WEEK 8: Let's talk Cardinal vs. Beavs

OREGON STATE FACES their highest-rated opponent to date when No. 6 Stanford comes to town Saturday night (TV: ESPN, 7:30 p.m.) Much of what will be written this week will be how physical Stanford is, how much they pound the ball down your throat on offense and how that plays into their advantage in the fourth quarter. And that's all true, but the Beavs must beware of something else...

Beware of the Cardinal pass.

Oh, I know that Stanford is rated No. 86 in passing offense among FBS teams. And Kevin Hogan is has only thrown 159 passes, completing 100 of them with 13 TDs against five interceptions. But consider this for a moment...

Oregon State has been better against the run than the pass. The Beavs are rated No. 30 nationally in rushing defense. And then consider a) that Stanford's run game failed late at Utah in a 27-21 loss but more importantly, b) what happened a few weeks earlier with Stanford.

The Cardinal went up against an opponent, WSU, that came into the game pretty good against the run, too. But Stanford went at them through the air right from the start.

They blew out the Cougars in the first half, they did it with pass and it caught WSU completely off guard and flat-footed -- WSU had prepared for the smashmouth, run-run-run it Stanford, after all.

OSU has been steadily getting better in the secondary but they'll need to have their A-game on display at the start Saturday night, not at the end of the first quarter or first half. Not against the No. 6 team in the land. Mike Riley has made it a point this season of saying the Beavs are preparing for anything and everything from an opponent, even when the tendencies seem to suggest otherwise. This week could pay off big in that regard.

Hogan only averages 24.9 yard rushing per game but he can run. The good news for Oregon State is he's not a running quarterback by design, Stanford's offense doesn't work that way, but the Beavs need to be careful of Hogan converting third-and-long's with his feet.

A CURRENT ESPN poll had 79 percent of 5,880 responders picking Stanford to win on Saturday. Las Vegas has Stanford, who wins a lot of "close" games, as a 5-point favorite on the road.

But Sean Mannion is also on fire and has been, since oh, his first snap of the season. Wide receiver Brandin Cooks, despite every team trying to take him away, has been virtually impossible to defend.

The Beaver passing offense has not been stopped this season, even without the threat of a run game. Oregon State is 26th nationally with 1.29 sacks allowed per game.

Something has got to give.

Stanford is ranked No. 37 nationally in pass defense efficiency and they're in the country's top 25 in sacks with 2.67 per game. (They're also No. 18 in rushing defense but "only" No. 32 in total defense.)

THE KEY FOR Stanford on defense will be to bring pressure. If Stanford can get pressure on Mannion, and they'll switch back and forth from a 3-4 and 4-3 and disguised looks to try and do so, that doesn't bode well for the Beavs.

But if Oregon State's o-line performs as it has this season, doing a bang-up job of holding the pocket, and if perhaps Oregon State keeps a TE, H-back or RB at home more to help against the rush, OSU has an excellent chance to do against Stanford what they've done against everyone else this season -- move the ball and score points.

OTHER NAMES TO KNOW on Stanford include running back Tyler Gaffney, who averages 106 rushing yards per game.

Linebacker Shane Skov is the leading tackler on the Cardinal, with 52 sticks.

Ty Montgomery, who is averaging 196.5 all-purpose yards per game and he's been especially good returning kickoffs. OSU has been uneven on special teams this season, and they'll need to ensure that the game doesn't turn in Stanford's favor there.

It's homecoming for OSU this Saturday. And Mannion leads the nation in passing yards with 2,992, 414.3 passing yards per game and with 29 touchdown passes.

One of the hardest things about this game for BeavFans is going to be waiting until Saturday night for it to arrive.

NOTABLE NOTES:
  • DT John Braun (shoulder), tight end Connor Hamlett (knee), fullback Tyler Anderson (ligaments, sternum) and wide receiver Victor Bolden (ankle) are expected to be limited to some degree this week.

  • Braun and Anderson are expected to be midweek decisions.

  • Hamlett is doubtful and almost certainly out.

  • Cooks is expected to be ready to go by Saturday and the Oregonian reported his headache was gone on Monday.

  • Bolden is questionable for Saturday but is improving steadily.

  • D.J. Alexander, LB Cyril Noland and DB Zack Robinson are all expected to be ready to go by Saturday.


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