BF.C Keys to the Game: Washington

BEFORE WE GET to the keys, as No. 7 Oregon State looks to make history at Washington on Saturday night, there's something else to cover. Those of you who correctly predicted that Oregon State would start out the season undefeated and then continue that trend on past the midway point of the season, please form a line over here to the left. Because there are only two ways to categorize you.

Geniuses, and absolute madmen.

It's hard not to wax philosophical about the bottle full of lightening currently in the Beavers' back pocket. If Oregon State wins tomorrow in Seattle, they make history. They do something that no other Oregon State team has ever done: Start 7-0.

Seattle has been home-away-from-home for the Beavers, and with the game being played at "The Clink" and an expected 5000 in Orange and Black sitting in the stands (at least), it again should be a semi-hospitable environment for the Benton County Bandits. Sean Mannion returns to start from knee injury a week after being suited up but ultimately unneeded against Utah.

Washington enters as a team in crisis. As a good friend of mine would say, "The train hasn't come off the tracks yet, but it's wobbling back and forth like this and they're seeing grass out of both the windows," (waves hands wildly in the air resulting in beer splattering out of a longneck Northwest microbrew).

The Huskies are banged up in the worst way on offense - injuries have ravaged the Husky offensive line and running back corps. QB Keith Price was a popular dark horse selection for all-conference honors in the preseason and instead is shaken in both his confidence and his trust in his coaches to put him in a position to succeed. Steve Sarkisian went the, uh, unorthodox route of essentially telling reporters, "I've lost my quarterback mentally," this week.

And yet this is not a time for the Beavers to let up, to lose focus. Because like Utah, who had the sense that their back was against the wall and played like it, Washington is a team at a crossroads. The Huskies have played the toughest schedule in the nation, if you ask Jeff Sagarin's opinion. After the tilt against the Beavers, the schedule softens and the Dawgs have a chance to go on a run. Their redemption, in their minds, starts with Oregon State -- beat the Beavers and the season can still be salvaged.

And the Beavers have yet to put together a complete game. Six games, six hard-fought victories. Nothing has come easy to the 2012 Beavers, and beneath all the adulation and pretty stories about Cinderella there is an ugly whisper of "overrated." This is no time for the Beavers to take their foot off the accelerator.

Here's how the Beavers get it done this week:
1. Prayer to St. Chip - The Beavers need to gather round the locker room and say a quick prayer to Saint Chip, the Patron Saint of putting your boot on their neck. The Huskies are fragile mentally and if Oregon State can start fast, the Huskies will wilt under the pressure.

2. Keep the Heat On - A year ago Keith Price threw a school-record 33 TD's. But the stellar junior is facing a sophomore slump in 2012, playing behind a patchwork offensive line. In the last 3 games alone Price himself has accounted for 10 turnovers. Turn the heat up, he'll give you the ball.

3. Know Who You Are - The Huskies are small up front and have been absolutely gashed by the run this season. The head scratcher is the Stanford upset. UW chose to stack the box and blitz and rather than continuing to execute their offense, the Cardinal chose to try and throw deep, though it was a poor matchup against the strength of the UW defense. The Beavers need to run the ball to keep the pressure off Mannion -- but not at the expense of hammering a square peg into a round hole.

Oregon State's biggest criticism this season has been that they aren't blowing opponents out. Well, the Huskies have been outscored 128-52 over the previous three contests. One doesn't need to be a statistical guru like Drew Wilson-McGrath to point out that the Huskies are a prime target for the Beavers to get "well" in the minds of doubters and roll up some points.

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