel like this is a magical Oregon State season where things are all just coming together at the right time -- a tough schedule but the extra bye weeks helped or the Beavers were lucky. Just sit back and enjoy the magic carpet ride with Utah on tap for Saturday night. And then there comes a moment when...

... when it's time to go ahead and drink the Kool-Aid. That moment is now.

Because to call what's happening in Corvallis a Cinderella Story does a disservice to what this OSU team has accomplished in their 5-0 start. To say it is a Cinderella Story is to say that it's an illusion, a mirage... that the time is going to come where the clock strikes midnight, and it all vanishes. Back to the same old sooty rags.

At 5-0 and given all we've seen -- it's time to realize that Oregon State is really just .. that .. good. This Beaver team isn't catching miraculous bounces to win games. They are earning it, despite being in the bottom 5 in the country in penalties. And no, they're not getting any help from the refs, but they're still playing solid, disciplined defense. They are in the nation's top five in third down conversions allowed. They have a corner leading the nation in interceptions per game. They have a defensive end in the top 10 nationally for sacks per game.

And on offense they have a spectacular offensive line. They're still a bit young and the drive blocking is still coming along -- but oh my what an amazing job they have done protecting the Beaver QB's long enough for even deep routes and seven-step drop throws to set up. And don't get me started on a duo of receivers the rest of the Pac-12 would kill for.

NOW Utah RIDES into town - the absolute polar opposite of the Beaver's Dream Season. Utah was picked to finish second in what was perceived to be a much stronger Pac 12 South. This was a team that could challenge for the conference title, they insisted. The Beavers were by-and-large finished to pick last.

Two identical story arcs curving in the exact opposite direction.

Utah has one very large issue to deal with if you're Oregon State. His name is Star Lotulelei and he's lining up across from OSU's prize true freshman center, Isaac Seumalo. OSU will need to account for Star and if Seumalo is getting driven into the backfield then he's going to need help and running between the tackles just got a lot tougher. This is what to watch today, folks.

This is going to be an epic battle in the middle of the o-line, the kind college football fans dream of, so keep your eyes open. Let's get on to the Keys:

1. Keep on Keepin' On. The thing that Oregon State has done so well this season, despite facing myriad mobile QB's, is to stop the run. Oregon State is so confident in their secondary that they will bring blitzers up front and stuff the run. Dare opponents to pass, and then pick off an errant pass. This is true of Utah.

2. Wish Upon a Star. ( is not responsible for the terrible word-choice puns of our writers. We apologize). The one player who is going to need to be most accounted for is, as mentioned earlier, Lotulelei. NFL scouts have compared him favorably to former Oregon star DT Haloti Ngata. Against SC, he treated Khaled Holmes as his own personal ragdoll for a quarter-plus. OSU must prepare for his imposing presence and scheme him out of the game.

3. Get a Run at It. What separates Oregon State from the upper echelon teams at this point is very simply this: A power running game. The Beavers need to continue to get stronger at running the ball, as they have done all season (albeit slowly). As the running game comes together, the Oregon State offense simply becomes a nightmare to defend.

It's a 7:30 p.m. game. It's going to be wet, it's going to be dark, the stands are going to be blacked out and the atmosphere should be electric. I'll be there. I'll be wearing black. Makes no difference who you are. Anything your heart desires. Will come to you. When you wish upon a star. (Again, we apologize. Sometimes the only thing you can do to help him is to just let him be.)

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