Could Ryan Katz be about to become a "scapegoat" at Oregon St.? (Photo by Andy Wooldridge)
Oregon St. running back Malcolm Agnew is officially "out" for the Wisconsin game, and won't even be making the trip.
Agnew was at practice Thursday morning, and not even limping any more, but he also wasn't in pads.
Head coach Mike Riley also re-affirmed that Ryan Katz and Sean Manion will both play, but one has to wonder for how much longer.
Manion took more snaps with the "1s" than Katz, but Katz, possibly feeling the sudden sense of urgency, looked more accurate in the "garbage can" drill.
The result is full blown quarterback speculation, whether there is a controversy or not. The Oregonian's John Canzano goes so far as to speculate that Katz is being set up to be the scapegoat. Even those less inclined to extreme rhetoric are questioning the timing of both the substitution of Manion in the opening game loss to Sacramento St., and how Riley is proceeding, both in practice, and in the upcoming game, at least based on his stated intentions.
Never mind the question of what happened to Cody Vaz, who was the second string QB all spring and fall camp.
It does feel like its either produce or take a position on the sidelines for Katz heading to Camp Randall. Facing the #8 team in the country in the Badgers, that's going to be a tall order, and it would be for anyone.
If that's the best case, the other thought is that Canzano is right (scary prospect right there), and Riley has essentially already elected to go with Manion, but doesn't want to say so in case he has a disaster in Madison. A distinct possibility for a first time starter, considering what Wisconsin did against UNLV, who fell behind 51-3 while going with a quarterback who was also making his first ever start.
Lots of talk on various local sports radio stations this week has centered around the idea that if Riley thinks Manion is the guy, why mess around? Just go with him is the prevalent idea for how to handle what Riley readily admits is a touchy situation.
Nothing coming out of the team has indicated a rift is developing, but the first sign of that will be in the form of performance, not anything anyone says publicly.
But in a season already on the "brink" *, and one where Riley has been hesitant to commit or be aggressive with respect to the return of WR/KR James Rodgers, its a situation Riley can't afford to get wrong.
* - becoming bowl eligible difficult due to the schedule before squandering a win opportunity on opening weekend.
Will it matter?
Certainly, come the conference opener against UCLA after the bye week, it will. But Saturday morning, it may only matter if you have a bet on the line that has been bouncing between 20 1/2 & 23 points.
The Oregon St. defense is going to have to slow down Wisconsin's offense for anything Katz, Manion, or the running back committee of Terron Ward, Jovan Stevenson, Jordan Jenkins, and maybe even Ryan McCants, does to actually matter.
DT Kevin Frahm continues to look good, and is good to go against Wisconsin, but against a Badger offensive line that averages 6'5" & 320 lbs., it's going to be a challenge to slow down RB Montee Ball, who had 3 touchdowns against UNLV, or QB Russell Wilson, who was the Big-10 Offensive Player of the Week last week.
The Badgers protect and open lanes with LT Ricky Wagner, 6'6", 320, LG Ryan Groy, 6'5", 320, C Peter Konz, 6'5", 315, RG Kevin Zeitler, 6'4", 315, & RT Josh Oglesby, 6'7", 330.
With the advent of the Beavers' quarterback controversy, there's been surprisingly little talk about how the Oregon St. defense will make progress after being burned for 4 touchdown passes, plus the game winning two point conversion, in the 29-28 overtime loss to the Hornets, much less make anything the offense does be relevant.
Scratching For Bright Spots
Agnew's absence is particularly disappointing for Oregon St. fans, since he was deemed the "bright spot" in the opening day defeat, due to running for an NCAA leading 223 yards, and 3 touchdowns.
A closer look at the cumulative stats does (at least) have a couple of other encouraging tidbits, though.
Converted RB red shirt freshman Malcolm Marable leads the Pac-12 in kickoff returns after one week, with an average of 29 yards.
And punter Johnny Hekkar leads the conference as well, with an average of 48 yards.
The Beavers will need all the special teams help they can get Saturday, so these are good things.