OSU vs. Utah: Beavs face tough D, run-based O

UTAH GETS AFTER the quarterback, and then some. They lead the nation with 5.6 sacks per game. Oregon State’s offensive line has had pass protection trouble this season, ranking No. 96 in sacks allowed out of 125 FBS teams, (12 in five games). So could that mean …

.. that Oregon State is going to try -- and really try -- to get after it in the run game?

Perhaps. But if the Beavs fall behind by a good margin, OSU is going to go back to Sean Mannion's right arm. And there’s no guarantee OSU won’t come out slinging it from the start anyway.

But one way or another, if Oregon State is going to win on Thursday night (Fox Sports 1, 7 p.m.) this will have to hold true:

The Beaver offensive line is going to have to play better, and with better technique, than they have their last two games (USC, Colorado.)

Utah has been a little schizophrenic the last three games. They punched Michigan in the mouth at Michigan, then blew a 21-point lead in a loss to Washington State and then bested UCLA at their house. Still, the Utes are 4-1 and No. 20 in the AP poll.

A win would be huge for Oregon State. Utah is favored by 1 ½ points.

Utah’s Kyle Whittingham has been cagey about who will start at quarterback but it seems plain it will be Kendal Thompson. Utah yanked Travis Wilson against UCLA and Thompson, primarily with his legs, provided the offensive spark that had been absent.

Defensive coordinators look to take one thing away from an offense and it’s clear Oregon State will need to try to take away the ground game. RB Devontae Booker has 513 yards and four touchdowns in five game, while averaging 5.8 yards per carry.

Utah is going to grind it on the ground all day long if you let them. And just when you think you’ve held Booker in check is when he tends to break one off.

Meanwhile, Sean Mannion and crew will need to contend with that Ute defense, led by defensive end Nate Orchard. He 8.5 sacks this season amongst his 34 tackles, two pass breakups and one fumble recovery.

This Thursday would be a fine time for Storm Woods, Terron Ward and the Beaver offensive line to rise up and take charge.

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