Holy Cannoli! The Beavers are favored to win for the first time in what seems like ages this weekend. If anyone is counting, it has been since Week 3 against Idaho State. That said, nothing has come easy for OSU this season, and they are facing a team that has nothing to lose in Arizona. So while the Beavers are 9-point favorites, they can’t afford to overlook the Wildcats.
And honestly, this could be an exciting match-up. You might be asking, “How is that possible when both teams are 2-8 and at the bottom of their respective divisions? Well, it will be a battle between OSU’s anemic offense and Arizona’s woeful defense. What will bend and break first? In the friendly confines of Reser Stadium, let’s hope the Beavers move the ball somewhat strong against the Wildcats.
At the same time, is anyone else nervous about this one? What if the Beavers lose? With that in mind, it wouldn’t be surprising if Marcus McMaryion is on a tighter leash this game. If the Beavers can’t get going on offense, the coaches need to get the kitchen sink ready to throw out there. Well, that and here’s five other keys to an OSU win Saturday.
Contain the run. Arizona ranks last in the Pac-12 in total offense. Surprisingly, though, they are second rushing offense at 214 yards per game. That doesn’t bode well for OSU, which has struggled against the run this season, ranking 10th in rush defense. Hard to believe consider the defense’s improvement and this season. With that in mind the Beavers must be able to force the Wildcats to throw the ball or it could be another heartbreaker at Reser on Saturday.
Come out firing offensively. As previously mentioned, the Wildcats have been atrocious this season on defense. Case in point, they’ve allowed 118 points in their last two games. You don’t need to do the math to know that’s downright ugly. So, if there’s a game for McMaryion to start off hot and break out against, it’s this one. The Beavers need to be aggressive and take any means to score. If they are across the 50 and it’s fourth and short, go, go, go.
Protect the QB. McMaryion has faced the toughest defenses on the schedule. Look no further than last weekend as proof — as he didn’t have much time to settle in and deliver the ball. While UA shouldn’t present as much of challenge as the Bruins did, it’s imperative for the offensive line to rebound and do a better job of giving McMaryion some breathing room. If that happens, the road to victory could be much easier for the Beavers.
Don’t turn the ball over. The Beavers have lost some close ones in recent weeks, and we all know that turnovers have and can make all the difference between a win and a loss. Besides the obvious, OSU needs to take care of the ball because giving Arizona even the slightest flicker of hope could be dangerous, especially including a short field. As cliché as this key is, these tight losses are getting more and more painful, and one way to turn the tide is to play turnover-free football.
Stay home more. In an effort to get more pressure in the backfield, OSU has been blitzing a lot this season. That, combined with being spread out by opponents’ offensives, has left the defense prone to the run game. So, why not eliminate one of the causes and not blitz as much? Against Arizona, the Beavers should be able to commit more to the run. That said, it could depends on who plays QB for the Wildcats; the mobile Brandon Dawkins or the more pocket-minded Anu Solomon?
Expect another close affair this Saturday, but I think the Beavers have a great shot at covering the spread and coming out on top. My bold prediction? Marcus McMaryion has his best game as Beaver!