Beavers host No. 8 Stanford in battle of 6-1 teams in nationally televised game
The Beavers face their first real test this Saturday.
They have yet to face a team as well-rounded as Stanford.
The schedule doesn’t get any easier either. The combined record of Oregon State University’s last five opponents is 26-9.
“This is murderer’s row right here,” said offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf, “It starts here with the No. 8 team in the nation.
The No. 8 Cardinal (6-1, 4-1 Pac-12) have played well this season. Despite Utah upsetting them two weeks ago, the Cardinal are fresh off a statement win against the then-No. 9 UCLA Bruins.
They did it with strong defensive play.
UCLA boasted one of the better offenses in the Pac-12, but were held to just 266 total yards against Stanford.
“They are really physical and big up front,” Langsdorf said. “They’ve always had good defensive linemen. They give you some tough looks.”
This could present a problem for Oregon State (6-1, 4-0 Pac-12). All year long, the offensive line has struggled to create holes for the run game.
Numerous times this season, they’ve all but abandoned trying to run the ball.
“With what we’ve been doing with the tailbacks, especially in the screen game, it’s picking up some of the slack,” Langsdorf said. “Also, when you’re throwing for 500 yards, you’re getting that production another way.”
Conversely, Oregon State’s pass protection has been solid all year. Its only falter was in OSU’s previous game against California, when junior quarterback Sean Mannion took several hits.
“Having a quick release, a strong arm and being able to get rid of the ball is huge,” Langsdorf said, “Mannion does a good job of throwing the ball away.”
By throwing the ball quickly, Mannion spends less time as a target in the pocket, and defenses have less time to reach the quarterback.
The problem arises when he spends too much time and the protection crumbles.
Even though Oregon State has won six-straight games, no one they’ve played has been nationally ranked. No one has been a threat like Stanford.
Stanford is a different beast.
“We’re facing the best team we’ve seen — the best athletes we’ve seen,” said head coach Mike Riley, “They’re also old. They have seniors across the board on that team. There are a lot of experienced football players that are good players. It’s going to be a good test.”
On the flip side, Stanford has yet to play a team like the Beavers. Oregon State airs it out more effectively than any team in the nation, with Mannion leading the country in passing yards (2,992), passing touchdowns (29), and is second in attempts (47.7 per game).
And for how talented Stanford’s defensive front seven is, its secondary is not particularly strong.
When teams play Stanford, quarterbacks complete 62 percent of their throws, which is the third-worst rate in the Pac-12.
“I like to think our chances against Stanford are great,” said junior receiver Brandin Cooks, “We’ve played against tough defenders and we’re looking forward to the challenge.”
Additionally, the Beavers will be the home team for the first time since Sept. 28 when they beat Colorado.
“We haven’t been home for a while now,” Cooks said. “I’m excited to get in front of our home crowd and hear Reser rock.”
The game will be played this Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and will be televised on ESPN.
Mitch Mahoney, sports reporter
On Twitter @MitchIsHere