Week 9 - Stanford at Oregon State

Posted Oct 23, 2013

Week 9 Fearless Prediction - Stanford at Oregon State

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- Stanford at Oregon State | California at Washington

Stanford (6-1) at Oregon State (6-1) Oct. 26, 10:30, ESPN

Why You Should Give A Hoot: By Sunday morning, the Pac-12 North is going to have a little more clarity than it does right now.

A pair of 6-1 teams are set to tee it up in Corvallis for a divisional semifinal game, if you will, with front-running Oregon waiting in the wings. Oregon State has rebounded miraculously from its loss to Eastern Washington on the opening weekend, winning six games in a row. The Beavers, in fact, have climbed all the way into the Top 25, riding the strong right arm of QB Sean Mannion and the soft hands of WR Brandin Cooks. OSU is still somewhat lurking in the weeds, but its relative anonymity disappears with an upset this weekend.

Stanford recovered from its lone loss to Utah by handing UCLA its only defeat of 2013. By beating the Bruins, 24-10, on a weekend flush with upsets, the Cardinal moved all the way up to No. 6 in the BCS rankings. In other words, the program remains in the hunt for not only another Pac-12 crown, but a shot at the BCS National Championship Game as well. Reser Stadium will be the scene of a study of philosophical opposites, with Stanford's power contrasting the finesse of Oregon State.

Why Stanford Might Win: The Cardinal is the first team this year that'll punch Oregon State square in the jaw.

Stanford is a bare-knuckle program, far different than anyone the Beavers have faced this season. The Cardinal is content to play smash-mouth football on both sides of the ball. Oregon State lacks the defensive muscle to win the battles at the point of attack. Stanford will run Tyler Gaffney with success, setting up Kevin Hogan on play-action to find game-breaking WR Ty Montgomery. OSU plays with a similar offensive pace and philosophy as UCLA. The Cardinal just got done limiting the Bruins to 266 total yards and one offensive touchdown.

Why Oregon State Might Win: No one has slowed down the Beaver passing game in 2013. Even Stanford is unlikely to be the first.

Mannion and Cooks have been phenomenal so far this season, forming the best pitch-and-catch combo in college football. Mannion has thrown a nation's-best 29 touchdown passes, while Cooks has remarkably hauled in 76 balls for 1,176 yards and 12 touchdowns. When the wideout gets maximum attention, he still makes plays, though it also opens things up for teammates, like Richard Mullaney. If Oregon State begins to roll, Stanford lacks the system and the firepower to win in a shootout.

Who To Watch Out For: Who gets to cover Cooks? Don't be fooled by Stanford's ranking in pass defense. It's 87th because opponents have thrown on the Cardinal 296 times. However, those opponents are averaging just 5.8 yards an attempt, eighth lowest in the FBS. Wayne Lyons and Alex Carter are the corners, but they'll get plenty of help with Cooks from all-star safeties Jordan Richards and Ed Reynolds.

- Montgomery is easily Stanford's most explosive offensive weapon, but he could be without teammate Devon Cajuste, another big part of the passing game. Cajuste was injured late in last week's win over UCLA.

- Oregon State hasn't faced many teams this fall that commit to the run, which could make Saturday night a bit of a culture shock for the defense. The Beavers must hold the line of scrimmage, while getting help from linebackers D.J. Alexander and Jabral Johnson and safeties Ryan Murphy and Tyreque Zimmerman.

- At 6-6 and 261 pounds, Stanford OLB Trent Murphy is one of the few players who can readily affect the line of sight of the 6-5, 220-pound Mannion. Murphy has played at an All-American level this year, racking up team-highs with 10 stops for loss and seven sacks.

What Will Happen: Stanford isn't the same team everyone thought it was in early September. Neither, for that matter, is Oregon State. Utah exposed the Cardinal two weeks ago, pulling back the curtain on a flawed team. The Beavers are now poised to bump the defending champs from this year's Pac-12 race. Yeah, Stanford has more overall balance, but Oregon State's stars, spurred on by the home crowd, will lead the way to an upset. By the end of the weekend, Mannion and Cooks could be household names well outside of just the West Coast.

Prediction: Oregon State 31 … Stanford 28
Line: Stanford -4.5 – O/U: 55
Must See Rating: (5 The Counselor – 1 Last Vegas) … 4
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