Corvallis, OR – Fresh off an emotional victory, the fourth- 12 Conference clash with the Oregon State Beavers.
Many expected USC to put up a fight against undefeated Stanford last weekend, and the Trojans did just that, pushing the Cardinal to a third overtime. Fortunately for first-year head coach David Shaw, his club emerged with a 56-48 triumph, the FBS-best 16th consecutive win for the program.
"We talked about fighting adversity," Shaw said. "I didn't know there was going to be this much adversity, but the kids fought through, and I love them to death for it."
Stanford owns its highest regular season ranking since 1970, and the team needs to take care of business this weekend to remain unbeaten heading into next week's highly-anticipated matchup with Oregon, a showdown that may very well determine the Pac-12 champion.
Oregon State enters hoping to snap a four-game losing streak vs. Top-25 teams, and considering the fact that the Beavers seem to be good for one big upset every season, Stanford needs to be on high alert. Mike Riley has enjoyed plenty of success during his tenure in Corvallis, but this season has been tough to endure. OSU is just 2-6 overall and is coming off a 27-8 loss to Utah last week.
"Our rushing total was not very good, and again that was the difference in the game," said Riley after the 19-point defeat. "They rushed for 200 yards and we rushed for 20."
Stanford owns a 49-25-3 series advantage over Oregon State, which includes a 38-0 romp last season.
Considered by many analysts to be the best NFL quarterback prospect since John Elway, Andrew Luck continues to shine each and every time Stanford takes the field. Against USC, Luck completed 29-of-40 passes for 330 yards with three touchdowns, and he drove his team to the tying score late in the fourth quarter after he threw a pick six that nearly ended Stanford's hopes for an undefeated season.
"I was very disappointed in myself," Luck said of the untimely interception. "For a couple of seconds, I wanted to go dig a hole and bury myself in it, but the guys believed in me. I was so happy to still see time on the game clock. It was another chance to get out there."
Stefan Taylor, who ran for two TDs versus USC, has rushed for 796 yards and eight touchdowns this season. Luck has run for two scores, but he isn't much of a threat as a runner. Instead, he picks teams apart with his accuracy, having completed 71.9 percent of his passes to date for 2,218 yards and 23 touchdowns against only four interceptions. Chris Owusu paces the Cardinal with 33 receptions, but he may be held out of action this weekend while recovering from a concussion. Even if he can't go, Luck still has plenty of capable targets in the fold. Stanford is generating 49.5 ppg and 505.6 total ypg, numbers that will scare even the most confident defensive coordinator.
Stanford surrendered 432 total yards to USC in last weekend's affair, and the overall performance of the defense certainly could have been better. Still, the unit came up with the play of the game, as Terrence Stephens stripped a USC tailback in the third overtime. A.J. Tarpley fell on the loose ball, ending the game and giving the Cardinal the victory.
Opponents are only posting 17.0 ppg and 328.9 total ypg against Stanford, which is particularly tough against the run. The Cardinal are only permitting 84.6 rushing ypg at a clip of 3.1 ypc. Against the pass, they have notched just four interceptions, but the team has registered 25 sacks already and has posted nine fumble recoveries. Keep an eye on Chase Thomas, as he has 11.5 TFL to his credit, including 5.5 sacks.
In order for Oregon State to have any success against the Stanford defense, a far better performance will be needed this week than last. The Beavers ran for just 32 yards on 26 attempts against Utah and managed a mere 8.6 yards per pass completion. Sean Mannion was intercepted three times for OSU, which also lost a fumble in the affair.
Overall this season, the Beavers are generating 23.0 ppg and 391.2 total ypg, mediocre numbers for an offense that has been inconsistent at best. Mannion has completed 64.7 percent of his passes for 2,195 yards, but he has just 10 TDs with 13 INTs. Markus Wheaton has made 57 catches for 702 yards, but he has gotten into the end zone only once. Malcolm Agnew leads the ground attack with modest totals of 401 yards and four touchdowns, and wideout James Rodgers has been far-less explosive than expected.
Oregon State gave up 225 rushing yards to Utah last week at a clip of 5.1 yards per carry, and while the Beavers permitted just 6-of-14 passes to be completed, two of the six connections resulted in touchdowns. Sure, OSU deserves some credit for holding Utah under 300 total yards and for permitting just 3-of-12 third-down conversion attempts to be successful, but the fact that all three of the Utes' trips to the red zone ended in touchdowns was disappointing.
The Beavers are allowing 29.9 ppg and 377.4 total ypg this season, and 31 touchdowns have been permitted to opposing offenses. OSU has allowed 17 passing touchdowns while notching a mere seven interceptions, but the club has come up with 17 sacks and nine fumble recoveries.