Stanford vs Oregon State What to Watch for: Beavers try to upset the Cardinal and throw the Pac-12 into chaos

Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports

It's time for another top 25 Pac-12 matchup - and this time, it's in the always-dangerous Reser Stadium

What to watch for on Stanford's side of things:

1. The ripple effect. Injuries have hit the Cardinal hard for this matchup on all sides of the ball - no Devon Cajuste, no Henry Anderson, no Jordan Williamson - and it's going to make an impact. Last week we saw a badly missed field goal from Conrad Ukropina, so that may influence David Shaw to be a little more aggressive on 4th-and-short situations on the Beavers' side of the field. On top of that, Kevin Hogan is going to have to find a new favorite target after Cajuste was his main man a week ago.

2. Carter Island? Reynolds Archipelago? Going against the number one passing team in the country shouldn't frighten the Cardinal d-backs too much after they completely short-circuited Brett Hundley a week ago, but they're going to be tested on the outside and down the field about 50 times this Saturday. We saw Alex Carter tweak his ankle a week ago, so it's important that he's fully healthy and that the other d-backs play fundamentally sound football for all 60 minutes. Mistakes this week will end up on the scoreboard.

3. Offensive strides. Last week the Cardinal mixed up its play calling (including a little hurry-up offense) in the early going before turning almost exclusively to the run game in the second half. I'll be curious to see how the Cardinal tries to get its offense moving the first quarter, but I expect more of that quick, ball-control style that it used against UCLA. I also expect to see the coaches try to feature Kevin Hogan's feet and Ty Montgomery's sped in an opportunity to let them steal a little of Sean Mannion and Brandin Cooks' thunder.

What to watch for on Oregon State's side of things:

1. Cooks and Mannion. Let's make it really simple: these dudes are the nation's number one receiver and the nation's number one passer. If these two have a big day, Oregon State has a great shot to win. If Stanford can slow these guys down, it's doubtful the Beavers have enough of a run game and a defense to overcome the Cardinal. But as I wrote yesterday - Cooks is really, really good.

2. Push or be Pushed. Thus far, Oregon State has mostly blown by subpar opponents, with the exception of Utah and spunky Eastern Washington. Therefore, they haven't faced a run game that's as solid as Stanford's, and they look like they can be pushed around at the line of scrimmage on defense. For example, Utah QB Travis Wilson ran for 142 yards and 3 touchdowns on just 11 carries on the Beavers' D. Maybe this is the week Stanford puts it all on Kevin Hogan and Tyler Gaffney in the read-option, and If that diesel engine gets going, Stanford's gonna be hard to beat. The Beavers' D-line has to play its best game of the season if Oregon State wants to win.

3. Turnovers. Stanford turned the ball over four times a year ago at home, but ended up pulling out a nailbiter after Cody Vaz fumbled late in the fourth quarter, setting up the game-winning Cardinal drive. This season, Sean Mannion's thrown only 3(!) picks all year as he's blown apart defenses like a chaingun. However, this Cardinal defense has a much better front seven than San Diego State, Colorado, Washington State or Cal, so he probably won't be able to get fully comfortable in the pocket. Stanford's forced a turnover in 32 straight games, and any extra possessions will likely be very costly come Saturday.

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