Oregon State starts the second half of the season tonight against Colorado, in a game that's both ceremonially and literally Homecoming, not having played a game at Reser yet this month. 29 days ago was the last home game, and it started a tough stretch, that saw a couple of lopsided losses on the road.
Fortunately for the Beavers, they get a visit from a Colorado team that's also saw a strong start to their season go sideways once Pac-12 play started. The Buffs are arguably the most beatable opponent on the second half of the schedule.
It's an opportunity for both teams to turn things around, and take some momentum into the meat of the schedule. Or to find themselves really up against it going forth. Which one will take which route is the intriguing question of the night.
The Beavers' season has taken the down turn that realistically everyone should have known was a possibility, coaches and players included. As a result, we have a self-inflicted quarterback controversy brewing, and a consultant on campus in Gary Crowton. Both could prove productive, or they could prove to be symptoms of even more serious issues. I honestly don't know which, but admit to being very interested to see which eventuates. What we see tonight could have consequences that reach weeks ahead.
The best thing that could happen would be for a lot of players to play their best game of the season, but not try to single-handedly try to win the game. There are no 10 point plays in football.
Seth Collins more than anyone needs to play well, and that means complete 60% of his throws at a minimum, and with 5 or more completions to Jordan Villamin, and nearly as many to Victor Bolden, and yet still complete more than 2 balls to Hunter Jarmon. That will make it possible for him to run a couple of times a quarter, but also unnecessary for him to run 23 times.
We have also already seen another of the Pac-12's freshman quarterbacks lead his team back from a bad stretch to a big win this week, out-playing his more highly touted more senior opponent in the process, when Josh Rosen led UCLA past potential NFL first rounder Jared Goff, and 20th ranked California. Collins could do with a similar performance, and Colorado and Sefo Liufau shouldn't be the challenge for the Beavers that the Bears should have been for the Bruins.
The offensive line also needs to come up with production to match the relatively good grades they have had, especially on rush downs, so that Storm Woods can get off to a good start.
If these things happen, the defense won't be exposed as much, and we have seen how much better they are when not over-extended. It could make a shuffled secondary look like a brilliant adjustment, something it could certainly use.
If very many of these things don't happen, Colorado coach Mike MacIntyre might get a contract extension instead of getting fired.
Like I said, I've no clue at this point how this, and these players, will play out. But one way or another, it bears watching closely.
Beaver Believer Believes The Keys To A Better Beaver Experience To Be:
No three points required for this game. Oregon State has to execute the basics, and if they do, they will stay in the game. This means no more missed tackles, no missed assignments, no more poor angles. With the current roster, they are not going to be able to have lapses in execution and still come away with a win without playing their best football, no matter the opponent. No Pac-12 opponent is beneath the Beavers at this point and if they play like they did last week it might end up a stampede in Reser.
One matchup to watch will be in the trenches, where the Beavers have been poor so far, and had one of their worst weeks applying pressure against the Cougars. Sefo Liufau has an extremely long release, and it makes it tough for him to quickly dump the ball; it requires him to escape using his legs. The Beavers will need to attack the pocket while maintaining contain. If they can get that done, it will severely limit the Buff's passing attack, but if they continue to get the same level of pressure they have all season, it will not be enough.
This is about as even a matchup that the Beavers have left, and with the return home, they need to come out with their hair on fire. Especially on defense, where they need to swarm to the ball, and make the tackle on first contact. If they can play strong on defense, the offense will go for 20 or 23, as they often do. There will be a couple big plays (likely one to Villamin), and the running attack will probably pick up in the second half. With the backing of the home crowd, I think it will give the defense the push they need to get the job done. 23-20 Beavers.
There was a game last week I know, but let's cut to the chase and think forward and not worry about the past, keys to Oregon State beating Colorado:
Use the energy and comfort of being home = The Beavs should be able to feed off of Beaver Nation's energy in this one. The OSU student body should be amped up and ready to get loud after a fairly long break from home football this fall term. As such it will be essential for the team to come out with fire and play and with a solid and controlled potential. This will keep the crowd into the game, and as such the crowd can then help keep the players in it.
Passing offense = Needs to find some identity. The rumor is we may see a bit of a two QB attack with Seth Collins and Nick Mitchell both getting game snaps. In the end this could well be a spark, and could keep Colorado off-balance, but for me though the passing offense just needs to find more consistency. It is just basically that simple, no gimmicks really needed. Whether or not the consistency comes from Collins or Mitchell (or both) it does not really matter, the passing attack needs to open up things for the offense as a whole.
Rushing offense = Sorry, I know we all love seeing him scamper all over the field and he makes for some great highlights, but the rushing attack cannot be led by Collins only. Collins runs for 125 yards and it looks great in the stat lines, until you look at the score and what the other running backs have done. Again I believe the OSU offense needs to lead more with the passing attack, and then hopefully this opens things up for the run game. But again this run game cannot just be Colliins scrambling because he can't figure out who is open or is too jumpy in the pocket.
The dynamic rushing QB is a great weapon, don't get me wrong, but this OSU team needs to find stability first on offense, then let the uptempo and dynamic running QB be the icing on the cake. This may seem a bit old-school traditional, but so far the more "wide open" dual-threat QB deal is not working, and I again argue it is hampering other facets of the game. We need to stop asking where is Storm Barrs-Woods, where is Chris Brown?
Defense = To state the complete obvious: Oregon State's defense needs to make strides forward in this game. I think there is an opportunity for the secondary to show new leadership with having to possibly shift around, and step up their games after Larry Scott's injury. As Andy noted in his story about the secondary, this most likely is going to mean Cyril Noland-Lewis and Devin Chappell needing to step up their games.
Overall, Colorado's offense is not a blistering one (they currently are 9th in the Pac-12) like say WSU is in passing offense or Arizona is in rushing, but they surprisingly do have a bit more of a balanced attack, so the Oregon State defense needs to be active and ready to shut down both the passing and rushing attack. It will be a test (for going with the stats the Buffs maybe 9th on offense, but the Beavs are 11th in the conference on defense), but I do still believe it is not a mountain to climb for this Beavs defense to shut down the Colorado offense. And in the end to keep the OSU offense fresh and the home crowd energized the defense needs to 1) keep the score down, and 2) limit Colorado answers to Oregon State scoring.
In the end just win this game = I think we fans could live with a competitive football game, even if the Beavs lose, for this would be a huge improvement over what has transpired so far in conference play. But at the same time, I will be honest and I believe this team needs to settle for more This is only really one of two truly winnable games for this team left--in my opinion. I think maybe with how Washington's offense is playing that OSU can hang in that game too, but this Colorado game is still the best opportunity to improve and win a game.
This is not a given, and though the Beavs are favored in the points spread, the reality is that the feeling is Colorado should be favored. This is not an unfounded view, for I would not be shocked to see Colorado get their first Pac-12 win out of this game. But also I do not see really how Colorado is materially better than San Jose State. So has Oregon State football fallen that far backwards they cannot beat a team of this level, or can they still muster a game like they did against the Spartans back in September? We will find out Saturday night.