clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Breaking Down How To Upset Stanford

Oregon St. makes another visit to Stanford Saturday, hoping to end a losing streak.
Oregon St. makes another visit to Stanford Saturday, hoping to end a losing streak.
(Photo by Andy Wooldridge)

Oregon St. makes their next to last road trip this weekend, to be the Homecoming guests down on the Farm for Stanford. Normally, being scheduled to be the visitor for Homecoming means the local figure they can get a win with the greatest number of alums watching, and therefore get the greatest amount of money out of them.

Oregon St. fits the bill for Stanford, having lost their last 4, and 5 of the last 6, meetings with the Cardinal, and all 3 of their games in Palo Alto during that stretch. Even given that Stanford is not ranked in the top 25 for the first time after an unprecedented run of 72 consecutive polls, dating back 5 years, to 2009.

It's not like it should be that way; after all, the Beavers, but for their own unforced errors, should be at least 4-2 against the Cardinal during the greatest stretch in their history, dating back to when Leland F. Stanford was running his Farm.

Nor is it because of the overwhelming home field advantage, and massive traveling nation of fans; there are local high school teams that are more daunting to deal with then Leland Jr.'s group. And they have better bands as well.

Yet the Stanford affect has been as effective on Oregon St. as anyone. A good defense and a bunch of red and white road graders wearing offensive linemen numbers does help, and so did a QB and a couple of RBs that are and were elite.

But Stanford also broke in a rookie making his first start against one of Oregon St.'s best teams ever, and won.

It's why despite being the team with the greater number of losses, the Cardinal are still the favorites by a considerable margin.

This time around, its likely to be a low scoring affair, with the 2 offenses that are the lowest scoring offenses in the Pac-12 matched up against the 2 defenses that have allowed the fewest yards of anyone in the conference, and are ranked 1 & 2 in the Pac-12 in total defense.

Which makes the spread of over 14 points seem as unlikely as a Washington win against Oregon.

But while Oregon St.'s offense has sputtered of late, in part due to long term injuries to WR Richard Mullaney just as WR Victor Bolden is getting healthy again, and o-lineman Gavin Andrews, this figures to be one of the best chances for the Beavers to get a win against the Cardinal, given that Stanford's offense has been considerably worse, especially since leaving the likes of UC-Davis and Army behind.

How can they do that?

Andy's Analysis:

Don't make unforced mistakes. 2 plays, unforced fumbles, directly produced 2 of those 5 losses, and cost a double digit win season and a Rose Bowl trip. Losses to Stanford are always among the most damaging and frustrating, because more often than not, Stanford won by gladly accepting a gift, and then converting it into the win.

Throw in Coach Riley throwing away last year's game by not taking available points on multiple ooasions, and you have a 16% win pct. against the team in the conference Oregon St. matches up with the best.

Speaking of throwing, that will be the key to this game. Can Sean Mannion throw enough completions to his band of inexperienced wide receivers?

Storm Woods is expected to play, and maybe even start, and Terron Ward will play too, but no one runs for all that much against Stanford. And I expect Woods to still suffer some ill effects from his twisted knee.

With Mullaney out, Victor Bolden, making his 5th start, is the "veteran" of the group, over 2nd time starter Jordan Villamin, Rahmel Docery, who has also already missed time with injuries, and Hunter Jarmon. All have showed flashes of game changing brilliance already, but all have also showed they are still learning how to even give Sean a target to throw at against FBS DBs.

Given that there will be fewer possessions in which to do so with the way Stanford plays than almost any other opponent, the criticality of getting open at the right time, or any time there's a chance to do so, is magnified even more. (Not having Mannion be sacked 8 times, like happened last year, would help too.)

If this band that could be spectacular in a year or two if they are provided with an actual quarterback to replace Mannion can all have "grow up moments" at Stanford's expense, then Mannion can break out of his "slump", and the Beavers, with this defense, can ride his arm to the endzone, a victory, and the nearest "N-and-Out" Burger restaurant.

Beaver Believer Believes The Keys to the Game Are:

1. Convert red zone chances into touchdowns. The Beavers need to be able to finish drives. The running game stalls, and with a compressed field the passing game always gets shut down as well. Against an exceptionally stout Stanford defense the Beavers are going to have to win at the line. If Mannion is given time it should open up some of those jump balls for Villamin to try and win again. Villamin could be an upgrade in the red zone, with Caleb Smith and Connor Hamlett as well there are several large targets that Mannion can get the ball to.

2. Engage the passing game early. Stanford has an exceptional run defense, which ranks 12th in the country, but the total defense is 2nd overall. The Beavers need to keep an even split. Last week Riley was ultra conservative, which may have been the right choice with how Utah was getting after the passer. The playbook needs to open up this weekend, the offense cannot get stale and unpredictable as the Cardinal are fantastic on defense, with a maximum points allowed of 17 to WSU this season. The Beavers need to keep the defense on their toes, or it is going to be a massively one-sided game.

3. Stop the run. Kevin Hogan is not a good quarterback. He has struggled this year, and without a superb run game to go along with him, he has not had the accuracy to take advantage of stacked fronts. The Beaver secondary has been pretty good so far this year, and although a match up with the mostly bigger Stanford receivers is not great for OSU but if they can force Hogan into making some of the bad throws he generally makes a game the Beavers can create some short fields for the offense to convert.

Stanford's offense is a glaring weakness, in their three losses they have only averaged 11.3 points per game. The OSU defense is solid, but expect a similar performance to last week, when they held strong for most of the game only to get worn down at the end. It will be fairly close but Stanford prevails 20-13.

Robert's Thoughts:

Two teams with two excellent defenses, and two teams with two struggling offenses. Two teams playing below expectations. Not sure there is a lot to say beyond this, and that this game is going to come down to which team's offense shows up enough, (just enough?) to score more than the their own team's defense allows!

I don't honestly know if I have any Earth-shattering new specifics, but here are what I see are the keys to the game:

Oregon State Offense = Broken record time! Plain and simple the offensive line needs to protect Mannion and help establish a run game enough to keep the Cardinal defense honest. This will most likely be a battle of the defenses, but the Oregon State offense can help keep their defense fresh and wear down the Stanford defense to edge the game to our D's advantage. Mannion needs to find his spark and rhythm much earlier in the game. He got going at the end of the game against Utah. And sure I think the scoring will be low in this one, and that means either team should have a chance at the end, but let's not wait this time to end and let's see that offensive potential hit a stride early and often.

Oregon State Defense = Needs to play their game. Again plain and simple. Stanford's offense will be tasked to do what I have tasked the OSU one, with maybe a bit more of the run game focus, so it is up to the OSU defense to play like they have been playing so far this season. They need to go in with the idea they are going to be out-shined in the media by Stanford's defense and as such have that fire to show that the Beavs are just as good, if not better on defense.

Turnovers and Special Teams = Okay, so this is why I do not earn the big bucks like other sports writers because this is a pretty no-brainer observation, but in what looks to be a VERY tight defensive game the mistakes need to be limited and need to be forced. That means Oregon State needs to limit their turnovers, and they need to force Stanford to turn the ball over. Additionally, the Beavs need to win the battle of field position. Controlling the ball and the starting position on the field I believe will go a long way to a 'W' in this game. Oh and YES penalties will also be key, so smart football is going to be needed (see more about my thoughts on the mental game in my concluding area below).

Stanford vs. Oregon State = This has been a series over the years that has matched up well for Oregon State, and even for the most part against Coach Shaw (with some exceptions). It is a game that both teams need desperately to win and find an offensive spark. If I put on my Orange-and-Black tinted glasses I would say that the Oregon State offense seems to have a better chance to break things open, but in reality I do not know where this Beavers' team mentality is at. It is a road game, and that will play into it a bit, but I don't think as much as going somewhere like LA or Seattle seems to play into for Oregon State. This is a very good opportunity for Oregon State.

Conclusion and Oregon State Coaching Staff = Here we are again with yet another huge game with a lot of potential to turn the corner. I do think Oregon State has a little wiggle room left this season to not fully turn the corner in this game and still make a very good season out of it, but again why wait? The wiggle room is getting tighter and tighter now, let's not hedge out bets Beavs and take care of business now with this opportunity. This still is a big game for the potential it has for this team to find their spark, and yes even against a struggling Stanford team it has the potential for a statement game. The players in the end will play the game on the field, but the coaching staff needs to fire this team up and keep the play fiery and sound from the sidelines. In the end I just have to ask: What are your guys going to bring Coach Riley?

Go Beavs!