The Beavers won't have to deal with Stanford in a season opener like they did last season, but the Beavers will need to make a statement Saturday at Reser Stadium to validate their victory last week in the desert, and make a push towards bowl eligibility and beyond.
In order to do that, they'll need to find a way to stop Stanford's prolific running back, Toby Gerhart, who has been dismantling defenses so far with his speed, power, and quickness. He's a unique back in the fact that he can run over --or away from-- opponent defenses.
Stanford is 4-1 on the season, and they sit atop the Pac-10 standings at 3-0 under head coach Jim Harbaugh. It's the first time Stanford has gone 3-0 in the Pac-10 since 1999 when the Cardinal made a trip to the Rose Bowl-- it's also Stanford's best overall start since 2001.
It's no secret that the Cardinal are getting it done on the ground this year behind the legs of the Pac-10's leading rusher, Toby Gerhart. He added 134 yards on a career-high 29 carries last Saturday at UCLA, bumping his season average to 130 yards per game.
UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel felt they had the sheme in place to stop Stanford's attack, but couldn't execute:
"In some of the run fits when they were running power, there are particular gaps that you have to be in," Neuheisel said. "We worked on it all week. And then some of the time we weren't where we were supposed to be. When we were, it worked very, very well. When we were not there, we were vulnerable. Stanford, being as talented as they are, made us pay for it."
You can imagine that Oregon State defensive coordinator Mark Banker is staying up late this week, formulating a plan to stop the Pac-10's top rusher and Stanford's smash-mouth attack. Gerhart gave the Beavers fits last year, when he rushed for 147 yards and dealt the Beavers one of what would eventually become just two Pac-10 conference losses.
Oregon State head coach Mike Riley has repeatedly told the media that he is a big fan of Harbaugh, who he coached as a Charger.
"You could see it building (at Stanford) over the last few years,'' said Riley. He's changed the whole identity of that program.''
It seems like just yesterday when the Beavers handled Stanford easily week-in and week-out. In fact, the Beavers have won six of the last eight meetings, counting the loss last season.
The Beavers found a way to win last Saturday in Tempe, and that was by taking advantage of opportunities and controlling the flow of the game. More of that would likely go a long way to giving the Beavers a shot against the Cardinal.