After a 6-1 start that was generally considered the minimum acceptable scenario going into the season, Oregon St. starts the stretch run this weekend, after breaking into the BCS top 25, if not the Coaches' or AP Polls.
The Beavers will face their 5 toughest opponents of the season coming in their last 5 games. Fortunately, 3 of the next 4 are in Reser, beginning with Homecoming against #8 (#6 in the BCS) Stanford, after playing 4 of the last 5 out on the road, and only 1 home contest in 6 weeks.
Coming out of the California contest, there are a few chinks in the armor, though not as many as there might have been.
WR Brandin Cooks, who continues to lead the country in receiving yards, catches, and touchdowns, got the day mostly off from practice today, with a head ache and some other sore spots, the product of a diving attempt at a long catch that resulted in falling on the ball. Cooks took some passes in individual drills, but didn't do any contact work. He is expected to be full speed come Saturday against the Cardinal, though.
Things aren't as bad as initially feared for WR/KR Victor Bolden either. Bolden wound up with an iced ankle in a boot, and a pair of crutches Saturday night, but x-rays were negative, and he was walking yesterday. Bolden was at practice today, but not practicing. His status for this weekend probably won't be decided until at least mid-week.
The same can be said for defensive lineman John Braun, TE Connor Hamlett, TE Tyler Perry, and FB Tyler Anderson.
Braun bruised a shoulder Saturday night.
Hamlett had his knee cleaned out last week and missed the California game, and whether he's ready to play this week, or against USC, probably won't be decided until at least Wednesday. Perry did play, and likely will this week too, but the size of his role also won't be decided for a few days.
Oregon St. head coach Mike Riley also indicated he won't know until Wednesday about whether Braun will be able to play either.
Anderson is also "uncertain", with a sternum injury that Riley has expressed concern about.
The depth chart due out tomorrow may contain several "OR"s that probably won't be answered until probably game night. Fortunately, the offensive line isn't involved in that uncertainty though, coming out of Berkeley in the best shape of any game all season. A great thing as Sean Mannion, who is again a candidate for the Manning Award Player of the Week, prepares to take another step towards Heisman Trophy consideration.