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Stanford vs. Oregon State: What to Make of the Beavers

Back in August, I asked you which game on Stanford's schedule worried you the most, excluding Oregon, USC, Cal, and Notre Dame. The Cardinal's early-season trip to Tucson was the runaway winner, followed by Oregon State, Washington, UCLA, and Colorado. Duke and San Jose State received zero votes for good reason. In hindsight, Colorado wasn't worthy of any votes either.

I voted the Oregon State game as the most worrisome. Here's what I wrote at the time:

"The Beavers aren't expected to be especially good this season. They lost stud running back Jacquizz Rodgers and defensive tackle Stephen Paea to the NFL and they've battled injuries this offseason. Still, I have the same feeling about the Oregon State game as I did about the Cardinal's trip to Arizona State last year. It's sandwiched between a difficult game at USC and marquee matchup with Oregon, and I still have bitter memories of Stanford's loss to the Beavers the last time they traveled to Corvallis."

Well, the Beavers haven't been especially good. In fact, they've been downright awful at times. Oregon State opened the season with a 29-28 loss to Sacramento State at home. Last week, the Beavers became Utah's first Pac-12 victim in a 27-8 loss that dropped them to 2-6. In between those ugly losses, Mike Riley's squad managed a home win against Arizona and a convincing win at Washington State. What should we make of the Beavers?

Sean Mannion Is Learning on the Job: In OSU's two wins, the 6-foot-5 redshirt freshman QB from Pleasanton was 58-for-75 (77%) for 643 yards, 6 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. In the Beavers' six losses, Mannion's TD-to-INT ratio is 4-to-9. Mannion replaced returning starter Ryan Katz in the second half of the Beavers' loss to Sacramento State and hasn't looked back. Even as Mannion struggled last week against the Utes, Riley said he didn't consider pulling him in favor of Katz. Stanford's defensive line, which was held sack-less against USC, would like to contribute to Mannion's education with a pass rush like the one he faced last week against Utah. The Utes got to Mannion six times.

Dearth of Big Plays: Oregon State has nine plays of 30 or more yards this season. Stanford has 23 such plays. There's no one on the Oregon State roster who inspires as much fear every time he touches the ball as Robert Woods or Chris Polk, so the Beaver. Junior wide receiver Markus Wheaton is a solid player and is averaging more than 7 catches per game, but his touchdown against Utah last week was his first of the season.

The Running Game: The Beavers have made it clear that they feel their best shot against Stanford involves slowing the Cardinal's running game. That's a tall order for the nation's 64th-ranked running defense after watching a below average Utah offense run for 225 yards and attempt only 14 passes last week. OSU's rushing offense is ranked 108th. Freshman Malcolm Agnew, the Beavers' leading rusher, had 26 yards on nine carries against the Utes.

In short, I'm not nearly as worried about this game now as I was before the season. It appears that Stanford is potentially its own worst enemy on Saturday. If the Cardinal can avoid looking ahead to next week's showdown with Oregon -- and the players have said that won't be an issue -- it should have little trouble against the rebuilding Beavers.

We could all use another blowout, right?