"It's going to be a big game," coach Mike Riley said. "It is important that we get off to a good start in our conference. It's a road game for us which we failed at miserably the last time we tried. We have a lot of things that are big for our team. Let alone that Arizona State is playing well, playing with confidence."
This marks the fourth time in five years that the Beavers and Sun Devils have meet for the conference opener. The teams have split the last four contests with the home team winning each match. Arizona State enters the contest with a perfect 3-0 record with wins over San Jose State, Colorado and San Diego State - all at home.
Heading into conference play ASU head coach Dennis Erickson and OSU head coach Mike Riley were both asked how good their teams are; both replied that they don't really know at this point, but after Saturday's tilt, the picture will become a little clearer - and both teams have much to prove.
"Every week we have something to prove," linebacker Joey LaRocque said. "last week was a good opportunity for some of the younger guys to get acclimated a little better than we have done in the past. We would like to build off of that and hopefully transfer that to each game we play from now on."
Riley agrees. "We have to prove it. There is no announcing how good you are, we have to go prove it."
Besides the history of losing to Arizona State on the road, the team will be battling the heat, a raucous crowd and the fact that Sean Canfield will be making his first career conference start. The last time Canfield threw a pass against Pac-10 competition was late last year against Stanford where he completed one pass for one yard.
"He looks good - Sean was able to make some plays last week," said Riley who is 40-35 at OSU. "Every time a quarterback can do that, it is a confirmation for him in what he is doing and what we are doing, putting that all together and making some throws."
"Now the competition will increase dramatically. But he sees that it is all there. I think that playing that game, completing passes like he did, and not throwing an interception were very good things."
An encouraging fact about facing Arizona State is that they run a similar defense that OSU runs which should help Canfield adjust quickly.
"They run similar things to our defense - a lot of cover eight, a lot of physical, talented guys. A step up from what we faced this past Saturday," said Canfield who completed 21 of 30 passes for 353 yards and three touchdowns against Idaho State last week.
A step up indeed. Canfield will be facing a stout defense that ranks first in the Pac-10 and ninth nationally in scoring defense (10.0 ppg) and first in the conference and sixth nationally for total defense (214.0 ypg). They also have allowed just two touchdowns in the first three games of the season and have not allowed a second half touchdown all season long while picking off at least one pass in every game.
Daunting? A little, but Canfield says bring it on.
"It's a big stadium, I heard they seat 80,000 or something like that. So we can probably expect it to be kind of wild," Canfield said. "I am excited for the Pac-10 season."
We usually have a couple nonconference games first to get your feet wet but I am looking forward to the competition."