Can Oregon St. cut down the tree today? - (Photo by Andy Wooldridge)
#13 Oregon St. takes on #16 Stanford today in a high noon showdown down on "The Farm", and if the teams take care of non-University of Oregon business the rest of the way, even if they can't handle the high flying Ducks, who host the Cardinal and then visit the Beavers for the Civil War the next 2 weeks, this game could well be for a Rose Bowl berth, one way or another.
Beat Oregon and take care of business otherwise, and home field for the Pac-12 Championship game is there for the taking. But if the Ducks do fly by, there's a good chance the BCS National Championship Game is where they land, and today's winner could still claim a top 14 final BCS ranking, and potentially the Pac-12's slot in the Rose Bowl.
It makes for some very high stakes. And usually, Stanford Stadium is about the least intimidating home field advantage in the Pac-12. However, the Beavers have played poorly their last 2 trips there, including the loss in August of 2008 that ultimately cost Oregon St. a Rose Bowl trip.
This won't be a shoot-out, not with the top 2 defenses in the conference involved. But that meas Cody Vaz doesn't half to have a career day; he just needs to continue to avoid turning the ball over, and get it to Markus Wheaton and Brandin Cooks. Nothing really new there.
The keys are slowing Stepfan Taylor down (he won't be stopped, but he can't be allowed to take over the game as he did last year in the second half in Reser), and pressuring first time starter Kevin Hogan. Hogan hasn't seen a secondary as sophisticated as Rod Perry and Mark Banker are going to show him, and if he's got Scott Crichton breathing down his neck, he's going to put the ball in the hands of a Beaver at some point.
Captialize on that and keep the pressure off Vaz and Oregon St. should be ready for another order of In-N-Out Burgers on the way out of town.
Beaver Believer Believes:
This team has earned my trust this year, I came into the year doubting them, but after the opening week you could feel there was something different about this team.BB12's Keys to the Game:
1. Win on first down. This goes for both offense and defense. The Stanford defense is stout and is one of the best in the nation at stopping the run and at getting tackles for loss. The Beaver offense cannot afford to fall behind on first down and create 3rd and long situations where the Cardinal pass rushers can get after Vaz. If the Beavs can just get small gains (3-4 yards) on first down, it will make it much harder for Stanford to pin their ears back and get after Vaz. The strength of the Stanford offense is the run, so the Beavs need to create situations where the Cardinal are forced to throw with their new quarterback Kevin Hogan. He had a good game against Colorado, but the Buffalo defense is nothing like the Beaver D.
2. Win the field position battle. This might become a defensive struggle as both teams are excellent on defense, so the Beavs will need another monster day out of Keith Kostol. He has played very well all year, but we need him more than ever for this game. If he can help create some short fields then it will really help the Beavs scoring chances. Coverage and returns will also be big, if the Beavs can earn yards that are not against the defense of Stanford it will definitely help the Beavs produce more points.
3. Don't make mistakes. The Beavs have lost one game this year and that was purely because of turnovers. This team has been so successful because they have played disciplined all year. We rarely turn the ball over, there is mostly sound tackling, and the defense has been more disciplined in gap control. This has been the hallmark of the Beavers for this year, barring the 1st quarter of last week's game and the UW debacle. Against a team of Stanford's quality, mistakes cannot be made.
I think the Beavs pull out a close hard-fought match, 24-21 Beavs.
The Beavs have managed to reach this game with BCS bowl hopes still alive. But this week could easily be the one where everything comes crashing down. Despite QB issues, the Cardinal have quietly pieced their season back together after an early loss to Washington.
Stanford has had two weeks to prepare for the Beavers, because playing Colorado is basically a bye. Taking that into consideration, I think the Beavers lose this one. Arizona State got to Cody Vaz with ease throughout last game, and Stanford will do the same.
The Beavers will win this game if and only if Brandin Cooks has at least 7 touches headed into halftime. And I don't want Mike Riley to be forced into another first-quarter fly sweep. That's a sign that the offense isn't doing their job well enough. Something to look out for, and maybe even expect, is a trick play. I can't remember a single play run from the Wild Beaver this year, and who's to say that one of those WR screens OSU runs so often isn't a double pass? If the Beavers need a score, and some momentum, Mike Riley will reach deeper into his playbook.
This will be a treacherous, close one, that I hope to see OSU emerge victorious from, but I don't expect them to do so.
Here we are, at the end of what I had defined as the most important stage of the Beavs 2012 season, and we are now faced with one of the most important games. I feel that in many ways this game against Stanford is taking shape as possibly the most important game of this season, even possibly a bit more important than the upcoming Civil War game (and this is coming from a true bleeds orange and black State of Oregon fan!).
What to look for in this game? I have to be a bit honest and I have not really paid as much attention to Stanford this year as other teams. I don't know why, it just kind-of panned out that way I guess, as I haven't been trying to ignore them like say the Ducks! I did see a bit of their game against Washington, and was not impresse, but do know they beat USC (which honestly I am not sure is that big of a deal this season, with SC's defense), and played Notre Dame tough (but so did Pitt), so I just don't know what to expect from the Cardinal.
What I assume is that it will be a tough road game, against a ranked team with a strong recent history of winning, but I do feel confident if the Beavs continue to do the following, and also make some improvements to these areas, then OSU can come out of this weekend 8 and 1:
1. Vaz is again starting, and really this is a no-brainer at this point in the season. I'm wondering if it is Vaz's team to finish out with. Those larger questions aside, I would like to see a bit more out of him in terms of yards, and let's get Wheaton and Cooks more short to medium touches in stride. That said, I really think even with a similar performance from Vaz as we saw against ASU, the offense will be very productive and have the team in a nice spot to win this game.
2. The running game needs to continue with its solid play, and I did like the bigger plays out of Terron Ward last game. Overall, I like the Beavs chances to improve vastly over the 33 rushing yards against Stanford a year ago. I would hope the offensive line and running backs actually take that number from last year personally, and make a point of controlling the run game.
3. After a slow start, the defense looked good putting pressure on the ASU QB last week, and I think if they can do the same thing against Stanford's QB(s), I think this game could be an easier win than maybe we expect going in. But even if Stanford is able to find their rhythm at certain points, I really want to see the type of adjustments we saw against ASU. I kind-of have the feeling the OSU defense will make the difference in the game overall, either by working with an OSU offense that is confident and scoring some decent points to give us a nice margin of victory, or as the linchpin in a defensive struggle type of game where the Beavs come slightly out on top.
As a good amount of the games this season have gone this more likely than not will be a battle, and a game that won't come easy for the Beavs. But I also have a feeling this OSU team is ready to find its next upper level of play, and give us an impressive, well-rounded performance that could well be the defining game of the 2012 season.