BOWL GAMEDAY: Oregon State vs. Boise State

IT'S FINALLY HERE. Will it be an early Christmas present the Beavers get to unwrap, or will Boise State shove a lump of coal in the Oregon State stocking? For as convoluted as projecting a college football matchup can become, this one, the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl, seems rather simple.

Oregon State vs. Boise State
Kickoff: Tuesday, Dec. 24 at 5 p.m. PT
Where: Aloha Stadium, Honolulu, HI (50,000)
Favorite: Oregon State by 3
Bowl Records: Boise State, 9-4, Oregon State, 10-6

If Oregon State can provide adequate protection for Sean Mannion against a statistically solid Boise State pass rush, the Beavers should be able to put up some big passing numbers, lots of points -- and win.

If not, the Beavs are likely to go from a 6-1 start to finishing up 2013 with a losing season at 6-7.

There are of course other factors – will OSU try to run more like they did in the Civil War, will the Oregon State defense with a lot of time to prepare be more stout, how will the BSU controversy surrounding their quarterbacks play out and more.

But from my chair, in the end, this game is about the five Beaver o-linemen, with some h-back/TE and fullback staying home in max protect, and if they can keep the heat off of Mannion.

Mannion, with time, has been remarkable this season.

Mannion, without time, has been a completely different story.

And so this one will come down to guys like Michael Philipp, Josh Andrews, Isaac Seumalo, Grant Enger and Sean Harlow.

AS OREGON STATE WENT 6-1 to begin the season, Mannion had time. And he responded by throwing for 2,992 yards, 29 TDs and three INTs. Those are incredible numbers. He and Brandin Cooks were embarrassing the competition, as Cooks in seven games racked up a video-game like numbers that would have been impressive total season stats -- 76 catches for 1,176 yards (15.5 ypc) and 12 TDs.

But over the last five games, Mannion went for 1,411 yards, seven TDs and 11 INT. Cooks? He had 44 catches for 494 yards (11.2 ypc) and three TDs.

The talent level the Beavs were facing changed and where that manifested itself most was seen in the pass rush coming at Mannion and Oregon State. Mannion's eyes came down. He started to feel the increasing pass rush before it was necessary. Those things happen. They happen in the NFL on Sundays. But they also need to be reversed – if you want to win.

Oregon State needs to start that process on Tuesday night by limiting Boise State defensive end Demarcus Lawrence, who has 19.5 tackles for a loss, 10.5 sacks and three forced fumbles. Fifth-year senior defensive tackle Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe will try to occupy the middle and allow others to run past to put pressure on Mannion. His expected battles with Seumalo should be worth the price of admission alone.

AND OREGON STATE needs to have better hot read options at the ready. And when they hit those hot reads and designed screens, they need to execute them and turn up field to get quick yards.

The Beavers have relied too often on the long ball against the better teams they've faced – there hasn't been enough time.

Now, there could be against Boise State, but only after establishing a short, precision attack. But to get there, the Beaver o-line has to hold the line.

We should find out quickly tonight if the Beavs are up for the challenge.

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