It’s out of the frying pan and into the fire for Oregon State this Friday. Fresh off a loss to now-#16 Washington State, the Beavers get #10 Utah at home in an attempt to keep their hopes of a Pac-12 title alive. There are multiple things going for OSU in this matchup: the potential absence of Utah QB Cam Rising, the debut of the new Reser Stadium with school in session, and the lessons from a tough road game in Pullman. Those advantages are noticed by Vegas, where the line has moved a full point since it opened to -3.5 in favor of the Beavers.
Beavers on Offense
The Utah defense has yet to allow more than one touchdown in a game in 2023. They are 6th in the country in points per game (9.5) against a schedule that includes 3 Power Five teams.
On it’s face, that is not a match-up a Beaver team that struggled to throw the ball against Washington State would look forward to. A mix of adjustments to the offensive game plan and riding the offensive line and multi-headed rushing attack that the Beavers know they have will be the key to putting up enough points to put the pressure on a more unreliable Utah offense.
Offensive Coordinator Brian Lindgren vs Defensive Coordinator Morgan Scalley
The Beavers offensive game plan for this matchup is possibly the most interesting part of the game. With 4 weeks of film, Lindgren and the rest of the coaching staff have enough data on what works and what doesn't, and with a second ranked team in a row on the schedule the time for experimenting is over. The run game will assuredly be a focus which avoids the excellent Utah pass defense. Some additional designed runs for DJ Uiagalelei early in the game to establish that possibility, as well as routes that get receivers quickly into space can open up opportunities later in the game.
If the Beavers come out and DJ is holding the ball in a clean pocket looking for options, I will be concerned.
LT #67 Joshua Gray vs EDGE #83 Jonah Elliss
Elliss leads the country with 5.5 sacks so far this year and coming off a Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week performance against UCLA, where he racked up 3.5 of those sacks and a total of 5 tackles for a loss. Fellow edge rusher Logan Fano is a force himself, picking up 14 pressures and 2.5 sacks so far this year. Gray and the Beaver offensive line will need to account for him in both run and pass situations.
Beavers on Defense
As of Thursday morning, there is still no clarity on whether Cam Rising will make his 2023 debut on Friday night. He has been splitting reps with fellow QB Nate Johnson at practice but has yet to be cleared for a game. If Rising plays, there is just as much unknown about how much of his prior self he is in his first game back, and whether his ability to run is where it was before. In addition to Rising, TE Brant Kuithe has yet to play this year and is arguably the most talented pass catcher Utah has.
Without those two, the Utah offense has been just good enough to ride their outstanding defense to a 4-0 record. Redshirt freshman QB Nate Johnson is talented (and very fast), but is not operating at nearly the same level that an All-Pac-12 redshirt senior can. The Beaver defense will be seeing a different look than what WSU gave them, and will look to bounce back against a more run-focused scheme.
DE #52 James Rawls vs RG #52 Michael Mokofisi
Utah has been a poor offense, a rushing attack that averages only 3.7 yards per carry and the lack of a dynamic passing game put them in difficult positions on later downs and stall drives. The Utes running attack is still their focus, particularly with Rising out (and most likely even if he returns on Friday night). Utah primarily runs between the tackles, putting the focus on Rawls and Joe Golden to hold up at the point of attack. If you see Easton Mascarenas-Arnold and Calvin Hart Jr. flying around making plays, its because Rawls and Golden are doing what they do best.
CB #25 Tyrice Ivy Jr. or #23 Jermod McCoy vs WR #17 Devaughn Vele
Cam Ward and Washington State picked on the cornerback opposite Jaden Robinson regardless of whether it was Ivy Jr. or McCoy. The 6’5” Vele tore up the Beavers defense last year to the tune of 7 catches for 94 yards and a TD, and has been one of the three primary receivers for Utah in 2023. Although Ivy Jr. was pulled after 8 snaps against WSU, he is the taller of the two options at corner and may have a redemption opportunity while Robinson and Ryan Cooper Jr. cover down on the smaller, shiftier WRs.