The Associated Press poll has the Stanford Cardinal ranked No. 21, and if it wasn’t for an opening-week loss on the road to Northwestern, Stanford would be in our atombash.com Top 25 as well. Regardless, this is the best team the Oregon State Beavers have faced this season, and that could mean trouble at Reser Stadium tomorrow night.
The Cardinal may not have starting quarterback Kevin Hogan available, as he was injured last week against USC. He has started 34 straight games for Stanford, include two straight Rose Bowls back in 2013 and 2014, but he sprained his left ankle against the Trojans while getting sacked.
It would be to the Beavers advantage, of course, to face redshirt freshman Keller Chryst or redshirt sophomore Ryan Burns at QB instead, and Oregon State is the benefit of another Cardinal injury: Linebacker Kevin Anderson is definitely out, and he’s the second-leading tackler on Stanford’s defense.
As the Pac-12 schedule kicks off here for the Beavers, they will be tested every week by more experienced teams, and this means Oregon State has to grow up quickly—or the growing pains are going to hurt badly this season.
The Cardinal defense is ranked No. 33 in the Football Bowl Subdivision currently, giving up just 312.7 yards per game. The rushing defense may be suspect, however, giving up 134.7 yards per game. That can play into the Beavers’ favor, as Oregon State’s strength is its ability to run the ball.
But like the Michigan game two weeks ago, this is a big-time team the Beavers face on defense, in terms of size and talent. To win, Oregon State will have to be able to throw the ball effectively here and there—not the whole game, but just enough to keep the Stanford defense honest.
QB Seth Collins hasn’t been lighting it up with his arm, however. He’s ranked 90th out of 108 ranked quarterbacks in the NCAA efficiency ratings. His completion percentage is so-so (32-of-59, 54.2 percent), and his yards-per-attempt mark is pretty low (5.2). Both those numbers will have to improve big-time during the next nine games if the Beavers want to make a bowl game.
The good news is that even with Hogan, the Cardinal haven’t been a strong offensive team. Ranking just 79th, Stanford has given up 401.7 yards per contest this year. It’s actually surprising the Cardinal have a winning record with such a big negative margin in yards gained and allowed.
If Hogan doesn’t play, that makes Stanford a bit easier to defend with an inexperienced QB at the helm. The Beavers are ranked 17th in defense (278.7 ypg), but two of their games have come against lesser opponents (Weber State and San Jose State). Against the Wolverines on the road, Oregon State gave up 405 yards. Somewhere in the middle there is what we’d expect the Beavers to give up at home to the Cardinal without Hogan.
Remember, a few mistakes cost Oregon State against Michigan, putting the defense in tough spots. Perhaps the best defense for the Beavers against Stanford will be a good offense.
The last Beaver head coach to win his conference debut was Dave Kragthorpe in 1985. The Cardinal have beaten Oregon State five straight seasons now. The last time Stanford came to Reser (2013), the Beavers were held out of the end zone on four occasions from inside the Cardinal 10-yard line in the final seconds. OSU lost, 20-12.
Expect a close game again this time, especially if Hogan is out. The Beavers can pull off the upset if things go their way, but look for Stanford’s experience to prevail in a very close game that goes down the wire: growing pains for Head Coach Gary Andersen and his very young team.