The #10 Oregon State Beavers will try to continue their great season thus far in a tough non-conference matchup against the BYU Cougars at LaVell Edwards Stadium this Saturday at 12:30 on ABC. Heading into the season, Oregon State was not expected to be a standout team, but the Beavers have stunned the college football world rising to #10, winning their first four games, most recently a 19-6 victory over Washington State. The Beavers now are 4-0 for the first time since 2002 and at #10, the highest ranked Oregon State squad since the 2001 season when the Beavers were also ranked #10 to start the season. The Beavers have won in many ways. The victory against Washington State was led by the defense after the offense propelled it to a 38-35 win over Arizona in the previous game.
“That is going to be really important moving forward, that everybody picks each other up and that we find that way to win,” head coach Mike Riley said. BYU has been in the national rankings this season jumping to #25 after a 2-0 start. The Cougars then had two difficult losses by a combined four points. BYU has come back with consecutive victories, including a 6-3 win in a defensive battle with instate rival Utah State. Overall, the OSU-BYU series has been split with each team having five wins against the other. Last year, BYU won its second straight over OSU in a 38-28 victory at Reser Stadium. Oregon State’s offense has an unknown now with quarterback Sean Mannion out indefinitely with a left knee injury. Mannion had thrown for 1,358 yards this season with 7 touchdowns and completing 63.3% of his throws. Taking over is junior Cody Vaz who has not played in a game this season and has only 17 career passing attempts.
“It’s very, very disappointing for (Mannion) because he’s invested a ton,” head coach Mike Riley said, while adding confidently, “We’re going to go win the game with Cody. He’s a good quarterback and he’s been preparing for this for a long time.” A key for Oregon State this season has been the offense’s success with the pass as the second best passing offense in the Pac-12 at 339.5 ypg. Vaz has some of the Pac-12’s best targets to throw to in Markus Wheaton and Brandin Cooks. Wheaton has team-highs with 36 receptions, 498 yards and 4 touchdowns. Cooks meanwhile, has been more of a deep threat, averaging 18.7 yards per reception and totaling 486 yards. Both are averaging more than 120 yards receiving per game. More will be required from the running game which has been led by Storm Woods (74 carries, 357 yards, 2 TDs) this season. Agnew has been pretty good at backup and OSU has also been using a fullback for some packages.
The six points that Oregon State allowed to Washington State was a season low and keeps with the Beavers’ much stronger defensive showings in 2012. Oregon State is ranked 2nd in the Pac-12 in scoring defense (17.0 ppg), and ranked fourth in the nation in rush defense (67.3 ypg). The Beavers have been beasts on third down, holding opponents to a national best 20.4% conversion rate. The strength of the defense is the secondary led by Jordan Poyer, who has four interceptions, three against Washington State, and Rashaad Reynolds, who has team-highs in tackles (27) and pass breakups (7). In its first season as an Independent, BYU is in the bottom half of the nation in total offense, averaging 398.3 yards per game, 73rd among 124 teams in the FBS. The offense is well balanced between the pass (1,256 yards) and the run (1,134 yards).
BYU QB Taysom Hill was lost for the season in the win over Utah State, while starter Riley Nelson is expected to play but still somewhat effected by his prior back injury. Nelson has completed 58.7 percent of his passes for 754 yards this season with an equal 5 touchdown passes and 5 interceptions. If Nelson has any issues during the game senior James Lark, who has only six career pass attempts, could see action. The BYU Cougars have solid running backs in Jamaal Williams (309 yards) and Michael Alisa (222). Cody Hoffman (31 receptions, 432 yards) and Kaneakua (20 receptions, 248 yards, 4 TDs) also provide the team a pair of dependable receivers. The offense has not needed to be too productive so far due to BYU’s stingy defense. The Cougars are ranked 5th in total defense nationally (229.3 ypg), and are even better in limiting points (8.8 ppg, third). Similar to Oregon State, the BYU defense is effective in big moments, holding teams to a 40% conversion rate in the red zone and a 27% success rate on third downs.
Brand Ogletree leads BYU in tackles with 49 stops this season, including six for loss. Kyle Van Noy (10.5 TFL, 6.5 sacks) is one of three defenders with seven or more tackles for loss this season with Ezekiel Ansah (8.5) and Spencer Hadley (7.0) the other two. Oregon State’s ascension has been one of the best storylines in college football, but against BYU, the Cinderella story could be in jeopardy. With Vaz seeing his first major playing time, BYU’s defense could limit OSU’s ability to score enough points. However, OSU’s defense has the ability to play some offense of its own. Look for this to be an incredible grind it out game where long, steady drives have a big impact. I see the game as tied 10-10 at halftime. In the 2nd half I think Vaz gets a little more comfortable and after Poyer’s 5th interception of the season, Romaine is put in a position to win the game late and break a 17-17 tie. He gets it through and OSU goes ahead 20-17. We then have to hold BYU in the final 1:25 but are able to do so and reach 5-0 for the first time since 1939.
Oregon State 20, BYU 17