Judging by the stats, this Oregon State football team should be one of the top teams in the Pac–10. Currently on track to chew up 4,769 yards this season (third-most by any team in OSU history), the Beavers have the best rushing offense, the best scoring defense, the best total defense, and the best rushing defense in the conference, along with just the second-best passing defense. This heady concoction of raw statistics can only be tempered by three things – a 6-4 record (2-4 in the Pac), a buttermilk non-conference schedule, and a passing offense second only in unmitigated awfulness to the Stanford Cardinal's. I shudder to think of what head coach Dennis Erickson and this OSU team could do with a great QB and an explosive receiver or two.
Unfortunately for the Cardinal, the Beavers have been nothing if not consistent, beating up on bad teams like Eastern Kentucky, UNLV, and Temple while getting run out of town by quality opponents like USC and… gulp… Cal. Stanford, the next "bad" team on the Beavers' plate, will be doing its best to buck the trend. Containing uber-running back Steven Jackson, the conference's leading rusher, has to be priority number one, as is keeping Beaver QB Derek Anderson off balance and controlling turnovers. In every OSU game but one this year, the team that won the turnover battle has gone home with the dubya… For a Stanford team that has as one of its few virtues a well-developed aversion to giving the ball to its opponents, could there be light at the end of this tunnel?
Sophomore QB Derek Anderson (6-6, 235) has shown flashes of brilliance on some Saturdays and has looked like a nearsighted Pop Warner backup on others. His 8-30 passing performance against SC (with two interceptions), was his major embarrassment thus far, while his masterful 20-26 day at UNLV that picked up 356 yards in the air and set up a school-record five touchdown passes remains the highlight. He's looked good in recent weeks, but the egg he laid against U-Dub last Saturday (15-40 passing with five interceptions) suggests Dennis Erickson has a lot of work yet to do.
Steven Jackson (6-2, 224) is the heart of this Beaver team. The conference's most brutally efficient back, he's averaging 127 yards a game and a whopping 5.9 yards a down. Big and bruising, this sophomore will be difficult for Stanford's withering rush-defense (currently 7th in the Pac and falling fast) to stop. The NFL's siren song had better take him off our hands and out of our backfields as soon as possible.
Jackson runs behind a young O-line laden with sophomores – nevertheless, every one of the starting linemen is over 300 lbs. While occasionally sieve-like on passing downs (a set of quick, savvy ends has a good chance of taking Anderson down in the backfield), the OSU line is one of the best to run behind in the conference.
Erickson relies on two juniors at wideout, neither of whom have shown the ability to consistently get open this year. Even so, James Newson (6-1, 201) and Kenny Farley (6-3, 225) are big, strapping targets for Anderson to look for, and together they've combined for 74 catches, 1300 yards, and 11 touchdowns. Part of a passing offense that averages just 243 yards a game.
The Beavers have one of the nation's best defenses. Period. They dominate the Pac's defensive barometers, and while Trojan fans snidely point out that much of the Beav success is a product of out-of-conference bottom feeding (admittedly, the Philistines from SC always play a killer schedule), the Oregon State D has snuffed out some remarkable offenses over the course of the season. One of their more impressive statistics is their defense against the run over the last 4 games, in which they've allowed opponents a total of 85 yards rushing on 122 carries. That's 0.7 yards a carry and 21 yards a game. Pac-10 patsy Arizona ran for -23 net yards against the Beavers just two weeks ago. Wow.
The Beavers' two leading tacklers are both linebackers, a good sign for any defense. Senior Nick Barnett (6-2, 220) and junior Richard Seigler (6-3, 230) have racked up 180 tackles between them, and are first and third in the conference in tackles per game. Both have also been named to the Butkus Award watch list. Preseason All-American candidate Dennis Weathersby, the 6-1, 200 lb. senior cornerback who, it seems, has been hanging around the Pac-10 forever, holds down the fort in the backfield with 33 tackles to his credit. He is accompanied by an experienced group of corners and safeties, including seniors Calvin Carlyle, the talented and experienced 6-0 free safety, and Terrell Roberts, a 5-10 corner with 39 tackles on the season.
Much of the credit for OSU's defensive prowess can be laid at the feet of the Beaver defensive line, the most cohesive unit on the team. Starting LT tackle Eric Manning (6-1, 297), a recipient of several preseason awards and one of the best linemen in the Pac, has almost been overshadowed by the success of his linemates. Sophomore DE Bill Swancutt (6-4, 255) has 17 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks to his credit. Junior tackle Dwan Edwards leads the line in tackles with 41, including 3.5 sacks. Manning himself has 30 tackles, including 12.5 for a loss. Kwame and Co. will have their work cut out for them this weekend…
Stanford falls flat at home once again, 35-21. Of course, the Beavers have to go back to Corvallis after the game. That's gotta cost them at least a touchdown.