There are some knowns, and unfortunately, more than necessary unknowns about who will be on the field Friday night when Oregon State hosts Stanford at 7 PM in the Beavers' Pac-12 opener.
We know Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan has a high ankle sprain, and we understand Coach David Shaw not being able, never mind willing, to make a call on who will quarterback the Cardinal until he sees what Hogan looks like in warmups. And we know Oregon State Coach Gary Andersen fully expects Hogan to play, and is preparing accordingly.
We also know Stanford's 5th year senior LB Kevin Anderson will miss his first game ever, a development that came to light after Stanford published their depth chart for this week's game.
We don't know for sure who will fill in for either Hogan or Anderson.
If Hogan can't go, or can't finish, Shaw and others have said it will be a combination of Ryan Burns and Keller Chryst, and the Stanford depth chart sort of supports that, showing the famous "OR" between them. If its right off the bat that Hogan is ruled out, expect the very slightly more experienced totally inexperienced Burns first, with the totally totally inexperienced Chryst to also get some series, a scenario Oregon State fans are familiar with, and happy to have behind them, pending of course an injury to their starter, Seth Collins. If its well into the game, all bets are off as to how Shaw will deal with it.
In any event, expect Shaw to try to deal with his quarterback situation by having whomever is out there hand the ball to Christian McCaffrey. Despite Hogan's passing breakout against USC, and the relative inexperience of the Oregon State secondary that nevertheless has been with the exception of a couple of blown plays, a shutdown unit, albeit against opponents with little passing threat, this feels like it could be a repeat of the Stepfan Taylor stomping that unfolded 4 years ago, where an elite Cardinal back just took over the game.
We know less about who will replace Anderson. The depth chart shows junior Mike Tyler, but the local radio talk is that is could be native Oregonian Joey Alfieri, one of four Oregonians on the Stanford roster, could get the call. Odds are both will see the field at some point.
Oregon State has its own certainties and uncertainties.
DE Jalen Grimble and NG Ali'i Robins have already been ruled out, both still recovering from issues that the Oregon State coaching staff have been vague about.
TE Caleb Smith, who was a game-day scratch last week against San Jose State, and RB Chris Brown, who started against the Spartans, but sustained a contusion of some significance, are big unknowns that Oregon State hasn't come close to clarifying.
Storm Barrs-Woods, who had arguably the best game of his career in relief of Brown last week, will get the start, and likely would have anyway, but if Woods needs a break, whether it will be Brown, Deltron Sands, or even Ryan Nall, or Damien Haskins, who seems to be in the running back dog house for unexplained reasons, is anyone's guess.
Without specifically saying so, the staff has led people to conclude that Brown will be out as a result of the contusion he suffered against San Jose State.
Smith's condition and potential continued absence is a bigger issue, as the TE position has been one in unexpected turmoil all season for Oregon State, after Smith played ill in the opener, and the Beavers haven't found the kind of consistency at the position they have had in most recent years, and had counted on continuing.
Robins' continued absence makes the fact that Kalani Vakameilalo, who has backed up Kyle Peko better than could be expected, is nicked up, and deemed "questionable" for Friday night, is a bigger concern that it might otherwise have been, especially with Defensive Coordinator Kalani Sitake planning to use more 4-man front against the physical Stanford o-line and tight ends, which might be a bigger challenge even that Michigan was. Especially with Grimble out.
Expect to see a lot of Jaswha James in the 4 man front, but don't be surprised at who you see besides Rommel Mageo and Caleb Saulo in the linebacking corp.
David Henry was listed on the 2-deep last week, but didn't play, and Bright Ugwoegbu also didn't even play in a game he was listed as a starter in.
Given that the defense, which has overall performed well, but has struggled to register sacks, will have to play tighter in the back 7 because it's no longer a back 8, and will have to change their blitz tendencies, how well the cast of characters up front can pull it together could be the difference between threatening Stanford and the Beavers getting trampled tomorrow night.
And on the offensive side, its likely that we will again see Drew Clarkson, who wasn't even on last week's depth chart, yet played most of the game at left guard, in place of Fred Lauina, who did play, and (apparently) is fully healthy (again, the lack of clarity on roster matters from the otherwise frank talking coaching staff leaves one wondering).
All of this uncertainty was compounded when Oregon State took another step backwards when they didn't even release a depth chart for this week. When asked a direct question about that, there wasn't any response.
It's a disturbing trend that started with Andersen's collision with a questioning media after things went sour in Ann Arbor.
Everyone understands these are fluid situations, but a lack of transparency before and after games isn't helping, especially with the substantially closed practices.
No one wants micromanagement, and even less so the situation devolving into Monday morning quarterbacking, but that's exactly what we are left with when faced with a lack of information.
And with attendance at the first two home games at recent historic record lows, despite the fact that clamoring for a new coaching staff, system, and athletic administration were met, its also somewhat understandable that the focus has been preoccupied with endless wild promotion instead of actual accountable and actionable information.
One had hoped that one of the lessons Oregon State would have learned from the decline and end of the Mike Riley and Bob DeCarolis eras, ones that certainly had a lot of successes, but were also ultimately both brought down by a series of serious miscues that weren't adequately addressed that forced the program's investors to insist on change.
A lack of transparency, and a lack of participatory review and correction, won't fly with those who have a lot invested in the program, because no matter how great the people in charge are, some things are going to not go well at some point.
It inescapably leads to the all-in or all-out extremes that preclude cooperatively moving everything forward. Why so many coaches and ADs in this day and age seem to choose this route to their own demise is mystifying; they can't ALL be as delusional as Mike Leach and Steve Patterson. Can they?
It doesn't seem like things as simple as a depth chart, and if coaches are uncomfortable talking about the nature and extent of injuries, then a simple injury report in print, which the training staff could author, would suddenly be so difficult to do, and they certainly would go a long ways toward establishing credibility (assuming they aren't clearly fictitious).
It certainly will make things even more interesting to watch though. Unless it further drives away more of those already frustrated with the situation.