Oregon State Preview

Your 4-4 Stanford Cardinal have to win two of their last three to get bowl eligible, but they visit this weekend a 6-3 Oregon State squad hungry to push themselves into the post-season. The gurus in Vegas have this as a two-touchdown trouncing by our rabid rodent rivals, but the oddsmakers have undervalued Stanford all year. Sam Stefanki highlights the headline talents OSU will bring to bear in some compelling matchups...

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There are a lot of great things about gossip magazines, besides the ubiquitous pictures of Brad Pitt in Greek armor filming his new movie about the Trojan War (isn't Pitt the perfect poster child for the USC Trojans, by the way?).  One of the many virtues of the gossip mags is their myopic focus on individual people - it would only have been after reading these rags that you could have learned that Jennifer Lopez has replaced her more revealing wardrobe with "comfy sweaters" or that Nicole Kidman got a facial at some day spa called Tribeca last week, for example.

One of the drawbacks about gossip magazines, though, is that they don't talk about Stanford Football enough.  Flipping through People or InTouch, it will be tough to find any references to Stanford's impressive victory over Arizona State last week, for example.  Although the Cardinal outplayed the Sun Devils to the tune of a 38-27 victory, there was no mention in any of the celebrity weeklies about Chris Lewis' reassuring passing day or J.R. Lemon's emergence as a confident and extremely capable Pacific-10 tailback, nor an analysis of Stanford's upcoming and formidable opponent: the Oregon State Beavers.  All these so-called journalistic publications could talk about was that Courteney Cox is (at last!) pregnant.  But that's why The Bootleg is here: to fill in the rather large blanks left by the gossip magazine's shoddy coverage of Stanford's wood-eating, Corvallis-loving (is that even possible?) antagonists of this Saturday.  So without further ado and in honor of the gossip weeklies' obsession with individual celebrities, a quick summary of the celebrities that Oregon State brings to the table:

Steven Jackson

Steven Jackson, Oregon State's star running back, is superb, explosive, and hugely talented.  While it might seem a bit incongruous to use hyperbole when writing about a team as historically droll as Oregon State, in the case of Jackson such over-the-top language is merited.  And then some.  The Pac-10's top rusher, who also ranks sixth all-time in the Pac-10 single-season rushing list for his enormous 2002 season (nearly 1,700 yards), Jackson did not need to grow the new and hairy additions to his face to convince opposing defenses that he is a fully-developed and bruising runner.  With three games remaining, Jackson already has pocketed 1,118 rushing yards, which is 149 more than Stanford's entire team has rushed in 2003.  In addition, Jackson is second on the team in receptions, with 26 for 303 yards.

The junior tailback from Las Vegas owes his gaudy numbers to exceptional presence of mind when inside his tackles (he is also known to break a few, and by a few we mean a lot, of tackles attempted by the opposing team).  When added to the speed that allowed him to run a 10.6 100-meter dash in high school, Jackson is a rare athlete who has improved himself each year in Corvallis with hard work and determination.  If he has another game like the performance with which he graced Stanford last year - 240 yards of all-purpose offense, including rushing touchdowns of 58 and 70 yards - then Stanford had better hope John Elway finds the fountain of youth under Reser Stadium's turf and brings Tommy Vardell, Darrin Nelson, and John Hopkins with him for a drink.

Joking aside, Saturday is a big-time test for the Stanford defensive unit.  Fourth in the conference and 16th in the country in rushing defense, Babatunde Oshinowo, Amon Gordon, David Bergeron, and Jared Newberry have to prove that their run-stopping skills are for real on Saturday.  Jackson made what will most likely be a prescient statement earlier this week when he predicted that Oregon State will probably run early and often so as to keep Stanford's defense on its heels from the outset of the game.  In response, Stanford will most likely have to pack the box and bring its linebackers forward in its defensive sets in order to neutralize Jackson.  This guy is an offensive force which Stanford absolutely must contain on Saturday, for when Jackson has his way on the ground all sorts of other options make themselves available to Oregon State's comparably talented quarterback …

Derek Anderson

While Derek Anderson might be second fiddle to Jackson when it comes to attention in the media, his arm so far this year has played no less critical of a role in propelling Oregon State to its 6-3 overall mark than have Jackson's legs.  The Beavers' field general has already tossed 15 touchdown passes in 2003, as compared to nine six-point throws from Stanford's QBs.  His nearly-300 yards per game passing average has yielded him 2,597 total passing yards on the year, even though he has been picked off a rather high 16 times.

The junior from Scappoose, OR is currently icing the cake he baked for himself in 2002, when he set Oregon State single-season offensive records with 3,313 yards and 25 touchdowns.  The 15 TD hook-ups Anderson has this year have also been well-distributed: no one Beaver has more than four touchdown receptions and seven different OSU receivers have caught a touchdown pass in 2003.  Anderson's equity in dishing out touchdown tosses against opposing defenses in the red zone quite well - Stanford will not have the luxury of concentrating on one particular wideout or tight end when OSU gets inside the 20.  This will put more pressure on the Card's defensive backs in single coverage, which any fan knows has been less than a strength for the secondary over the past couple of years.  Not great news.

However, if there is a weakness in Anderson's resume, it might be that he is not much of a scrambling quarterback, having actually lost yardage on the ground this year to the tune of -65 yards net rushing.  He has, however, propelled himself into the end zone four times, so he can add to the headache which run defenses always have when facing OSU's running game, especially when the Beavers get a glimpse of the red zone.  It is safe to say, though, that Anderson prefers to whet his offensive appetite through the air, which he can afford to do because he has the luxury of throwing to …

James Newsom

This senior receiver is far and away Anderson's favorite target.  He has caught an Anderson pass 54 times this year, which is 28 more receptions than Anderson's second-most-likely destination, Steven Jackson.  While he only has two touchdowns so far, Newsom is the right cross to Jackson's left jab, playing an invaluable role in driving OSU down the field and moving the chains.  He averages 17.5 yards per catch, and each game on average he garners more than 100 yards receiving.  The last time he stepped on the field, against Arizona two weeks ago, Newsom hauled in seven passes and scored a touchdown, helping him extend his lengthy 33-game streak with at least one pass caught.  Following that game, he was number two in the Pac-10 and 12th in the nation as far as passes caught per contest, with six and three-quarter receptions each game.

So how does Stanford combat this extra dimension of the OSU offensive attack?  Simple - the Cardinal secondary is going to have to play well.  Really well.  Stanley Wilson and Leigh Torrence have been burned deep (although much less so than last year, which is a positive development) so it is imperative that they stick with Newsom on the long routes.  That will put more pressure on Stanford's linebacking corps to cover Tim Euhus, OSU's pass-catching tight end, over the middle as Newsom's routes open up passing opportunities underneath.  Can Newberry, Bergeron, and Michael Craven handle the extra responsibility which comes with containing the conference's best tailback while also having Derek Anderson and Tim Euhus in the backs of their minds?  For Stanford to win without scoring 83 points, then they better.  But for the Card to score they will have to go through …

Richard Seigler

The senior linebacker from Las Vegas is probably the best all-around athlete on OSU's squad.  An integral part of the Beavers' ball-hawking defense, which has generated 22 turnovers so far this season, Seigler runs a 4.6 40-yards, bench-presses 370 pounds, and can jump 33 inches vertically.  Don't anger this man in a back alley.  He also leads his team in tackles by a wide margin, with 65; 43 of them solo.  Under Oregon State's wacky defensive points system, Seigler routinely earns top marks compared with his Beaver counterparts.  He is the kind of player who makes his presence felt all over the field, as evidenced by his two recovered fumbles, one sack, one interception, and 15.5 tackles for loss.

Regularly ranked as one of the best linebackers in the conference, Seigler plays with plenty of aggression and lots of confidence, which he instills in the rest of the Beavers' defense as the defensive play-caller and leader.  He has a chance to start more games than any other Beaver ever - the senior is a veritable institution who will be playing on Senior Day in front of a friendly crowd.  Expect him to play with extra energy and renewed desire, especially since OSU is coming off a bye week after disposing of Arizona a couple of weeks ago.  Although OSU typically does not perform as well when coming off a bye week, that effect might be neutralized for the Beaver seniors at least, who know they will never return to Reser Stadium as players and will want to leave Corvallis on a positive note.  This is not to suggest that OSU's non-seniors will be sluggish on Saturday, although that would be nice for Stanford, especially when they are led by their skilled junior defensive end …

Bill Swancutt

This guy is a huge presence on D for the Beavers, and not just statistically.  An Honorable Mention All-Pac-10 selection during his sophomore campaign last year, Swancutt is one of those guys who doesn't appear to have any sort of discernible neck.  And on the field he is dominant - so far this year he has racked up 13 tackles for loss out of 35 total takedowns, pushing teams back a total of 56 yards.  He also has a knack for getting to opposing quarterbacks and hitting them when he does.  7.5 sacks for 47 yards go well with his nine quarterback hurries and three forced fumbles.  Swancutt can easily make Saturday a tough one for Chris Lewis, unless the Stanford offense can draw the penalty-prone Beavers offside a lot and make the junior end think a little before bullrushing Lewis.  C-Lew has to have time to get the ball to the likes of Luke Powell and Mark Bradford, or else the Stanford offense will sputter and so will the Cardinal.

Gossip magazines always have at least one article in them about dieting, so The Bootleg's answer to these publications has to mention weight in a prominent spot at least once, right?  So here is the deep observation of the week: OSU's offensive line is very very big.  These lumberjacks average 313.8 pounds, clocking in at eighth among all Division 1-A schools in terms of portliness.  The upside of this fact for Stanford?  A bit slower than lighter linemen, the OSU pass-protecters and hole-openers might be vulnerable to quick moves from the Stanford defensive line.  If the front four of the Cardinal can get into the backfield and make life hard for Steven Jackson and Derek Anderson, then Stanford just might be able to get a victory out of this little Corvallis date.

But for Pete's sake, Oregon State, put your O-line on the Atkins diet or something.  Or at least wear a kabbalah bracelet like Madonna and Britney do and pray for weight loss.  It might do you good to pray for a victory, too, as Stanford is hungrier than Rosanne Barr with a coupon book at In-N-Out Burger, and for the first time in a couple of years the Cardinal have tasted success.  They want more.

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