The No. 15 Oregon State Beavers finish up their season with the first of two home games this weekend, when the California Golden Bears come to Reser Stadium for a Pac-12 bout.
A largely disappointing season for California will come to a close in this matchup as there are no more games left on the schedule, and with the Golden Bears just 3-8 overall this season, no postseason. It will be the second time in the last three seasons that California has failed to earn a bowl invite after a seven-season streak in postseason play from 2003-2009.
"The bowl game situation is obviously disappointing. It is not something we are used to," said head coach Jeff Tedford while looking towards the future. "We have a good group of young guys, from the offensive line to the skill players you saw today. I am very committed to getting the program back to where it needs to be."
Tedford's coaching seat has been heating up in recent years so it remains to be seen if he will still be around in Berkeley to complete a turnaround.
The surprising season for Oregon State hit another road block last week when the Beavers came up short on the road to another nationally ranked team in Stanford. The 27-23 loss dropped Oregon State to 7-2 overall. This matchup for the Beavers is just an appetizer for the Civil War in the season finale next weekend when the Beavers host the No. 1 Oregon Ducks in a game that will have much more than instate bragging rights on the line.
It has been more than 100 years since these teams first met up on the gridiron. In that time there have been 64 total meetings, 34 of which California has won, including a 23-6 victory last season.
The backfield tandem of C.J. Anderson and Isi Sofele has been the key to California's limited success on offense. Although they rank near the middle of the conference in both scoring and total offense, the Golden Bears are the fourth most productive rushing team (182.4 ypg). Both Anderson and Sofele have been the primary cogs in the California rushing machine. Anderson leads the team with 729 yards and four touchdowns. Sofele has started seven games and has led the team in carries (128) but is behind Anderson with 653 yards and three scores.
The passing game was not overly productive this season before it lost lead receiver Keenan Allen for the last two games. On the season the Golden Bears are averaging only 215.2 yards passing. After Allen, Chris Harper is the next best option. Harper has brought in 38 passes for 515 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Allen's loss is not the only bad news for the passing game. Joining Allen on the injury list is quarterback Zach Maynard, listed as doubtful with a knee injury this week. Maynard's backup is Allan Bridgford, who has completed just 13-of-37 pass attempts for 145 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions in limited minutes this season.
California has played tough on defense for stretches but its overall body of work is not all that impressive. The Golden Bears are the third from last in the Pac-12 in total yards allowed (430.5 ypg) and just slightly better in scoring defense (30.5 ppg, ninth).
The quarterback situation at Oregon State was far from a concern a few weeks ago. However after opening day starter Sean Mannion was injured in early October a quarterback controversy has begun to brew. Cody Vaz filled in for Mannion in that first game Mannion missed and threw for 332 yards and three touchdowns in a road win over BYU. Since then Vaz has taken the majority of the snaps and started four of the five games. Vaz is listed as questionable for Saturday's game with an ankle injury.
"The situation is pretty obvious. Cody's hurt and Sean is chomping at the bit and ready to go," head coach Mike Riley said about his quarterbacks. "As far as the role they'll play we'll have to play it out and go day to day."
Riley admitted that he is still uncertain about who he will give the start to on Saturday but did say that two days of practice would be enough for Vaz to get the nod.
Regardless of who plays at quarterback, the Beavers' passing game will go only as far as Markus Wheaton and Brandin Cooks takes it. Wheaton has been both Vaz and Mannion's favored target with a team-high 61 receptions for 878 yards and nine touchdowns this season. Cooks has also excelled with a team-high 988 yards on 57 receptions. Starting running back Storm Woods (25 receptions, 191 yards) is the only other player on the roster with more than 18 receptions.
Woods has not been an overly productive back this season but has played well enough. He has rushed for 634 yards and six touchdowns and is averaging a healthy 4.8 yards per carry.
While its offense has not been in line with some of the more elite teams in the Pac-12, the defense has been as effective as any in the conference. The Beavers are allowing the second fewest points per game in the Pac-12 (19.1 ppg) and the fourth fewest total yards (347.7 ypg). The Beavers are especially strong against the run, where they rank behind only Stanford (99.7 yapg).
The defense up front has been stout with the play of Scott Chricton (15.0 tackles for loss, 9.0 sacks) and Michael Doctor (56 tackles, 6.0 tackles for loss). However, the secondary has perhaps the most dynamic playmakers. Cornerback Rashaad Reynolds leads the team in tackles (57) and pass breakups (12) and has collected three interceptions, while fellow cornerback Jordan Poyer has brought in a Pac-12 leading five picks.