Sean Mannion and The Oregon State Beavers look to escape the confines of recent history and notch their first victory over Stanford since the 2009 season as they take on The Cardinal this Saturday at Stanford Stadium.
Facing off with Mannion will be fellow Senior quarterback Kevin Hogan, looking to pull his team up from what has been a rather underwhelming 4-3 start for a team some had picked to be the Pac-12 Championship favorites in the preseason. Stanford rose to as high as 9th in week five, but after a subsequent loss to Notre Dame in South Bend and then another to Pac-12 South contender Arizona State, The Cardinal have seen themselves go from playoff hopeful to questionably bowl eligible.
Far be it from me to count Stanford out. David Shaw is still one of the most highly sought after coaches on both the NCAA and NFL level; and for good reason. The Cardinal still maintain a 14-7 record against AP Poll Top 25 teams, one of the best winning percentages in the nation against ranked opponents. Shaw has also tallied a 24-3 record against unranked squads, a category the 4-2 Beavers currently find themselves in.
In terms of shoes to be filled, they don’t come much bigger than the pair Andrew Luck left behind on his way to becoming a standout in the NFL. Hogan was never expected to truly fulfill the offensive void left by Luck’s departure, but the senior from Mclean, Va. has proven himself to be an effective game manager, utilizing the bevy of weapons and the intricacies of David Shaw’s offense to his advantage.
Neither Mannion nor Hogan’s individual stats are going to wow anyone entering this game; in fact, they both seem to have fallen short to this point of the season considering what both managed to accomplish last year. The 2014 meeting will be one of true field management skills, who can make the best use of his weapons between the lines?
Stanford boasts a boatload of experience on offense this year. Senior wide receiver Ty Montgomery leads the team with 43 receptions and 3 touchdowns on the year and also serves as Satnford’s biggest threat in the return game. Devon Cajuste has also snagged three touchdowns of his own in 2014 and at 6’4, his combines size and speed to wreak havoc on secondaries.
Hogan currently leads the team with three rushing touchdowns on the season, but the tandem play of Remound Wright and Barry Sanders Jr. out of the backfield adds more depth and experience to one of the most balanced offenses in the nation.
Lining up for Sean Mannion and the Beaver offense is a young receiving group, a steady rotation of tight ends, and two hit-or-miss backs; all of which have had their share of injury problems so far in 2014.
Terron Ward and Storm Woods are both expected to play this weekend, after suffering nagging injuries in games against Colorado and Utah. The 1-2 punch of Ward and Woods will be critical to establishing an offensive rhythm against one of the best defenses in the nation.
The Beaver offense lost a key player in Richard Mullaney, who suffered a season ending elbow injury during last week’s loss to Utah. Mullaney was third on the team with 18 receptions and 216 yards.
Victor Bolden will be asked to shoulder the burden of stretching the Stanford secondary. Behind Bolden, its anyone’s guess who could step up to seize Mullaney’s position as a down-field possession receiver. Rahmel Dockery, Hunter Jarmon, and Jordan Villamin have all shown flashes of receiving aptitude, but have simply not seen enough field time to truly be considered bona-fide threats in the passing attack.
Both reeling from conference losses, Oregon State and Stanford will be hungry for a win this Saturday. With bowl season approaching, each win’s value seems to rise, so its a critical game for both squads as they set their sights on postseason play. Look for the quarterback position to be the biggest factor in the outcome of Saturday’s tilt.