Oregon State could and should be a Top 20 ranked team right now. If they were 4-0 instead of 3-1 that is where they likely would be ranked. However, the home opener stinker against Eastern Washington has fouled what has otherwise been the expected accumulation of wins for OSU during a softer than normal early schedule for the first half plus of the season. Now in most pollsters minds OSU would likely need to be 6-1 before they start getting serious Top 25 consideration again after starting the season at #25. Still, as OSU plays just their second Pac-12 game of the season, today’s game is very important for showing the conference and nation that a program like Oregon State still has plenty of separation from a program like Colorado. Multiple 4 star recruits will be attending the game and expect Riley to do his best to give them a good showing that could help sway their minds to play for the Orange and Black.
Colorado will not lie down quietly however and it is clear new head coach Mike MacIntyre is a considerable upgrade for the Buffs program. He has instilled passion and know-how and the players are having fun and believing. WR Paul Richardson is neck and neck with Brandin Cooks for consideration as the Pac-12′s best WR of 2013. Cooks is tops in more statistical categories including overall yards and TDs, but nationally they both are at the top of the charts and Richardson leads the country in receiving yards per game at 208.5. This is a chance for both to show who really is a mega difference maker battling head-to-head. I expect Richardson will get atleast one easy walk in TD after beating the OSU secondary deep. If we can limit it to just that then I believe OSU will put up more points and seal their 4th win. CB Steven Nelson of OSU is gaining confidence and has a taste for big plays. He will do his most to get another pick today and stay in the national discussion and in the lead for picks across the nation.
Mannion will again have to sling it in today’s contest even though the weather is expected to include some rain. Colorado’s defense is 10th in the nation against the run and Riley’s statements about the running game aren’t much more than lipservice until proved otherwise. The truth is for whatever reasons OSU is a team the past couple years that is very quick to get pass happy and disregard the run. With the 2013 team having established very little running identity so far it seems like this trend is very likely to continue as OC Langsdorf in particular just trusts pass plays playing out more than the run game. Last year that bothered me a alot and especially in the 4th quarters of games when OSU should have used the run much more to ice games and burn some clock with a small lead while the defense is getting tired and more suceptible to nice runs. With Storm and OSU averaging about 4.5 yards a carry last year it just didn’t make sense to not be using that late. 2013′s running game hasn’t showed much at all though and the coaches either are going to have some faith in it or not.
I see Cooks getting 2 TDs today and Mullaney and Hamlett 2 more. Ward will get a rushing TD and then 2 field goals will round out the OSU scoring on the day. Look for something like a 21-14 halftime score in OSU’s favor and for Colorado to keep it tight enough for most of the game and put a mid-fourth quarter scare into OSU when the game is as close as 34-31 after Richardson gets loose for a TD. OSU will score one more final TD late and the OSU secondary will pick off a Connor Wood pass on Colorado’s last drive to secure a 41-31 win.
Have the Maalox and aspirin ready as the Cardiac Kids will again try to make this one interesting and let the Buffalo’s hang around. In the end Mannion to Cooks and Mullaney, with nice contributions from Cummings and the TEs, should prove a little too much for the Buffs to keep up with on the road in somewhat sloppy conditions. The Cookie Monster will shine a notch brighter than Richardson. Beavs will not quite cover the Vegas spread but should climb to 4-1 and stay atop the Pac-12 standings for now.
Oregon State 41, Colorado 31