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Week 8 Matchups to Watch: Beavers Travel to the Desert

NCAA Football: San Diego State at Oregon State Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Beaver football is back! A well placed bye week has allowed Oregon State to get some rest and prepare a back half of the season that finishes with two top 10 matchups against Washington and Oregon. Before they get there OSU must head to the desert and take on a 4-3 Arizona team that is better than their record indicates.

The Wildcats are coming off their own bye after playing a brutal stretch of three games that saw them lose to #7 Washington by a touchdown, then go on the road to #9 USC (lost by 2), and finishing by running #19 Washington State of the building to the tune of 44-6. Arizona has crossed the 40 point threshold in both of their last two games, and scored more than 30 in last 3.

The only mutual opponent between these two teams is Washington State, and the difference in results is stark. How much we can glean from that given the difference in styles between OSU and WSU will be seen on Saturday night in Tuscon.

Beavers on Offense

Arizona’s defense is solid, but it is no Utah or UCLA. The run defense is particularly strong and has shut down the ground game against Washington State (1.6 yards per carry). This is another situation where the Beavers offensive line will be a strength; if OSU can maintain their advantage and get short yardage on 2nd and 3rd down the offense should continue to roll.

The Wildcats have had field position issues, opponents average start is the 30 yard line. This results in opponents generating quality possessions against this Arizona defense 44% of the time (91st in the country).

LB #5 Jacob Manu vs C #70 Jake Levengood

It is unsurprising to see a middle linebacker lead a team in tackles, which Manu does with 55 total tackles through 7 games. What is less common is to see the same player lead the team in pressures, which the sophomore also does with 18 (and 5 sacks). Jonathan Smith indicated that Levengood should be good to go for this game, which would be a boon for a line that will need to deal with more effective blitzing up the middle than they have seen so far this year.

It’s worth noting that Manu has been a bit of a liability in the pass game, allowing 20 catches on 21 targets. The Beavers love to target the short and intermediate routes in the middle of the field, expect to see that continue on Saturday.

CB #23 Tacario Davis vs WR #7 Silas Bolden

You don’t hold Washington State to 6 points without some outstanding performances out of the secondary and Davis very much came through in that regard. He was targeted 5 times by WSU QB Cam Ward. One was a pass breakup, another an interception, and none of them were catches. It was the best game in what has been a good season for Davis, who has only allowed 11 catches on 26 targets with 6 PBUs and 1 INT.

He predominantly lines up on the left side of the defense, so the Beavers can choose who they want to line up against him. Going into last weeks game, Bolden has the most targets in the power 5 without a drop according to PFF.

Beavers on Defense

Arizona offense moves the ball well and creates opportunities, generating successful drives 53.2% of the time (18th in the country). Unlike the last few opponents, Arizona is a balanced team that has thrown the ball as often and as well as they run. The Wildcats have been able to achieve that with multiple quarterbacks as well. QB Jayden de Laura started the season but was hurt in their game against Stanford. Freshman Noah Fifita has started those three games against ranked teams. He gets rid of the ball quicker and takes the shorter routes than de Laura, which has earned him back-to-back Pac-12 Freshman of the Week honors headed into their bye week (when he was unseated by DJ’s brother, Matayo Uiagalelei). Its not clear if de Laura will return for this game, but Arizona has assets at QB regardless of who plays.

Oregon State run defense has struggled in the last 2 weeks, allowing 6.3 yards per carry to Cal and UCLA. Arizona has a solid run game of their own, so the defense’s work over the bye week on tackling and staying in their gaps will be put to the test.

Ryan Cooper Jr. is questionable for this game. Smith was optimistic at his Tuesday press conference that he would be on the field, which would be a plus for a secondary that has played well so far this year.

HB #3 Jonah Coleman vs LB #5 Easton Mascarenas-Arnold

HB Michael Wilye started the year but hasn't played since Stanford. Jonah Coleman (64 attempts, 427 yards, 3 TD) and DJ Williams (55 , 246, 2) have gotten most of the snaps in his absence. The 5’9”, 225 pound Coleman is the home run threat of the two. He averages 5 yards after contact and has 7 runs of 15 yards or more in those 64 attempts. Coleman is also an asset in the passing game with 20 catches for 289 yards and is good for 3-4 catches a game.

Mascarenas-Arnold and the rest of the defense will need to stay disciplined against the Arizona rushing attack and not over pursue. It’s also worth noting that safety Alton Julian has started to see some snaps at linebacker, which provides some depth (particularly as Calvin Hart Jr. has seen some injuries and Makiya Tounge is out for the year).

RT #71 Jonah Savaiinea vs EDGE #10 Andrew Chatfield Jr.

The right side of the Wildcat offensive line has shifted around as the season has gone on. Jonah Savaiinea has moved between positions on the right side of the line and has most recently been the right tackle. Leif Magnuson has been installed as the right guard, and Joseph Borjon seen time at right tackle, and both have been decent pass blockers but below average run blockers according to PFF.

Chatfield leads the Beavers with 20 pressures despite playing more coverage snaps as a percentage of the ones he is on the field for than any of his fellow outside linebackers. The Beavers have an opportunity against the right side of the Arizona line to do some damage, and Chatfield is more than capable.