The Oregon State Beavers have a history of pulling off unlikely upsets at home in the past decade.
They beat then-No. 3 USC in 2006 and the top-ranked Trojans in 2008. Even last season, they downed No. 13 Wisconsin at Reser Stadium.
The Beavers are hoping for some of that Reser mojo on Saturday night when they host No. 8 Stanford.
If any team is poised for an upset, it’s Oregon State (6-1, 4-0 Pac-12). The team has rebounded from what could have been a season-busting loss in the opener to Eastern Washington.
“We learned a really important lesson early to just stay in the moment and stay in the games because if all of the sudden you don’t play well, you lose. I think these kids like to play, they like to prepare and they know you have to play one game at a time,” coach Mike Riley said. “We’re excited about the next step to see what we can do.”
Stanford (6-1, 4-1) has done its own rebounding, coming back from a 27-21 upset loss at Utah to a 24-10 victory at home over then-No. 9 UCLA. The victory popped the Cardinal back in the top 10, and put them at No. 6 in the initial BCS rankings.
The game will feature two of the more traditional offenses in the Pac-12. While much of the league has gone to the no-huddle, Oregon State and Stanford are still old-school.
“How about that? Dinosaurs,” Cardinal coach David Shaw joked. “I’m sure the referees will appreciate that.”
Stanford prides itself on good old smash-mouth football and a physical offensive line, while Oregon State quarterback Sean Mannion is a prototypical drop-back passer.
The Beavers’ junior signal-caller is having a career season and leads the nation with an average of 427.4 yards passing per game. Last weekend in Oregon State’s 49-17 victory over California, Mannion threw for 481 yards and four scores.
Here’s what to look for when Stanford visits Oregon State on Saturday night:
Brandin Cooks leads all FBS-level receivers with 10.9 catches and 168 yards receiving per game, as well as 12 touchdown receptions. He’s jumped into the Heisman Trophy conversation of late, and certainly has the attention of Stanford. As for who will be assigned to defend him, Shaw said: “Everybody. Everybody. He’s everybody’s responsibility. There’s no other way around it. Safeties, corners, nickels. Everybody has to be aware of where he is and try to keep him in front of us.”
Receiver Devon Cajuste and kicker Jordan Williamson will sit out Saturday night’s game because of injuries. Cajuste is still recovering from a bruised right knee suffered against UCLA and Williamson will miss his second straight game with a leg injury. Jordan Pratt, the 28-year-old former minor league baseball player, will make his first career start in Cajuste’s place, while redshirt freshman Conrad Ukropina will start for Williamson again.
One of the more intriguing players on Stanford’s roster is Pratt, a walk-on for the Cardinal after six years in the Los Angeles Dodgers’ farm system. Pratt hails from Monmouth, Ore. “Last year at Oregon, the year before at Oregon State, I think I had 50 to 60 percent of all players’ tickets. A lot of good friends and family,” he said. “I don’t think as many this year. I told everybody if you want to come to the game, ‘Good, love to have everybody there. But I don’t think I’m going to have time for everybody.’ Hopefully, I can round up 10 or 12.”
Oregon State’s rushing offense is ranked 118th among FBS-level schools (11th in the Pac-12) with an average of 73.7 yards a game. But it’s getting better: Over the last three games, the Beavers have averaged 99 yards per game. Their best showing of the season was 120 yards in a 44-17 victory over Colorado on Sept. 28.
Last season, Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan made his first collegiate start against the Beavers, completing 22 of 29 passes for 254 yards and three touchdowns. The Cardinal, then ranked No. 16, defeated the No. 13 Beavers 27-23 at Stanford Stadium. Stepfan Taylor, now with the Arizona Cardinals, ran for 116 yards.