2005 Look Ahead: Oregon State

Third in our series of capsules previewing Stanford's 2005 opponents is Oregon State. The Beavers have beaten the Cardinal in their last four meetings, and five of the last six. This year's matchup comes in Corvallis, the site of a very nasty 2003 memory: a 43-3 loss. Oregon State has key losses on both sides of the ball from last year's 7-5 squad, however, leaving open questions for '05...

Oregon State Beavers

First Down: Quick Hitters

Stanford @ Oregon State - November 12

Last Meeting: Oregon State 24, Stanford 19 ('04)

Side-by-Side Stats: (Oregon State/Stanford)
Returning Offensive Starters: 7/10
2004 Rushing Yards Per Game: 71/81
2004 Passing Yards Per Game: 309/246
Returning Defensive Starters: 6/5
2004 Rushing Yards Per Game Allowed: 117/143
2004 Passing Yards Per Game Allowed: 196/249
2004 Record: 7-5/4-7
Vegas' Predicted 2005 Record: 5-6/4-7

Second Down: Offense

An anemic rushing offense, an interception-plagued passing offense, an underperforming offensive line, and a stud tight end.  For Stanford fans, looking at Oregon State's 2004 offense is like déjà vu all over again.

Unlike the Cardinal, however, the Beavers managed to weather the offensive storm last season, averaging a respectable 27 points per game en route to a 7-5 season.  On the other hand, while Stanford returns nearly all its offensive talent, Oregon State is riddled with losses and left looking for replacements.

Interception machine Derek Anderson departs Corvallis as the school's all-time leader in not only interceptions (57), but also passing yards (11,249) and touchdowns (79).  The strong-armed quarterback did manage to improve his accuracy as he matured in the Beaver offense, to the point that he posted a solid 29-17 TD-INT ratio in 2004, his senior season.  While new quarterbacks Matt Moore and Ryan Gunderson will have to replace a three-year starter, the drop-off may not be all that great, and passing accuracy may even improve.

Despite his flaws, Anderson did do a great job of getting the ball deep down the field, to the benefit of his receivers.  2004 Third Team All-American wideout Mike Hass caught the majority of those bombs, averaging 16 yards per catch en route to 7 touchdowns and nearly 1400 yards.  Hass should compete again for All-American honors as well as the title of the conference's best receiver in his senior season, along with Arizona State's Derek Hagan, DeSean Jackson at Cal, and pretty much the entire two-deep at USC.

Outside of Hass, the offensive cupboard is fairly bare.  Tight end Joe Newton trailed only Hass with 7 touchdowns and nearly 700 yards receiving in 2004, but a leg injury will sideline him the entire 2005 season.

With Newton's injury, the Beavers may be hard-pressed to find another offensive threat to take defensive attention off of Hass.  In the passing game, no receiver other than Hass caught even five touchdowns last year, and no returning quarterback in Corvallis has meaningful game experience.

The running game is similarly questionable.  An offensive line that yielded 37 sacks loses two All-Pac-10 performers, though the other three starters return.  Additionally, no one has secured the starting running back job, a disconcerting sign when: 1) the team averaged only 2.2 yards per carry last season, 2) last year's starter has departed, and 3) none of the returning talent was highly recruited out of high school.  Yvenson Bernard and Jimtavis Walker appear to be the rushers who will try to bring the Beavers' ground game to a level it hasn't seen since Steven Jackson was a first-round draft choice of the St. Louis Rams following the 2003 season.

Third Down: Defense

A defense that may have to keep Oregon State in games appears more than capable of doing just that.  The team's forte should be the passing defense, which is one of the most stout (and underrated) in the country.  Over the last five years, Oregon State's secondary has consistently sparkled, allowing an average of only 200 yards per game on well under 50% passing.  These numbers have remained fairly constant from year-to-year regardless of personnel losses, so it appears it's really the Beavers' coaching and schemes that are successful in the secondary more so than individual players.

However, this 2005 season may truly test the genius of that Beaver scheming and coaching.  In the nation's most pass-happy conference, Oregon State loses three All-Pac-10 performers in the secondary, including school interception leader free safety Mitch Meeuwsen (20 career interceptions) and cornerback Brandon Browner, an early entry into the NFL Draft.  While the sole returner, strong safety Sabby Piscitelli, does provide a strong building block, whether or not the secondary can continue to perform at such a high level remains to be seen.

The rushing defense should be rock-solid as well.  The Beavers have allowed an average of only 98 yards per game over the last three seasons, and plenty of talent returns from last year's roster.  Five of last year's starting front seven come back, though one of the losses is 2004 Co-Defensive Pac-10 Player of the Year DE Bill Swancutt, Oregon State's career sack leader and a sixth-round choice of the Detroit Lions.  Defensive tackle Ben Siegert, a second-year starter, will miss the first few games of the season with a shoulder injury, but he should be back by mid-September.  All told, with so many returning starters and yet another historically successful scheme, the rush defense should be among the best in the conference, if not the country.

Fourth Down: Extra Points

- Bet the under early and often with this squad.  The offense is going to be worse than Joe Public believes, while the defense is going to be much stronger.  I'll even go out on a limb and say the defense plus the special teams outscores the offense for a game or two this season.

- Completely conflicting styles will therefore crop up when the Beavers face out-of-conference foes Boise State and Louisville.  Both squads have explosive offenses but far weaker defenses, so their contests against Oregon State should feature strength-on-strength and weakness-on-weakness.

- After a brutal slate in 2004, arguably the nation's toughest, the Beavers benefit from a much friendlier schedule this season.  LSU and USC, perhaps the two most talented teams in the country, give way to UCLA and Louisville.

- Stanford's 247 passing yards against Oregon State last year were the second-most the Beavers yielded all season.  However, in their last two contests against the Beavers, Stanford has rushed for a combined minus-11 yards.

- Stanford will have to counteract three trends to leave Corvallis with a victory.  Oregon State is 31-6 in their last 37 home games, hasn't lost a home finale since 1998, and is 15-6 in November since that '98 season.

- Oregon State has added 8,000 seats, mostly luxury boxes, to Reser Stadium, meaning Washington State now has the conference's smallest stadium.

- Stanford was the slightly worse squad last year, but this year the Cardinal return slightly more.  While the teams may appear fairly even on that measure, the match-ups appear to slant in Oregon State's favor: Oregon State's sole offensive strength appears to be the deep pass to Hass, and Stanford's defensive weakness will likely be defending the deep pass with a suspect secondary.  Similarly, Stanford's passing-oriented attack appears to play to the strength of the Beaver defense.


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