While the Beavers started out with some rough games, they have played close in two of their last three, hanging with two very good programs in Utah and Washington State. Now the Beavers face off with a Cardinal team coming off a dominant performance over Arizona. While the talent on the roster of the Beavers is not on par with their competition, they have played disciplined football against some tough opponents, which has been the difference.
The two consistent things on defense that the Beavers have done in their close games is tackle in space and not given up the big play. Disciplined tackling has kept teams from chunk yards after the catch, which helps a defense play true to their spots. When players do not think they have to cheat over to help make tackles that leaves less open holes in the defense. They also do everything they can to play deeper zones and not let players get behind them. This is how they hung with Washington State and lead them through the first half, not letting up the explosive play down the field and forcing a 10 or 12 play drive.
The offensive side is not exactly a group of world beaters either, however, they are very balanced and average 168.9 through the air with 197 on the ground per game. The big thing they have also done over the past few weeks is consistently capitalize on the turnovers their defense gives them. This is probably the biggest factor for the Beavers because they try to control clock. Forcing opponents into long drives means any chance they can get the ball extra times and kill the clock with a long drive means less time for the opponent.
The way the Oregon State defense plays could work in Stanford’s favor. The Cardinal has no problem going on a long, time-consuming, 12 play drive, in fact they prefer to run that offense. To open up the possibility of sustained drives the Cardinal could really use two or three big plays on the arm of Keller Chryst to break the defense. Chyrst showed his willingness to sling the ball last game, but now he needs to push the ball down the field a few times to really open up the Oregon State defense. We saw what happened to the Beavers once the Cougars were allowed to go deep. Michael Rector needs to get separation down field and make the game changing play. One also needs to remember that the Cardinal rank dead last in total offense across college football, so they need to jump out to a lead and not depend on putting up points late.
With a few big plays that will only help Christian McCaffrey, who is sure to get his after he was fed last week and racked up 169 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. He will tear into this defense and as long as the offensive line gives him a little help and he gets plenty of touches, he will do his job and carry the workload.
On defense, the Cardinal are not facing an elite passing offense. That means they can trust their secondary and load up the box and get to the quarterback. Coming off a five sack game, the defensive front needs to get home and players like Solomon Thomas, who had 1.5 sacks last game, need to show up and have a big game.
While the Cardinal have under performed this season, there are still NFL level players on this team and a coaching staff that know how to win games. This under maned and underwhelming Oregon Sate team has been frisky, but Stanford should be able to put them away.
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