Oregon State has a shot at becoming bowl eligible for the first time since 2013 when the Beavers visit Colorado on Saturday.
The Beavers (5-3, 3-2 Pac-12) have not won six games in a season since 2013 when they finished 7-6 and beat Boise State in the Hawaii Bowl. One obstacle standing in Oregon State's way is a lack of success away from home. The Beavers have won just one road game this season, and their 39-25 loss to California last weekend was their third setback in four road contests. Oregon State tallied only 134 rushing yards against the Bears — their lowest total on the ground since mustering only 78 rushing yards in the season opener against Purdue.
The Buffaloes (2-6, 1-4) are desperately trying to salvage a season that has gone wrong in so many ways. Colorado wrapped up a two-game road swing with a 52-29 loss at Oregon last week. The Ducks scored on their first four possessions and were never seriously threatened by the Buffaloes. It was just the third game this season in which Colorado scored more than 14 points.
Oregon State leads the series 6-5. The Beavers won 41-34 in overtime when the two teams last met in 2018 after rallying from a 31-3 deficit.
Oregon State at Colorado
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 6 at 7 p.m. ET
TV: Pac-12 Networks
Spread: Oregon State -10.5
When Oregon State Has the Ball
Getting B.J. Baylor more involved in the offense will be a point of emphasis this weekend. California effectively neutralized Baylor, holding him to 42 yards on 13 carries. When he is running wild in the backfield, good things happen for Oregon State. The Beavers are 4-1 in games this season where he runs for at least 100 yards. Baylor is definitely a game-changer, as evidenced by his Pac-12-best 871 rushing yards through eight games. He is also tied for first in rushing touchdowns (10) and ranks third in yards per carry (6.65).
Quarterback Chance Nolan had a tough outing against the Bears while being forced to throw much more than usual. Nolan racked up 243 passing yards — his highest total against a Pac-12 opponent this season — and two touchdowns. But Nolan only completed 58 percent of his passes and threw a pair of interceptions. Turnovers were a problem for Oregon State in general. Baylor's first-quarter fumble set up California's first touchdown, and a partially blocked punt led to a third-quarter touchdown for the Bears. Still, if Nolan can be efficient and take care of the ball, he will help keep the offense balanced and explosive when Colorado tries to key on stopping Baylor.
When Colorado Has the Ball
Don't let the garbage-time points against Oregon fool you. Colorado has shown almost no tangible improvement on offense as the season has progressed. The Buffaloes rank dead last in the Pac-12 in total offense (251.0 ypg) and 11th in scoring offense (16.9 ppg).
Colorado did eclipse 100 rushing yards against the Ducks, tallying 117 yards on the ground for the second time in three games. Jarek Broussard and Alex Fontenot still have not shown the form that made them such dangerous runners in previous seasons. Fontenot tallied 42 yards on eight carries against the Ducks. Broussard managed 22 yards on six carries. Until the Buffaloes figure out a solution in the backfield, moving the chains will continue to be a problem.
Brendon Lewis is showing some promise at quarterback after a mostly rough freshman season. Lewis has eclipsed 200 passing yards in two of his last three games. He threw for 224 yards and three touchdowns against Oregon while completing a career-best 75.8 percent of his pass attempts. His 25 completions also were a career high. If Lewis can be this productive going forward, it gives Colorado a better chance of playing spoiler in the final month of the regular season.
These two teams are going in dramatically different directions. Colorado is a mess on offense and does not have the horses to keep up with Oregon State. The Beavers have struggled on the road this season, but they are going to feast on a Buffaloes defense that is giving up 196.2 rushing yards per game in Pac-12 play. Oregon State can start officially making bowl plans after Saturday evening.
Prediction: Oregon State 35, Colorado 14
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– Written by John Coon, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a sports journalist based in Utah. Follow him on Twitter @johncoonsports.