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Pac-12 Game Preview: Stanford vs. Oregon State


AP Photo (Jeff Chiu)

After dropping their home opener to FCS school Eastern Washington, the Oregon State Beavers appeared destined for a dismal 2013 campaign, but they’ve won six straight since, and now have a legitimate shot at capturing the Pac-12 North title – that is, if they can get past one of their old nemeses, the Stanford Cardinal.

The Cardinal will visit the Beavers today in Corvallis in search of a fourth straight win in the series, but they’ll be up against the feistiest Oregon State squad they’ve seen in quite some time, as OSU comes in with the nation’s top-ranked passing offense (442.1 yards per game) and ninth best offense overall (515.9 total yards per game).

With the Beavers playing on the West coast, many bettors and fans who don’t pay much attention to the Pac-12 may not realize that Oregon State has the nation’s leading passer and receiver – in Sean Mannion (2,992 yards) and Branin Crooks (1,176 yards), respectively, but Stanford’s defense is well aware of the aerial assault it will be up against today.

The Cardinal should be somewhat prepared for the air raid attack, especially considering they limited the similarly potent passing offense of UCLA to just 192 yards in a 24-10 win last week. As a team with 15 sacks in their past five games, Stanford also hopes to get plenty of pressure on Mannion and force him to make errant throws.

The problem for Oregon State will also be the fact that Stanford will likely sit back in zone coverage and defend the pass solely, as the Beavers have only managed 73.7 yards per game rushing and their main back, Storm Woods, has only run the ball 64 times for an average of 3.0 yards per carry this season.

Conversely, the Beavers may also have a hard time defending the ground game of the Cardinal, who average nearly 200 yards per game rushing. If Stanford is able to move the chains with the rush and control the clock, it could keep the ball out of Mannion’s hands, thus giving the Cardinal a big edge in terms of the tempo they want to play at.

After dominating the Bruins last week, it’s clear that the Cardinal can limit big plays and big offenses, while the Beavers – who are just entering the real meat of their Pac-12 schedule – still haven’t proven they are one of the conference’s elite teams. It should be a hard-fought game, but look for the Cardinal to prevail on the road.

Take Stanford to cover -4 in this one.


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