A daunting task lie ahead for the 3-8 Beavers as they head south to raucous Autzen Stadium to face the natinon's #5 ranked rushing attack averaging over 284 yards per game on the ground. The Beavers put together one of their better defensive performances last week against a respectable Husky offense, limiting them to just 315 total yards.
No doubt the 115th Civil War will be difficult, OSU is a heavy underdog, but playing spoiler has been good to the Beavers in recent years. Here's how the position groups match up and who Beaverblitz thinks holds the advantage:
Sean Mannion had one of his best days as a Beaver, tossing for 339 yards and two scores. He is averaging a balmy 275 yards per game through the air, good for 18th in the country but added another INT last week, moving his total to 16 on the season. Mannion is plenty comfortable in the pocket, but late throws over the middle have plagued the freshman.
Darron Thomas may not have the prettiest stats through the air, but his 23 passing touchdowns is 6th best in the conference. Impressive given Oregon's run heavy offense. Thomas has not been a serious threat in the run game this season averaging just 3.2 yards per carry. Thomas is a smart quarterback who knows how to run Chip Kelly's offense to perfection.
Advantage: Oregon - Mannion continues to turn the ball over even though passing numbers are high. Thomas is at home and manages the game beautifully.
LaMichael James, Kenjon Barner and DeAnthony Thomas is the most dangerous trio of runningbacks in the country, hands down. All three average over seven yards per carry and have a combined 28 touchdowns and 2,420 yards. As if the running attack wasn't potent enough, Thomas has added a team leading 472 yards in the passing game and is tied with eight scores through the air.
Oregon State looked much more together up front and rushed for 145 yards and three scores last week, led by Jovan Stevenson and Terron Ward. Stevenson and Ward should get the bulk of the carries this week as freshman Malcolm Agnew hasn't seen much action the 2nd half of the season. The duo complement each other well and both have good hands out of the backfield.
Advantage:Oregon - Just watch some film on these three Oregon backs and you'll see why this decision is a no-brainer.
James Rodgers left last week's game with a sprained ankle but believes he will be ready come Saturday. Rodgers became OSU's all-time leader in receptions with 222, passing former Beaver great Mike Hass. With Jordan Bishop out with a broken foot Micah Hatfield caught his first collegiate touchdown and Obum Gwacham went big (pun intended) with two catches for 69 yards. The constant, Markus Wheaton, continued his assault on Pac-12 corners and leads the Beavers with 947 yards on 71 receptions. Wheaton has also found success on the ground running the fly sweep to perfection of late, adding 8.1 yards per rush.
While Oregon's group of wide outs mainly consists of one man (Lavasier Tuinei) it's the timing of the passing game that makes these receivers dangerous. Tuinei has caught just 35 balls, but has scored eight times. Josh Huff's main issue has been reliability, but Huff possesses all the athleticism in the world and is third on the squad with 351 yards and two scores.
Advantage: Oregon State - Oregon has quality wide outs, but they do not use them to the extent that OSU does. With Gwacham and Hatfield stepping up the unit only gets stronger with depth.
David Paulson is one of the conference's best tight ends and is deadly down the middle of the field for Darron Thomas. Paulson has incredibly reliable hands and while he isn't the most athletic of tight ends, he gets the job done. Paulson averages 14.1 yards per reception and has scored four times.
Oregon State threw to their tight ends last week and totaled 26 yards on three receptions. Not startling numbers, but good to see the unit getting involved in the passing game again. Joe Halahuni will need to have a big game this week and tally more than his 25.4 yard per game average.
Advantage: Oregon - Halahuni is equally as effective as Paulson…when he's used. Oregon uses Paulson in every down and distance and does it effectively.
Oregon State finally looks healthy and together as a unit and it showed last week against a very stout Washington front four. Sean Mannion was sacked just once and given ample time to find his receivers down field. The 145 yards on the ground was OSU's second best total against conference opponents and best since their last win in Seattle.
Oregon benefits from athletic lineman and is a big part of why they are so successful on the ground. Duck quarterbacks have been sacked just 11 times to date and as mentioned, the 284 yards on the ground per game is the best in the conference by nearly 80 yards.
Advantage:Oregon - Their run game is just plain ridiculous and it begins up front with their ability to win 1-on-1 match ups in space.
Scott Crichton is playing at an extremely high level and should get All-Conference consideration at season's end. His six sacks are best on the team and his 13.5 tackles for loss is 2nd best in the conference. Line-mates Dylan Wynn and Andrew Seumalo have put together solid seasons as well and have nine tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks between them. Most impressive are the seven recovered fumbles by the duo. OSU has 23 sacks on the season.
Oregon is fast and athletic in their front four and has gotten to opposing quarterbacks 33 times this season. D-End Terrell Turner and d-tackle Dion Jordan are the two disruptive forces inside and off the edge for the Ducks. Turner has 3.5 sacks while Jordan's 4.5 are best in the group. The Ducks are allowing just 146 yards per game on the ground and only 3.68 yards per tote.
Advantage: Oregon - OSU did better stopping the run last week, but is still suspect up front even with the strong play from Crichton. Oregon is better statistically.
Feti Unga got his feet wet again at MLB and it showed in the rushing statistics last week. Hopes are he will be 100% this week and bolster the OSU run defense from the second level. Michael Doctor continues to track down ball carriers and is 2nd on the team with 73 tackles. The only senior in the group, Cam Collins should be fired up and is expected to play inspired football this Saturday in his final collegiate game.
For Oregon, it is essential that their athletic group of backers have an impact. Starters Josh Kadu, Dewitt Stuckey and Michael Clay are as explosive a unit as OSU has seen all season. Add in rover Eddie Plesant and Kiko Alonzo and Oregon is legitimately five deep with playmakers at the second level. Kadu leads the team with 6.5 sacks while Clay and Stuckey are 2nd and 3rd respectively with 71 and 63 tackles.
Advantage: Oregon - This group of Duck linebackers/rovers can cover the pass and the run just as effectively.
Minus Cliff Harris, the Duck secondary has given up 244 yards per game through the air and allowed 18 scores. The one week spot on the defense is in the secondary however the unit is allowing just 58.7% completions which is 2nd to only Utah.
Oregon State is 2nd in the conference allowing just 206 yards through the air, however they allow 11.57 yards per completion and QB's are completing over 63% of their passes. OSU has also allowed the 2nd most touchdowns through the air in the conference with 24.
Advantage: Push - Higher total yards for Oregon, but six more scores and 5% higher completion percentage for the Beavers.