Our friend Avinash Kunnath from down at Pacific Takes stopped by to get our take on our neighbors to the north, both of whom are squarely on Oregon St.'s radar.
AV: How worried are you about the ceiling of Oregon State now that it seems Washington has emerged as another Pac-12 titan?
Andy: It's been apparent for a couple of years that Washington was coming. Injuries slowed that down last year, but they have a good staff and the ability to recruit. It was only a matter of time. But getting above mid-pack in the Pac has ALWAYS been tough. Oregon St.'s success isn't dependent on Washington not being successful, though; college football continues to evolve as teams everywhere get faster and more innovative. Oregon St.'s success depends entirely on their ability to get faster and more innovative, as well as better prepared.
Rvm: Well as talked about with how I am feeling about the conference as a whole and OSU's placement within it, I do worry of course. But will add not sure I would go so far as say UW is another "titan" of the Pac. They played Stanford tough, especially impressive was when it looked like Stanford had that game in control the Huskies were able to turn the tide, and put the Cardinal on their heels for the end of that game. But that said, until they can put the fear of the Cardinal into the Ducks I would not say they are a "titan" yet. Though UW has a chance to do just that this weekend.
For OSU though Washington is, and has been a tough and challenging match-up even if the Huskies are not quite to that "titan" level yet, and UW as a program is improving, so yes, they are going to be a key competitor for OSU's own positioning within the conference for sure.
Connor Pelton: I'm not concerned. If anything, it should make us work harder and make this year's game even more exciting. Off the field, recruiting should be interesting. If Washington keeps up this high level of play, than our staff is just going to have to work that much harder to out-recruit the Dawgs.
AV: What are the keys to victory for Oregon State on the road in Pullman? How does the Beavers offense score on what's looking like a tough Washington State squad?
: The key to beating the Cougs is to ensure that defense always has multiple threats to defend on every play. That means multiple receivers getting open, so that Brandin Cooks
, who needs to remain the main target for Sean Mannion
, is rarely neutralized. The return of Storm Woods and Tyler Anderson should mean the continued improvement of the running game, and that will also help Mannion.
Keeping plays in front of the secondary, so that the Washington St. offense has to use up a lot of plays on each drive, would help too, because while a lot of things will have to happen for both teams in support, in the end, this game comes down to whether Connor Halliday
or Mannion has the better day in what will be a shoot-out. Don't look for a repeat of last year's 19-6 game.
Rvm: First, the hope is the team overall is a bit more healthy after the bye week. Injuries were starting to mount up there and it will important against a pretty athletic team like WSU that the Beavs have some of their key guys back into the line-up and fairly healthy. Second, pass defense, pass defense, and pass defense. As in the secondary needs to be on its game, the front line needs to put solid and smart pressure on the QB, and the linebackers/center of the defense plays smart and in position to limit scrambling that kills possible defensive momentum.
I could see some possible early game "rust" with the offense with the break, so if this is the case it will be important for the defense to hold strong and not let the score become one where the offense is always in a catch-up position. Third, the offense needs to establish a bit more of the running game with Woods back and of course just continue to have Mannion and company rack up the yards and TDs in the passing game.
: As it seems to be every week for this team, stopping Connor Halliday through the air is the biggest key. The Cougar defense does not concern me. Until someone proves they can stop Sean Mannion, Brandin Cooks, and Richard Mullaney
, the only Pac-12 defense that scares me is the Cardinal's.
I expect that both offenses will have their ways, but maybe the Beaver D comes out loose and gets some early stops to pull ahead like they did in the first quarter at Utah. Like our last two road games, a play is going to have to be made late to decide it. Whether it's an interception or long, clock-eating touchdown drive, I think the Beavers are the ones to make it.
Av: Taking a look around the conference this past weekend, what did you notice about the rest of the Pac-12? Do you feel more optimistic or pessimistic about the season going forward?
Andy: Washington confirmed that they are good, but are still prone to mistakes (penalties and special teams breakdowns). Stanford is good, and obviously much more valuable to the conference if they are undefeated until they encounter Oregon. It works for WWE and UFC, so I guess it can work for the Pac-12 too.
Washington St. is good enough to be dangerous, and California is still suffering from quarterbacks with "Tedford disease"; being wildly inaccurate.
Arizona St. is also good enough to be dangerous, but once again folded in a "big" game, even when against an opponent that isn't nearly as good.
UCLA is for real, and Utah is close to it, but we won't see that bear fruit probably until next year.
Oregon has too much speed and depth for almost everyone, but nationally still isn't appreciated as much as they deserve to be except by those who have played them, and privately by those who duck them.
Colorado still needs probably 2 more recruiting classes to have the depth to play to the potential of their best players.
Rvm: Totally a glass half full at one time and glass half empty at another with this one! I love the competitive nature of the conference, especially of the North side and think the Beavs can fit in well with especially how their offense has been performing. But at the same time it is a bit daunting looking at how (almost) top to bottom the conference is playing.
Though by defeating someone like Utah at their place and seeing UCLA have some struggles winning thier game at Utah I do feel better about our overall placement within the conference. The the flip side is seeing the improvement of the Washington schools does make me a bit concerned! Going to be an interesting season for the Pac-12 teams (well for most of them)!
Connor Pelton: The Huskies are ready for their close up. Did they win? No (kind of), but competing like that on the road against a top ten team proved to me that they're for real. Overall, I'm optimistic about the season ahead. Washington State will be fun, and we should handle California. I'm most looking forward to the Stanford and USC games back to back. Bowl positioning will be huge in both of those.
Av: When you look at the Beavers, what will be the immediate recruiting needs this offseason? What type of players does Oregon State need to help improve as a team?
Andy: Oregon St. needs defensive linemen, more for 2 years from now than next year, and linebackers. The offense needs to add an offensive lineman or two, though no more than that are likely to see action for a while.
And speed anywhere they can find it. Oregon has proven that it is impossible to have too much speed. Lots of other people are playing catchup in this area, which means more competition for the available speed too.
Rvm: Well it always seems like offensive line is an issue here, and there always is the need for establishing any type of depth with line to counter issues like this season with the injuries. I would also say that the linebacker position needs some depth and shoring up too, for again with injuries it has seemed a little thin there, but also hoping here that game experience will help the younger guys coming back next year.
Lastly, I would love to see a true Jackson or Rodgers type of star in the making RB, if we could field someone even close to that level back there with Mannion the offense would be scary three-dimensional. From there I think of course all positions would be great to get some other stars, but do feel good that some of the key skill positions (QB, WR, TE, PK, and P) look strong next year, especially if Cooks returns.
Connor Pelton: Definitely shoring up the offensive line. There's just so many problems there, namely in run blocking. That has to get fixed by 2014.