How big is Stanford game for Beavs?

CORVALLIS – Remember when Mike Riley said Wisconsin was the Super Bowl? So what does that make the titanic tilt (TV: Fox, 12 p.m.) against Stanford on Saturday? This is a winner-take-all type of game – and OSU is a four point underdog. Ol' Mo will be walking a thin line over Stanford Stadium on Saturday. A stat laden sheet of paper does little to explain how evenly matched these two squads are.

This game will likely be a toss-up until the last few minutes of the fourth quarter.

No. 11 Oregon State (7-1, 5-1) has played six additional games since Wisconsin, winning all but one. Now they take on the No.14 ranked Stanford Cardinal (7-2, 5-1) in Palo Alto. A Beaver win means Riley and Co. walk away with a boost in the BCS rankings and momentum aplenty heading into the last two bouts of conference play against Cal and Oregon.

A win this weekend likely means massive implications for the Civil War.

A loss to Stanford means that David Shaw and the Cardinal will coast past OSU in the BCS rankings and all but end Oregon State's hopes for a berth in the Pac 12 title game. A loss means OSU's bowl picture begins to radically change.

The Cardinal boasts a No.1 ranked rushing defense that is anchored by a fearsome foursome of ‘backers that have dominated the interior running lanes. They have two defensive ends in Ben Gardener and Henry Anderson that are both capable of demanding an extra set of hands on each play.

The OSU front five will need to be on point with every block, every shift and every audible. The Cardinal was devastating to USC last month, allowing only 26 rushing yards on 28 carries when they took on the Trojans. Stanford also brought down the house on third down, limiting the Trojans to 1-13 on third down conversions.

A mere two teams have scored 20 or more points against Stanford this season – Arizona (48) and Notre Dame (20). Vaz has two wideouts at his disposal and if he is given the time to use them, the Stanford secondary will not know what hit them.

It won't be smooth sailing for the Cardinal offense either. Stanford is swimming with sharks when it comes to the OSU defensive front seven. Kevin Hogan fared well against Colorado (whoohoo) – but the question is how he will do against the sheer speed of Oregon State, and the big play potential of guys like Scott Crichton (nine sacks, 14 TFL) and Michael Doctor (51 tackles and one interception)

Tack on the contributions of D.J. Alexander , Rashaad Reynolds, Dylan Wynn and various other cogs in the OSU defensive attack, and it's fairly easy to see why the Beaver rush defense sits at No.5 in the nation. A favorable statistic considering Shaw has a season hinging on the assumption that the pressure of both a tenacious Beaver D and an immensely high profile game won't get to Hogan, whose appearance on Saturday will mark the first NCAA start of his career.

Then you have Cody Vaz, who with a win here makes a legitimate bid to stay the starter for the rest of the 2012 season. Vaz has the raw talent to destroy a secondary yet he still remains an enigma in my mind – hot against BYU, cold for Utah, and room temperature against ASU until the latter portions of the second half. He showed great poise and timely release out of the pocket when his blockers gave him time against a mildly effective Sun Devil defense – time will be a hot commodity for Vaz on Saturday.

This is a BIG game. See, I've been forced to use all caps.

What it all boils down to is this – Wisconsin is no longer the "Super Bowl" now that the Beavs are this deep into the BCS drama. For Riley and crew, this is the biggest game of their season…

Until Oregon.

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