It is true that Oregon State is just 1-4, including a loss to FCS foe Sacramento State. It is true that the Beavers rank 104th nationally in rushing yards per game, 97th nationally in points scored per game, and 90th in points allowed per game.
It is also true that Oregon State traditionally starts the season slow. This is the eighth consecutive year that Oregon State has entered October with a losing record. Two out of the last three years, Oregon State has been in the hunt for the Rose Bowl at the end of November. Although they lost their first four games, the Beavers were not an easy out for any of their opponents, save Wisconsin. The other three games were very close in the fourth quarter. Oregon State has momentum after winning its first game last week against Arizona, which has one of the best passing attacks in the nation.
It is also true that Oregon State's best running back has missed the last four games. Malcolm Agnew, a true freshman, pulled his hamstring after the first game. He had 33 carries for 223 yards in the season opener. That is double the Beavers' 110.4 yards per game average. Expect the ground game to be much improved this week.
The 2011 Oregon State team is similar, offensively, to the 2009 team that BYU played in the Las Vegas Bowl (and beat 44-20). The Beavers use a short passing game and will rely on either wide receiver James Rodgers or a running back to make plays with the ball. Redshirt freshman quarterback Sean Mannion, who took over for returning starter Ryan Katz in the season opener, is averaging less than 10 yards per completion. That is the same style of play that San Jose State used last week, as well.
Don't expect this game to be easy for BYU. Oregon State was 45-16 at home from 2001-10. BYU will not play the same Beaver squad that teams played in September. BYU (98th nationally) isn't much better at running the ball than Oregon State. The Cougars also score about the same amount of points (101st nationally). The BYU defense is allowing a full seven points less per game than Oregon State, but Oregon State averages over 50 yards more passing per game than BYU does.
BYU has spent the last four weeks playing at home. They now take to the road and put their three game win streak on the line. They have built some momentum of their own with the quarterback switch and the discovery of a Harvey Unga type running back. This game will provide a measuring stick for the Cougars and where they need to get to in two weeks when they face TCU.
Things to watch for:
- Defending Riley Nelson. Oregon State has the benefit of preparing for quarterback Riley Nelson after seeing the type of offense BYU will run with him. BYU ran more screens and quarterback draws against San Jose State. Will Oregon State be able to stop BYU or will Nelson be more than they can handle?
- Is Michael Alisa an A lister? Michael Alisa emerged last week as BYU's best option at running back. That was against a WAC opponent. Can he repeat his performance this week against a Pac-12 defense? Alisa will show whether he is an A list running back or just another body in the back field.
- Will punting play a role? Jonny Hekker is still the Oregon State punter. He is the guy who had two 6-yard punts in the 2009 Las Vegas Bowl. Earlier this year against Wisconsin, he had a punt for negative yardage. Could he impact the game with poor punting? BYU punter Riley Stephenson has played very well this year. His punts have helped BYU win games by controlling field position. Could Stephenson change the outcome of the game with his punts?
- Pac-12 redemption. After a devastating 54-10 loss to Pac-12 foe Utah earlier this year, BYU can now redeem itself by beating the Beavers on the road. It is possible that at year's end the Beavers end up being better than Utah. They play head to head on October 29.
Last: BYU won 44-20 (2009)
Streak: BYU won 1
TIME: 2:00 PM (Mountain Time)
TV: Fox College Sports, KBYU
Radio: KSL 1160 AM, 102.7 FM, www.ksl.com
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