No. 11 Oregon State at Stanford
Line: Stanford -5 1/2
Oregon State rebounded after their first loss of the season with a 36-26 win over Arizona State last weekend and will take on a Stanford team that is on a 3 game winning streak this Saturday in a game that is going to be very important for both of these teams to challenge the Oregon Ducks in the Pac-12 North.
The loser of this game is out of the race with two loses on their record in conference play. It's hard to see how either could catch the flying Phil Knight's with that second loss. So, as they say…. This one's for all the marbles. The interesting part is the loser could play a role in helping the winner by picking off the Ducks, a team these two combatants play the following two weeks as the season closes out.
Question is, who do we see winning this one and getting their shot at the Ducks with just one loss on their Pac-12 resumes? Whomever it is has a chance to blow up the BCS, that's for sure.
For Oregon State to win: They need to pass the football early, often, and deep. These two teams have very good scoring defenses, but for the Beavers to win they need to play to their strength and for this season it's been their passing game. They are passing for 306 yards a game and going against a defense that gives up 266 yards a game through the air. Asking anyone to run against the Cardinal is football suicide as they give up 56 yards a game on the ground.
They also need to find a way to limit the penalties they commit. OSU has 63 penalties already this season and against a team that is more disciplined then they are it could be the difference between winning and losing.
For Stanford to win: The Cardinal need to lean on the balanced offense they've used all season, but the key could be getting the running game going. Exactly the opposite of OSU's chances to win, but it's the truth. Stepfan Taylor has played pretty well this season, rushing for 947 yards and 8 TD's already. He's averaging 105.2 yards a game on the ground and is going up against a defense that gives up 91.8 yards a game.
Taylor needs to be a force because relying on the freshman QB, Josh Nunes, to put this team on his back and win is asking a bit much against a defense that's as good as the Beavers.
Key Player, Oregon State: Brandin Cooks, WR – Cooks is huge for what I mentioned above. He is perhaps the faster of the two big time wide receivers this team has, averaging 18.1 yards per catch and over 118 yards receiving a game. He needs to be the deep threat against what is statistically the best defense in the Pac-12.
Key Player, Stanford: Josh Nunes, QB – As much as the run game is key Nunes can't turn the ball over. He's got 10 TD's passing, but also 7 interceptions. He is going up against a defense that has 14 interceptions on the year, so they are more than capable of ball hawking and any turnovers could be the difference in winning or losing.
Key Stat: 24% – that's the percentage of 3rd downs opponents are converting against the Beavers this season. If that number stays the same it's hard to see how the visiting team doesn't pull out this victory.