A Northwest October

Another ranked team lines up opposite of Oregon State this weekend when the #10 California Golden Bears come to Corvallis looking to snap a five game losing streak to the Beavers. For Oregon State it's a must win situation if the team hopes to go to their fifth bowl game in six years.

"It's definitely another good team, and we haven't seen a lot of them," said Riley who is 1-2 versus California while at OSU. "We've got their two games and it feels a little bit like an opening game as far as our preparation - not physically, but as far as looking at the other group. They have a very balanced, powerful offense and their defense has been playing very well. It's another big test."

Oregon State has been receiving tests every week as New Mexico is the only club the Beavers have faced that is not ranked. The ranked opponents have beat up the team physically and emotionally and the team is glad they are going to be in the Northwest for the entire month of October. They face Cal and Washington State at home, travel up to UW, and have a bye week.

"It's great. It was a tough September; we all knew that, it was going to be tough," Riley said. "Good, ranked football teams on the road. When you lose, though, you dig yourself a hole and we've got to fight back out of it and get a win this week."

Riley stopped short of calling the match up this weekend a must win, but in all reality the Beavers must win to keep their post season hopes alive. The team knows they have dug themselves and hole and they must start to dig themselves out this weekend.

"It's a really important game, it's a conference game, and the other fact of the matter is that when you lose, you do dig yourself a hole," Riley said. "Those are real issues, but the most important issue is us and playing better. We've played some awfully good football but we just shoot ourselves in the foot. We've just got to get those things straightened out."

The task won't be easy as quarterback Aaron Rodgers and running back J.J. Arrington have put up big numbers in their first two games. Rodgers has completed 31 of 42 passes for 474 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions while Arrington has rattled off 358 yards and four touchdowns on just 32 carries.

The numbers are impressive, but the Bears' opposition have not been. Air Force is 2-3 while New Mexico State 1-3 – both play in weak conferences. Another potential help is Cal has not played a game since early September due to Hurricane Ivan postponing their match up with Southern Miss. On the other hand, the Bears have had three weeks to prepare for their Pac-10 opener. It doesn't matter either way to Riley.

"It's out of our control, so it doesn't really matter," Riley said. "Only the game will tell if it's a positive or negative effect."

Once again Oregon State will try to get its ground game going as the team ranks 115th in rushing offense (61.8 ypg). Riley feels his team has the capability to be a decent rushing team, they just need to be consistent and become confident in what they do.

"I think our runners are pretty good, and I'm excited about being able to give them the ball and gain some yards; we've just got to do a better job being consistent with it," Riley said. "We can make some plays, but we have to be more consistent and establish an identity."

Some fans would like to see more of sophomore Ryan Cole in the backfield, but Riley likes the rotation as it as with Wright getting most of the carries. Statistically Cal has the best rushing defense in the conference allowing just 132 yards per game, so the task of getting the running game on track will not be an easy one.

On the other hand, Cal will be going up against one the stingiest defense in the country. OSU's opponents have converted just 25 percent of their third downs and have converted only two attempts when it was third down or longer. Safety Sabby Piscitelli leads the Pac-10 in pass breakups with nine and is tied for the conference lead in interceptions with three. Cornerback Aric Williams is tied for second in the conference with five breakups while linebacker Trent Bray is second in tackles.

In the last five years the Beavers are 28-4 at home and have not lost to a top 10 team (3-0) during that time span. If Oregon State is going to extend their winning streak over Cal they must get some leadership from the seniors and take care of the ball.

"There has to be, within our group, physically and emotionally and attitude-wise - the whole thing - have to step up and go to work," Riley said. "I think our team realizes our capabilities and is frustrated with what our record is, but at the same time I think there are people there who will step up and go to work and get ready to play."

Kickoff is this Saturday at 1:07 PM. The contest can be seen live over FoxSports Net.

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