Oregon State, Utah Battle for Win in Pac-12 Opener
Utah and Oregon State have traded wins and losses evenly over the last several seasons: of the last four meetings, each team has won two. This weekend’s game will tip the balance, and both teams need the win to keep the 2013 season on track.
Utah didn’t win big over Utah State on the season’s opening night, but the revenge win was enough for the Utes. They clobbered Weber State last weekend to start 2-0, but the true test will be against Pac-12 competition. The Utes have had a rocky transition to the Pac-12, with 7 wins and eleven losses in conference play since joining the league in 2011. A win this weekend would start their Pac-12 slate on a positive note.
Oregon State won’t be an easy win, but the Beavers are vulnerable as they head into Rice-Eccles Stadium. Oregon State is 1-1 on the season, losing a shocker to Eastern Washington on opening weekend but bouncing back with a win over Hawaii last Saturday.
The Beavers will be without several key players due to injury. Senior linebacker Michael Doctor, the team’s leading tackler in 2012, is out 6-8 weeks after having foot surgery following last weekend’s game, and junior linebacker D.J. Alexander remains out with a knee injury. Right guard Roman Sapolu is expected to miss the rest of the season after suffering a Lisfranc injury, and right tackle Grant Enger is also out this week with a knee injury. Tackle Gavin Andrews is still recovering from mononucleosis and has not been cleared to play.
The O-line started the season thin, and the additional hits to the depth chart will only increase the concerns about the line. OSU quarterback Sean Mannion has been sacked twice this season, and even though the Utah defense has nine sacks in two games, the bigger worry is the run blocking. Mannion is averaging just shy of 400 passing yards per game, but the Beavers’ running backs have combined for only 162 rushing yards on the season.
On the other sideline, Utah has five running backs with 10 or more carries through two games, not including quarterback Travis Wilson, who is the Utes’ second-leading rusher. The sophomore has improved so far in his second year; his numbers aren’t as eye-popping as Mannion’s, but he has the second-highest quarterback rating in the Pac-12.
Wilson had a huge first half against Weber State last weekend, and while the Beavers should give him a tougher time, the Oregon State defense hasn’t exactly been tough this season. The Beavers surrendered 864 yards of offense through two games, mostly through the air, so it could be a big day for Wilson and his receivers.
The Utes also have the extra advantage of playing at home. In the last four meetings, each team has won twice, both times at home. Utah hasn’t always fared well against Pac-12 competition, but the team is off to a solid start this season and could continue to build major momentum with a win this weekend.
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