Oregon State‘s loss to Eastern Washington seems like years ago. Since that opening week loss, the Beavers have rattled off six straight wins, including four against Pac 12 competition. Quarterback Sean Mannion leads the FBS in passing yards (2,992) and passing touchdowns (29) and has only thrown three interceptions on the year.
They’ve gone into Utah and come out with a win, and they destroyed a much improved Washington State team before easily dispatching California. They’re beating Pac 12 opponents by an average of 22.5 points per game.
Now, they face their toughest match to date, as the No. 6 Stanford Cardinal comes to Corvallis fresh off a victory over No. 13 UCLA. In order for the Beavers to come away with a win, Mannion needs to be on top of his game. Stanford’s secondary has nine interceptions this season, with at least one pick in every game except one.
Stanford is very good at forcing opposing quarterbacks into making bad decisions, and Mannion will need to keep things under control and let the game come to him in order to keep that from happening.
How? Oregon State will need to move around leading receiver Brandin Cooks and get him involved in the game from a few different areas. Moving him to the slot and flipping the side of the field he lines up on will force Stanford’s secondary to take an extra second to find him pre-snap. This gives Oregon State an advantage, because Cooks has an uncanny ability to get open and has the speed to pull away from defenders. However, if Stanford pays too much attention to him, they’ll get burned by someone else.
That someone else is either Richard Mullaney or running back Storm Woods, who have combined for 50 receptions, 828 yards and four touchdowns.
In short yard situations, look for Mannion to try and get the ball to his tight end Connor Hamlett. Hamlett is the only Beaver receiver with double digit receptions to have an average yards per catch under ten yards, but he’s the second leading receiver when it comes to touchdown receptions with four.
If Mannion can get the ball to his trusted receivers and limit the mistakes, Oregon State has a very good chance to upset Stanford on Saturday.