Buffaloes and Beavers face off in Corvallis in a pair of Pac-12 teams without a conference win
Oregon State has undergone an unexpected mid-season coaching change ahead of playing Colorado this weekend. Former head coach Gary Andersen stepped down on Tuesday, and Cory Hall was named interim head coach in his place. The Beavers (1-5, 0-3 Pac-12) imploded in year three under Andersen after it seemed like they were making progress toward the end of last season. He left Corvallis with a 7-23 record in two and a half seasons.
Colorado (3-3, 0-3 Pac-12) isn't experiencing the same degree of turmoil as the Beavers. Still, the Buffaloes find themselves in the Pac-12 South cellar. Their defense has been porous in three league losses, allowing 36.3 points and 482.7 yards per contest.
Oregon State holds a slim 5-4-1 lead in the series with Colorado. The Buffaloes beat the Beavers 47-6 last season for their second straight win in the series.
Colorado at Oregon State
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 14 at 4 p.m. ET
TV Channel: Pac-12 Networks
Spread: Colorado –11.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Can Oregon State revive its offense?
Introducing spread elements was supposed to give Oregon State a more explosive offense this season. It hasn't worked out that way for the Beavers. Oregon State is dead last in the Pac-12 both in scoring offense (19.3 ppg) and total offense (321.2 ypg). Efforts to boost the passing game took a hit when starting quarterback Jake Luton suffered a season-ending spine fracture against Washington State. Darell Garretson offers better mobility than Luton at quarterback, but he isn't as much of a passing threat.
Noah Togiai, Oregon State's top receiver, has 201 yards and a touchdown on 18 receptions. Jordan Villamin (196 yards) and Isaiah Hodgins (183 yards) have been similarly limited in their impact. Like Togiai, Villamin and Hodgins also have totaled fewer than 20 receptions over six games.
The passing game struggles have left the Beavers to rely on whatever Ryan Nall can do for them in the backfield. Nall has totaled 341 yards on 62 carries over five games. He's also tallied an additional 120 yards on 15 catches in that stretch.
2. Will Colorado's offensive line improve QB protection?
Poor blocking has put Steven Montez flat on his back on too many passing plays, and it has cost Colorado on offense. Montez was sacked four times in a 45-42 loss to Arizona last week, part of a disturbing trend. Through six games, the Buffaloes have given up 18 sacks for 122 yards in losses. They rank 110th in sacks allowed among FBS teams.
The lack of protection has made it tougher for Colorado to get on track in the passing game. Montez passed for 251 yards and three touchdowns against the Wildcats, but most of the yardage came off short and intermediate routes. Montez has had to scramble for safety more often than not, leading to multiple overthrown passes on throws over 20 yards.
Colorado's big-play receivers, Shay Fields and Devin Ross, have been mostly quiet in Pac-12 play. Both receivers have totaled nine receptions in their last three games. Ross has just 79 receiving yards in that three-game stretch, while Ross has totaled 96 yards.
3. Can the Buffaloes' defense get some stops?
Colorado's defense looked like it hadn't skipped a beat in the first two weeks of the season. The Buffaloes did not allow a touchdown in wins over Colorado State and Texas State. Then things turned south.
Defensive woes were especially pronounced against Arizona. It started out well enough for Colorado after Ryan Moeller scooped up a fumble to end the Wildcats' opening drive. Then Wildcats QB Khalil Tate took over. Filling in for injured quarterback Brandon Dawkins, Tate carved up Colorado's defense, churning out 327 rushing yards with touchdown runs of 28, 47, 58 and 75 yards. Tate also completed 11-of-12 passes for 142 yards and a touchdown.
Oregon State should offer a chance for Colorado to get into a better rhythm. The Beavers are the Pac-12's least productive offensive team by a wide margin.
In Colorado's quest to earn its first Pac-12 win, Oregon State represents the most beatable opponent left on the schedule. The Buffaloes are simply better in all three phases of the game than the reeling Beavers. Oregon State is a total mess on both offense and defense and simply won't be able to put up enough points to keep up with Colorado.
Prediction: Colorado 38, Oregon State 24
— Written by John Coon, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Coon has more than a decade of experience covering sports for different publications and outlets, including The Associated Press, Salt Lake Tribune, ESPN, Deseret News, MaxPreps, Yahoo! Sports and many others. Follow him on Twitter @johncoonsports.