THE BIGGEST GAME of the season to date for the Beavers is now just hours away. Las Vegas likes the Beavs -- they opened as a 6.5 point underdog to No. 6 Stanford but that was down to 4 points on Saturday afternoon.

And I'm feeling equally bullish about the Beavs' chances against the Cardinal. I'm anticipating 350-plus passing yards for Sean Mannion, a fistful of stellar grabs from Brandin Cooks and some good all-purpose yards from both Storm Woods and Terron Ward. And I believe all of the above will be aided by junior fullback Tyler Anderson, who Mike Riley said will be good to go on Saturday, (sternum).

I see OSU grabmaster Richard Mullaney turning in some crucial, eye-popping snags on third- and fourth-down(s).

Tight end Connor Hamlett is out, and Caleb Smith will be tested, as will possibly be Kellen Clute, too. But Smith has been improving out in the pattern and if Stanford looks at Hamlett being out and concludes they can put resources elsewhere, I see Smith coming up with a key play or three.

I see Stanford linebacker Shane Skov getting a good angle on Mannion more than once – and between him and Trent Murphy, it could very well be the first game where Mannion faces more pressure and is sacked more than he has this season.

But I still see Mannion and the o-line winning the war, if not every battle.

Don't forget about that Cardinal wide receiver/return man Ty Montgomery, he is fast, powerful and dangerous at 6-2, 215 pounds.

Montgomery, like many other players on the Stanford football squad, is a multifaceted athlete that can hurt the Beaver defense and special teams if they are not prepared -- from the start -- to properly execute.

But I also see a Beaver secondary that has not been waiting as long to bring their A-game out. Ideally, they'll have it at the start but if not, they might still have a buffer zone before cranking it up -- but they can't wait long against Stanford. I think we see some stellar play from safeties Ryan Murphy and Tyrequek Zimmerman, and corners Rashaad Reynolds and Steven Nelson, earlier than we have in most any game this season.

Cardinal running back Tyler Gaffney is going to get his tough yards, he's done it all season long. The big question here is if the Beaver d-line can lead enough of a charge on enough third downs to make a difference.

All this is expected.

But as I said in my column yesterday, keep those binoculars trained on Rommel Mageo on Saturday, because in my mind the Beavs' middle linebacker's performance will ultimately make or break a Beaver victory in the end.

  • Still no definitive word on if starting DT John Braun (shoulder) will be able to go. In similar situations in recent years, this has usually meant the player doesn't go, and OSU holds the news as long as possible to keep Stanford preparing for him and others. By Friday afternoon, however, the public unveiling becomes less and less of a factor.

  • If Braun can't go, the Beavs are expected to use some combination of Brandon Bennett, Edwin Delva and Siale Hautau, who will be available to make his return following a stubborn triceps injury. The Beavs may also at times slide DE Dylan Wynn inside.

  • Is this the game Victor Bolden or Cooks breaks one on a return? Conversely, does Oregon State's special teams do enough to contain Montgomery and others? Will that end up being the difference in this game? Or might a late, made field goal prove to be the decider in this game? It's not long before we get to find out...

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