Beavs again aim to confound prognosticators

THE ODDSMAKERS DON'T give Oregon State much a shot to beat No. 15 Utah in their own house tonight -- the Utes are a 12-point favorite. There are a number of factors the prognosticators point to in making the Beavs such a decided underdog. But there are also a number of points that could augur well for the Beavs..

Some of the reasons the Utes are favorited by 12, they don't have anything to do with X's and O's.

Historically, a college football team coming off a big emotional win is more susceptible to a letdown the next game.

Add into the mix that the USC game was a very bruising, hard hitting tilt.

The Beavs, historically, however, did not stumble the past two years coming off similar type wins.

After beating No. 3 USC in 2006, the Beavs promptly dispatched Arizona State 44-10. Last year, after knocking off No. 2 Cal, the took care of business against Stanford, 23-6.

Granted, neither ASU or Stanford was ranked and on the road. And it would be a stern test in Utah even if the Beavs did not have some injury concerns, which they do.

Three starters -- WR Sammie Stroughter, CB Brandon Hughes and S Al Afalava -- have been limited this week in practice.

And even if all three start, and there is reason to think they might based on the last few days, the Beavs may still need guys like Tim Clark, Suaesi Tuimaunei, Darrell Catchings and Chris Johnson to step up and make plays before it's all said and done.

The Utes will be geared to stop Jacquizz Rodgers. If the offensive line and Quizz win the battle to the degree they did against USC, look out. But it's a bit much to ask Quizz, or anyone else, to rack up 186 rushing yards each time out and what may be telling will be how Beavs respond to the opportunities that may open up -- if Utah over commits to stopping the run -- for Lyle Moevao and crew in the passing game.

HOW THE BEAVS play up front on defense should go a long ways to determining the outcome.

A secondary's play against the pass often shows a direct correlation to the pressure mounted by the front seven. And the first four weeks of the OSU season has seen a marked difference in that area.

Against Stanford and Penn State, the Beavers did not consistently enough clog the middle or get enough pressure on the quarterback. Against Hawaii, and then also in particular against the top ranked Trojans, the Beaver front seven looked like a completely different unit, flying to the football, clearly winning battles, staying in their gaps and generally making life miserable for the opposing offense.

They don't need to be letter perfect up front, or elsewhere, against Utah to win, but a defensive performance similar in tone to the one against USC, would be huge. And a little confidence can be a powerful thing.

AS FOR ALTITUDE, there's always a lot of talk about that but some studies suggest it plays a negligible role in determining whether a visiting team wins or loses.

Said studies posit it's appx. 48 hours before that oxygen debt potentially has much of an effect. No, this game will be decided more by time of possession, the Beavs' defensive pass rush and the success of the Oregon State offensive attack than it will the elevation of Rice-Eccles Stadium.

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