Oregon State (4-2) at Stanford (4-3) (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Stanford Stadium (50,424) -- Stanford, California. Television: ESPN2. Home Record: OSU 2-1, Stanford 3-1. Away Record: OSU 2-1, Stanford 1-2. Neutral Record: OSU 0-0, Stanford 0-0. Conference Record: OSU 1-2, Stanford 1-2. Series Record: Stanford leads, 52-25-3.
GAME NOTES: A pair of teams with losing league ledgers meet on Saturday afternoon, as the Oregon State Beavers visit the Stanford Cardinal.
Last weekend, the Beavers lost for the second time in three games following a 3-0 start to the campaign. The setback was a difficult one to swallow, as they fell 29-23 in double-overtime to Utah at home. Oregon State is still 4-2 overall, but just 1-2 in Pac-12 Conference action.
It is much more surprising that Stanford has fallen below the .500 mark in conference play (1-2). The Cardinal, who are 4-3 overall, lost to No. 15 Arizona State, 26-10, last weekend and have dropped two of their last three overall. The defeat to the Sun Devils pushed Stanford out of the national rankings for the first time since 2010, when it began the campaign unranked. Luckily, the squad is 9-0 following a loss under David Shaw.
There is more reason for optimism, as Stanford has won four straight games against Oregon State, including a 20-12 road triumph last season. As a result, the Cardinal hold a commanding 52-25-3 edge in the all-time series.
Oregon State's offense could be without two important pieces this weekend. Wide receiver Richard Mullaney is expected to miss the rest of the season with an elbow injury and running back Storm Woods is listed as questionable with a bum knee. Those are not exactly the developments a team ranked 11th in the conference in scoring offense (27.3 ppg) can use to improve.
Terron Ward remains healthy, so the running game should be productive. Ward and Woods normally share carries, but Ward has tallied a team-high 412 yards and six rushing touchdowns on 82 attempts. Expect him to get even more work should Woods' injury keep him on the sidelines.
Replacing Mullaney will not be overly difficult either, but losing more depth in the receiving corps is not a recipe for success. Victor Bolden (28 recs., 305 yards, TD) and Connor Hamlett (20 recs., 234 yards, TD) each have more receiving yards and receptions than Mullaney, but both are averaging fewer yards per reception. Ward (17 recs., 145 yards) also works into the passing game frequently.
Sean Mannion will have to step up his game a bit with Woods and Mullaney gone. Mannion has completed a solid 63.5 percent of his pass attempts for 1,576 yards, but his touchdown-to-interception ratio (7-5) leaves a lot to be desired. He threw for 272 yards and two scores, as well as an interception, on 21-of-37 passing against Utah.
Oregon State has done an excellent job of limiting opposing offenses in terms of yardage, ranking second in the Pac-12 in total defense (328.7 ypg). Michael Doctor (34) and Jabral Johnson (34) lead the team in tackles, while Ty Zimmerman (33 tackles, two INTs) and Steven Nelson (29 tackles, two INTs) have been ball hawks in the secondary.
Facing a challenging defense could be a problem for Stanford, which has played well enough on defense to win every game this season, but not well enough on offense. The Cardinal rank near the bottom of the Pac-12 in total offense (374.7 ypg) and dead last in scoring (24 ppg). Struggles in the red zone continue to be the issue, with the team successful on a league-low 66.7 percent of its chances there. No other team in the league is below 80 percent.
Kevin Hogan has failed to take the next step at quarterback. He has continued to be an effective passer, completing 62.4 percent of his attempts for 1,537 yards, 11 touchdowns and four interceptions, which are fine numbers. However, it was expected he would lift himself into the same level of other elite Pac-12 signal callers this season.
Hogan is relies heavily on Ty Montgomery (43 recs., 441 yards, three TDs), who is the only player in the roster with more than 20 receptions or to be averaging more than 50 receiving yards per game. Austin Hooper (19 recs., 227 yards, TD) and Devon Cajuste (18 recs., 243 yards, three TDs) are the best alternatives.
Lacking a constant force in the backfield has also hurt the offense. Remound Wright (318 yards, two TDs) and Barry Sanders (247 yards) are each averaging more than five yards per carry, but neither has really taken on the mantle of feature back.
Now about that defense -- Stanford is still very much the best squad in the Pac-12 and possibly the country on that side of the ball. The Cardinal rank second only to Ole Miss nationally in scoring defense (12.3 ppg), and second to Louisville in yards allowed (254.9 ypg). Blake Martinez (55 tackles, 2.5 TFL, INT) heads the team in tackles, but provides much more than that. Peter Kalambayi (4.5) leads the way in sacks (4.5).
Both of these teams play well on defense and neither is particularly effective on offense. Stanford plays a physical game on both sides of the ball, so Oregon State's lack of depth at the skill positions could be a problem, especially if Ward takes too many hits. While it seems the Cardinal's red zone difficulties will be an ongoing issue, they should be able to score enough this weekend.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Stanford 23, Oregon State 10Game Date and Time
Saturday, October 24, 3:30 p.m. (ET)