(CORVALLIS)—We all know the 2015 Oregon State Beavers football team is a disaster. With a 2-4 record that doesn’t inspire confidence, the Beavers host the 3-4 Colorado Buffaloes tonight at Reser Stadium. It’s Homecoming for Oregon State, as the last two winless teams in Pac-12 Conference play meet to decide which team is truly the worst one in the league.
That’s not a very exciting “title”, of course, but it’s what the Beavers have left after losing their first three conference games by a combined 76 points. The Buffs are also 0-3 in league play, but Colorado has lost its three by only 49 total points. That’s splitting hairs; however, generally the Buffaloes have been more competitive in 2015.
Our internal rankings have Colorado ranked No. 74 in the Football Bowl Subdivision, while the Beavers are ranked No. 100 overall. With the home-field advantage, Oregon State has played better this season—albeit against inferior competition, mostly. The one conference game at home for Beavers was against Stanford, where OSU hung in there until the third quarter before losing by 18 points.
The Buffaloes are not the Cardinal: The Beavers may have a chance here to pull off the upset, if … and stop us if you’ve heard this one before … they can avoid making the youthful mistakes that have plagued them this season on offense. The defense isn’t that bad, but when it’s on the field too much, it will break down like any defense does under tiring circumstances.
There are yards to be had against the Colorado defense, currently ranked 98th in FBS and giving up 430 yards per game. Even better, the Buffaloes rank 111th against the run, allowing 210.6 yards each game. This plays into the strength of the Oregon State offense, which is very run oriented in 2015. Beavers quarterback Seth Collins and running back Storm Barrs-Woods both average 5.4 yards per carry, and that duo should be able to run free against Colorado tonight.
However, if the Buffaloes put nine men in the box to stop the run, Collins has to be able to hit the long passes every so often in order to keep the defense honest. This has been an ongoing issue for the Beavers offense against real competition this season. Game by game, Collins has been inconsistent through the air. However, when he couldn’t run against Stanford, the OSU QB did find holes in the Cardinal secondary to have what might have been his best passing game (275 yards, one touchdown, no interceptions).
He will need that kind of effort tonight to pull off the upset, but Collins’ last two games—against Arizona and Washington State on the road—have been ugly, as he’s completed just 25-of-54 attempts for a meager 232 yards, one TD and three INTs combined in bad losses.
The Buffaloes have a diverse offense, led by QB Sefo Liufau (60.5 percentage completion rate, eight TDs, three INTs), RB Christian Powell (419 rushing yards, 123 receiving yards) and WRs Shay Fields (504 yards) and Nelson Spruce (503 yards). Good offenses have shredded the Beavers defense this season, as we’ve seen the last three games. The key to this game for Oregon State defensively should rest on Collins’ ability to keep the Beavers offense on the field.
That is putting a lot on the Oregon State offense, but it’s true: To beat good offenses, the defense needs to rested and ready. The more the defense is on the field, the worse it plays. That’s basic logic. Of course, the Beavers do not have the kind of defense that is going to throw a shutout, anyway, but to keep a good offense down, Oregon State’s defense needs to be rested every time it takes the field. The more three-and-outs the offense commits, the more the defense ends up breathing heavily.
Stanford, Arizona and Washington State all average over six yards per play this season, and thankfully, Colorado does not. That can be to Oregon State’s advantage in this game if the defense makes some big plays early—and the offense does, too.
This is a total homer pick, but Oregon State—buoyed by the Homecoming crowd and the home-field advantage—will win a close game, perhaps by field goal. Collins will run wild over the Buffaloes defense, and the Oregon State defense will make just enough plays to outlast Colorado in a wild shootout. The Beavers will get their third and final win of the season, because there’s nothing left on the schedule but misery.