Oregon St. makes their first visit to renovated Memorial Stadium tonight, to take on California, one of their favorite victims in recent seasons. Exclusive of the side trip across the San Francisco Bay 2 years ago, while Memorial was being made earthquake proof, or as much so as any building built SQUARELY ON TOP OF the largest fault in the world can be, the Bears have been anything but Golden against the Beavers, losing the other 5 of the last 6 meetings, and 11 of the last 14. Indeed, Cal has beaten Oregon St. 4 times at Reser since they last won a true home game against them, back in 1996.
There's interesting symmetry to the matchup this year; Oregon St. is 5-1, and 3-0 in the Pac-12, while California is 1-5, and 0-3. The Beavers only loss was to an FCS Big Sky opponent they probably should have beat. The Bears only win was over an FCS Big Sky opponent they probably should have lost to.
The only team that will be able to beat the Beavers Saturday will be themselves. That's normally not something you want to write, and have wind up on the locker room bulletin board, but in this case, its true.
Jared Goff is obviously capable of producing prolific passing numbers, but he's inaccurate, under-experienced, and over-matched, compared to Sean Mannion. If the Oregon St. defense doesn't self destruct, he won't win a shootout with Sean.
Fortunately, the Beaver secondary has shown some signs of progress beyond just a conference leading rate of intercepting passes. And against a qb whose off target to the point of incompletions 40% of the time, that interception highlight video will likely need updated.
California doesn't have another area where they can count on beating the Beavers in either; their defense is worse, and it appears they are well on their way to abandoning the running game.
Still, the proven best way to lose in the Pac-12 is to assume you will win, and Oregon St. does need to take control of the game and keep it once they get it. Getting bowl eligible should be sufficient motivation to do that, and create another stadium with few fans beside Beaver Nation in it by 11 PM.
Beaver Believer's Keys To The Game:
1. Create turnovers. Jared Goff has been good for the Golden Bears, minus his minor meltdown in Eugene. He is still young though, and the Beavers need to take advantage of his youth and try to shake his confidence. The secondary has been gobbling up picks lately and that trend needs to continue, with a freshman at the helm there should be decent opportunities for interceptions. That said, in the limited times I've gotten to see Goff he has actually looked pretty decent, but I imagine that he will be less confident as this season has started going down the toilet for the Golden Bears.
2. Create a pass rush. Goff has been sacked 20 times so far this season. That is easily the highest sack total for the Pac-12, with the second closest being 12 or so. The Beavs need to keep the pressure up, the sacks are there to be had. And with Scott Crichton prowling on defense, the opportunity should be there to get after the quarterback.
3. Keep the motor running. When the Beaver offense gets going it has been a destructive force, averaging 48 points against Pac-12 opponents. Now the defense has been a bit of a sieve, but the offense has stepped in the stead of them so far. Cal gives up 43.7 points per game and their lowest total was against FCS foe Portland State who still put up 30 points in Berkeley. They also give up 196.2 rushing yards per game. The Beavs should get it done in all facets of the game, and if the run game does not show up against Cal then who knows if we'll ever see it.
OSU is currently trending up and there is little reason to question them against a Cal team that might struggle for a second win this season.The Beavs should blow away the Bears 44-17.
This is the truest "trap" game on the Beavers' schedule. All the factors are there. (1) Playing an inferior team (2) in their house (3) the week before a bigger, headline game (4) after an important road win. That combined with the potentially explosive Cal offense could lead this to be a close one.
But for that to happen the Beavs would need to falter in a way we haven't seen. Cal's defense is weak and the Beavers offense is not. Much like against WSU, Oregon State might have to wait it out and roll with the punches for some of the game before Cal begins to make mistakes. Jared Goff is good, but he's young, and with DB's like Rashaad Reynolds and Steven Nelson, the Beavs can certainly make some plays against him.
I'm running out of reasons to think the running game will improve, but I still desperately want it to, so I guess I'll go with Terron Ward's from the Bay Area, so maybe he'll have some extra motivation and dominate? Luckily the offense doesn't struggle without it.
I think us fans are looking past this Cal game, as we should, but it could be ugly if the team is doing the same. The Beavs have the talent advantage to come away with a 2 or 3 score victory, but they have to come to play. I expect them to, but it could take some time before Oregon State gets that separation.
Time again to stay up late and watch some OSU football! Last season I felt really confident about the Beavs chances against Cal, so much so I came across a little brash. Vindication was nice though, but in many ways short lived for the Beavs were not able to build on that win to finish the season stronger. This season I am feeling pretty good about this matchup again, but I am also not feeling quite as good. I think this season the Bears have a bit more to offer and we have some areas that are weaker. For what might seem like a tune-up game, this game still is a very important one, and one not to overlook. As such here are what I will be looking for in terms of questions:
Quiet before the storm? And no, I am not talking about Storm Woods having his 150 yard breakout game, but would not mind that at all! What I am getting at here is along the lines of is this a tune-up game before the second, and more difficult part of the season begins? Or what feels like a tune-up game be more of a struggle along the lines of the Beavs last trip to the State of California against San Diego State?
Offense showcase time for Oregon State? Pretty simple questions here, and first and foremost can the Beavs continue their passing offense fireworks and maybe get Mannion even a little more national press? Can the Beavs get any type of rushing game established?
Defense continuing to build? Cal has some potential overall on offense, and seem a threat to score some points against the Beavs, but at the same time not sure they have much more than WSU had and the defense played a pretty good game against the Cougs. That said it still was not a true Oregon State defensive shutdown performance last week and there were areas to exploit for sure. Will the defense continue to improve? Will it have tightened up some of those coverages we saw last week that looked wide open to exploit? Will the pass rush finally make more of a true statement?
Cal? Cal is not a great team this season, but they are team that is showing some signs of progress, especially over last season. Is this because of the change up in coaching and giving some new looks? Is it something more that might translate to giving the OSU team a bit of a fight for four quarters? Or are we looking at a bit of ‘In Sean We Trust’ and let’s not worry? Tough call. My gut says the last and says to stay brash in my thoughts about our chances Saturday night, but still this is a season that may have worked out a bit predicted record wise, but has not got there quite as expected.
In the end I know one thing and I will be writing up a game summary late Saturday night! From there I think what has me more confident overall in this game is not Cal’s record or even Mannion’s incredible season numbers so far, but just the way that WSU game played out for OSU. That was a very good win and one has the sense that this team is taking things seriously enough to build on that win to make sure they play smart.
My guess is that Cal’s players will be stinging from last year’s smack down and will want to get into it with the Beavs. As such OSU has to make sure they play smart and play their game. As I mentioned elsewhere, OSU needs to let Mannion’s standard spectacular game numbers and the defense forcing multiple turnovers to be their smack talk. It is important for the team to stay focused and on task, not only for this game but as they move forward into the final stretch of the season.