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Stanford vs. Oregon State: Q&A with Building the Dam

Rod Perry has done for the OSU defense what Vic Fangio did for Stanford's. Can the Cardinal keep Scott Crichton away from Kevin Hogan?

Steve Dykes

Big thanks to SB Nation's Oregon State blog, Building the Dam, exchanging Qs & As with us this week.

1. Stanford fans are familiar with what current backup QB Sean Mannion can do. What are Cody Vaz's strengths and weaknesses? If he struggles early, do you think Mike Riley might turn to Mannion?

Both have very similar arm strength, so it doesn't require any change to the offense to interchange the quarterbacks. Vaz has a quicker release, and is more mobile, but one of his best qualities is he doesn't throw interceptions. 3 1/4 games with only 1 last week, and that was a case of the receiver getting tangled up and stopping his route after the ball was already in the air.

If Vaz struggles early, Riley won't turn to Mannion right away, as was shown last week, when Vaz got off to a rough start against Arizona St., but didn't get the hook. In part, that's because it wasn't all his fault. And when Coach Riley replaced Mannion against Washington, he waited a long time before doing so. That said, he would consider making the change as the game wears on, as Riley feels he can trust either quarterback.

2. How do you expect Oregon State to attack Stanford offensively?

Despite how good the Stanford defensive front is, Oregon St. will at least try to run the ball, at least some of the time. But don't be surprised if Oregon St. puts the ball up at least 2/3 of the time.

We will all find out if the Cardinal secondary can cover Markus Wheaton and Brandin Cooks, because they are both going to run lots of directions, and fast.

3. Who are some of the standout players on defense for the Beavers?

CB Jordan Poyer, who should be back after missing last week, is the best single player on the defense, and the one everyone knows, but CB Rashaad Reynolds is much improved this season, and safety Ryan Murphy has a nose for the ball.

DE Scott Crichton will make an acquaintance with Kevin Hogan, and keep tabs on LB D.J. Alexander. He's been involved in a lot of plays, and will be a central component to Oregon St.'s defense's efforts to deal with a mobile quarterback like Hogan.

4. What's been the biggest key to OSU's strong start this season?

There essentially have been 2. (Well, 3, if you count staying healthy.) Defensively, new secondary coach Rod Perry, who came to Oregon St. after years of NFL experience, has renovated both the pass and run defense from the back line. Offensively, Mike Riley resumed calling the plays, something he had handed off the last several seasons. Riley has a knack for getting much more out of the same playbook than others.

5. What are the expectations like in Corvallis now? Is this year already considered a success given the disappointment of the last two seasons, or is it BCS or bust?

The year is considered a success, because the 7 wins and a bowl game that are already in the bank were considered the high water mark of possibilities going into the season. But by no means does that mean everyone isn't now looking for more. It's not BCS or bust; a holiday trip to the Alamo or Holiday Bowl would be quite nice too. But because a BCS (Rose) bowl is an attainable goal, that's obviously on everyone's minds now.

6. What's your prediction for the game?

One heck of a hard fought game. These are the 2 best defenses in the conference, and a shootout isn't likely. But its hard to believe that Stanford can repeat the "Vaz affect", and put in a new quarterback in Hogan and win in his first start. On paper, it would seem the Oregon St. passing game, with Wheaton and Cooks, will find a way to score enough to win what's probably going to be a 20-17 type of game, with a Stanford turnover being a factor.

But then, the last 2 trips to "The Farm", Oregon St. has not played well, and one of those (2008) ultimately cost the Beavers a Rose Bowl trip that year.