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Stanford vs Oregon State: Three things to watch as the Beavers travel to the Farm

The Cardinal returns home in need of a Pac-12 victory

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
1. Stanford's offense

I won't blame you if you don't want to watch Stanford's offense. It's been that bad so far this season. Fun with numbers: Stanford is 99th in scoring offense, 95th in rushing offense and 64th in passing offense this season. Yikes. On Tuesday, David Shaw took the blame for the offensive failure - as he rightfully should have - and suggested there were changes to come:

"I have to do things to help our quarterback, who's won a ton of games for us and who has been successful. I have to help him get in rhythm, There are some things we can do to help him. There are things we can do to help our running game. There are things we can do to help our receivers and tight ends. We have guys that can make plays, we have guys that can score points. There are some things that we can do structurally. We're not talking about scrapping our offense - I'm not talking about that at all. But I'm talking about doing more to help our guys and hopefully that will be evident the rest of the year."

We'll see what exactly Shaw has up his sleeve for Saturday, but I would expect to see Kevin Hogan run the ball more frequently - Mike Bloomgren said that's part of the plan this week. At this point, there's no one cure to what ails the Stanford offense, so any and all changes to the scheme will be worth noting.

2. Depth at Defensive Line

For the second season in a row, Stanford is in a tight spot up front on defense. David Parry injured his leg against Arizona State just days after Aziz Shittu was lost for a long period of time (most likely the entire season), forcing the Cardinal to burn the redshirt of d-lineman Harrison Phillips. While Parry isn't out for the season, it's always going to be a big problem when your best player in a position group gets hurt. The Cardinal now can't afford to lose anyone else up front. How will Phillips and the rest of the line respond in Parry's absence this week?

3. Can Sean Mannion do it all?

It's hard to get a read on just how good Oregon State is. Their four wins are over Portland State, Hawaii, San Diego State and Colorado. They looked totally lifeless against USC at the Coliseum in one of their two losses, but fought hard before falling in overtime against #20 Utah last week.

However, we do know that the Beavers' offense flows through the right arm of Sean Mannion, who threw for 4,662 yards and 37 TDs a season ago. Mannion is without the services of Brandin Cooks this season and therefore he's played far worse football this year, with a 7-5 TD-INT ratio. Although Storm Woods is a very good player, Oregon State doesn't really run the ball at a staggering clip - they're 103rd in the nation in rush offense - so this game will likely be a test of whether or not Mannion can make the Cardinal pay. Last season, Stanford simply forced Oregon State's pass offense to be inefficient en route to a close victory, and that may be the recipe for Stanford success again this year.