Oregon State (3-1) at Colorado (2-3) (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Folsom Field (53,613) -- Boulder, Colorado. Television: Pac-12 Network. Home Record: OSU 2-0, Colorado 1-1. Away Record: OSU 1-1, Colorado 1-1. Neutral Record: OSU 0-0, Colorado 0-1. Conference Record: OSU 0-1, Colorado 0-2. Series Record: Oregon State leads, 4-2.
GAME NOTES: Coming off a devastating loss at California, the Colorado Buffaloes will try to make amends when they entertain the Oregon State Beavers in a Pac-12 Conference clash at Folsom Field on Saturday afternoon.
Colorado sprinted out to a 21-7 lead in the first quarter, but it did not hold up against California. The Buffaloes eventually lost in double-overtime (59-56) during an extremely entertaining back-and-forth skirmish last Saturday. The loss was the second in league play for the Buffaloes, who also fell to Arizona State (38-24) earlier this season.
Oregon State had a much less competitive start to its Pac-12 schedule last Saturday, as the visiting Beavers were unceremoniously dispatched by USC, 35-10, ending a 3-0 start to the campaign.
If last year's matchup is any indication, this one could be tough for Colorado. Behind 414 yards and six touchdown passes from Sean Mannion, the Beavers rolled to a 44-17 triumph over the Buffaloes, earning their fourth win in six all-time meetings.
So far the Beavers have not been as potent an offensive team, even with a 3-1 record. Oregon State is next-to-last in the Pac-12 in total offense (380.3 ypg), and at the very bottom in scoring (26.3 ppg). Those numbers took a major hit against USC when the Beavers were only able to produce 181 total yards, averaging a meager 3.2 yards per play.
Mannion still holds the keys to the machine, but he hasn't been able to match his impressive passing stats from last year. This season, he has completed 62.8 percent of his throws for 1,026 yards with as many touchdown passes as interceptions (four). Through four games last year, he had 1,604 yards, 15 touchdowns and just one interception.
Of course, Mannion has not been helped by the loss of 2013 Biletnikoff Award winner Brandin Cooks. Victor Bolden (18 receptions, 192 yards, TD) and Richard Mullaney (16 receptions, 197 yards, TD) appear to be the new go-to options, although Bolden is listed as questionable for this game with a finger injury. Connor Hamlett (12 receptions, 167 yards, TD) has proven himself to be a reliable target as well.
In the backfield, Storm Woods and Terron Ward have both been versatile performers. Woods leads the team in rushing yards (273) and he also has caught 10 passes for 89 yards to go with three total touchdowns. No one on the roster has been in the end zone more than Ward, who has four scores and 341 total yards.
Mike Riley's teams have often been strong on defense, and the Beavers have kept up that level of success for the most part. They are allowing only 21.5 point and 306.5 yards per game, although they struggled to slow down USC, which finished with 461 yards of total offense.
Michael Doctor (25 tackles, 4.5 TFL, INT) has been a strong tackler and a team leader at linebacker, while Steven Nelson (21 tackles, two INTs) and Tyrequek Zimmerman (20 tackles, two INTs) are contributors in the secondary.
Nelson and Zimmerman have quite a challenge ahead of them as they attempt to contain Nelson Spruce. With Paul Richardson now in the NFL, Spruce has gotten the chance to be the No. 1 guy, and he has certainly take advantage. He already has 56 receptions, and no one else in the country has more than 44. He also leads the nation in receiving yards (694) and touchdown receptions (10). Against Cal, he recorded a new program record for receptions (19), breaking the mark he had set the week previously.
Spruce's incredible production has helped the development of Sefo Liufau, who has really taken a step forward in his second season as the team's starting quarterback. In just four games, he has thrown for 1,573 yards and 17 touchdowns, compared to six interceptions, while completing 65.3 percent of his pass attempts. Liufau had a record-breaking performance against Cal as well, finishing with 455 yards and seven touchdowns, while also tallying 72 rushing yards.
Christian Powell (279 yards, TD) and Tony Jones (175 yards, TD) are still the primary ground gainers, but having a quarterback who can take off is obviously valuable.
Colorado's defense may be in trouble this week, as linebacker Addison Gillam is listed as questionable due to a concussion. Gillam is second on the team with 36 total tackles, but more importantly, he has racked up six of the team's 27 stops for loss.
Without Gillam, the Buffs could be in trouble. They are currently seventh in the Pac-12 in total defense (412 ypg), but next-to-last in points scoring defense (35.6 ppg). That includes the 585 yards and 59 points they surrendered last week.
While the Beavers have struggled to find a replacement for last year's top receiving threat, the Buffaloes may be in even better hands with Spruce. The loss of Cooks has clearly hurt the Beavers offense, and that won't help against an improved Colorado unit. However, the Beavers are a much better defensive team than Cal so expect the Buffs to be slowed down a bit.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Oregon State 28, Colorado 21Game Date and Time
Saturday, October 4, 4 p.m. (ET)