GAME NOTES: Still on the outside looking in on the Top 25, the Oregon State Beavers will attempt to make a statement on Saturday when they host the No. 8 Stanford Cardinal in a Pac-12 contest at Reser Stadium.
It was only a week hiatus for Stanford to be outside of the top 10 as the Cardinal moved back in with a 24-10 victory over then No. 9 UCLA this past weekend. The victory helped soften the blow of the 27-21 road loss to Utah in the previous week. Stanford now owns a 6-1 mark overall and a 4-1 ledger in the conference standings. However, the single loss has it sitting a half game back of both the Beavers and No. 2 Oregon in the Pac-12 North Division standings.
"We're just looking to go 1-0 every week. So our focus will be on the Beavers this week," Stanford linebacker Trent Murphy said. "If we can go 1-0 this week we'll keep being in good position and end up where we want to be when it's all said and done."
The Beavers began the season nationally ranked but were quickly dismissed after taking a 49-46 loss from FCS foe Eastern Washington in week one. Since the setback the Beavers have done nothing but win with a streak of six straight victories. That has included a 4-0 start to the Pac-12 schedule and three straight wins by at least 27 points. The most recent victory was the most convincing, as the Beavers hung a 49-17 triumph on California.
A year ago Oregon State almost knocked off Stanford but fell short, 27-23, on the road. It was the third straight loss for the Beavers against the Cardinal, who own the all-time series lead by a sizable margin (51-24).
In its win over UCLA, Stanford didn't do anything special on offense. The Cardinal had 419 yards of total offense in the contest, which is right around their season average (406.3 ypg).
The pro-style attack of the Cardinal is predicated on running the ball effectively. Tyler Gaffney has provided steady play out of the backfield to ensure the Cardinal do just that. Gaffney has piled up 741 yards and nine touchdowns this season and is averaging a healthy 5.1 yards per carry. Gaffney was at the top of his game against UCLA as he tallied 171 yards and two scores on 36 carries.
Kevin Hogan hasn't been asked to do too much under center for the Cardinal but he has been efficient none the less. Hogan has completed 62.9 percent of his pass attempts for 1,405 yards and 13 touchdowns, while limiting his interceptions (five). Hogan did get picked off against the Bruins but other than that put together a fine performance (18-of-25, 227 yards, TD).
Normally Devon Cajuste and Ty Montgomery are the receivers that get the attention for the Cardinal and rightfully so. Montgomery leads the team in receptions (36), yards (563) and touchdowns (five) while, Cajuste (21 receptions, 377 yards, four TDs) has also been performing well. However, against UCLA it was Kodi Whitfield who made a real splash as his one-handed touchdown catch was the offensive highlight of the weekend.
Stanford's patented defense was in full force against the Bruins, holding a team that averages more than 500 yards a game to just 266. Stanford also had four sacks and a pair of interceptions. Stanford is fourth in the Pac-12 in total defense (363.4 ypg), playing an aggressive style that has led it to a tie for the most tackles for loss (51) in the conference. Murphy has been the most critical performer in that regard with 10.0 stops for loss and seven sacks.
This week should prove to be another difficult challenge for the Cardinal as they are facing one of the most explosive offenses in the country. Oregon State has not tried to hide the fact that it is heavily reliant on the pass. In fact, led by Sean Mannion and Brandin Cooks, the Beavers are leading the nation in passing yards (442.1 ypg). That has produced results on the scoreboard as well (44.1 ppg).
Mannion has been incredible this season. The Beavers' quarterback leads the nation in a number of passing categories, including yards (2,992) and touchdown passes (29), doing so while completing 68.6 percent of his pass attempts with just three interceptions. Against California, Mannion was at it again, totaling 481 yards and four scores on 35-of-45 passing.
As if having one national leader isn't enough, the Beavers have another in Brandin Cooks. Last week Cooks set single-game records for the Beavers with 13 receptions for 232 yards. In actuality it was just another game for Cooks, who has caught 76 passes for 1,176 yards and 12 scores already. Each of those marks is the best among players at the FBS level.
"I don't know, but he sure is playing well. That's the easy, obvious thing to say," Oregon State head coach Mike Riley said of Cooks. "He is just very talented, very driven and very savvy. He gets it. That's because he cares and he's spent a lot of time with football in his life. This is not an accident. This is an accumulation of a lot of work and a lot of great chemistry with his quarterback."
Richard Mullaney (32 receptions, 538 yards, three TDs) also figures in the passing game, while Storm Woods (483 all-purpose yards) is the team's top rusher, though the running game has largely been an afterthought.
The talent for the Beavers isn't just on the offensive side of the ball. Tyrequek Zimmerman (54 tackles) and Jabral Johnson (51) are both adept at stopping ball carriers, while Steven Nelson (five INTs) and Rashaad Reynolds (four INTs) are two of the most disruptive players in the country. However, Oregon State could certainly use some improvement on defense as it ranks eighth in the conference in yards allowed (396.7 ypg).
This is the first real test of how effective the Oregon State passing game is. With how well the Cardinal attack opposing quarterbacks, Mannion may have a bit more trouble staying at the lofty level he has been playing in the first seven weeks. However, Stanford won't be able to stop him completely and without the same type of offensive firepower, the Cardinal could struggle on the road.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Oregon State 30, Stanford 28