No. 20 Stanford (5-2, 4-1 Pac-12) is heading to Corvallis on Thursday to face off against the Oregon State Beavers (1-6, 0-4 Pac-12) in a game that begins a stretch of important in-conference games for the Cardinal. Thursday’s game will be the Cardinal’s and the Beavers’ first after a bye week, so both teams have had plenty of time to prepare.
Both teams come into the game with solid rush attacks and much worse rush defense to match.
Bryce Love comes into the game continuing to lead the NCAA in rushing yards, even after last week off, with 1387 yards overall for an average of 198.1 per game. Though Oregon State has struggled this season, they found their rushing game in their last match against Colorado, with running back Ryan Nall scoring three times with 172 yards rushing.
By contrast, Stanford’s rush defense is 98th in the nation and 10th in the Pac-12, allowing 195.4 rushing yards per game. The Cardinal has struggled this season trying to find balance on defense and manage without Solomon Thomas, and will have to try to hold Nall to minimal scores in order to win.
Similarly, Oregon State’s rush defense is allowing an average of 200.1 rushing yards per game, ranking 101st in the nation. That number is remarkably close to Bryce Love’s average, and just might allow Love to get some big plays to help bring the Cardinal to victory.
Of course, when has Love ever needed help to make big plays?
Oregon’s starting quarterback, Darell Garretson, was taken to the locker room for medical treatment during the last game, forcing redshirt freshman safety Mason Moran to play as quarterback. Yes, you read that right. As Moran is still trying to be comfortable in his new role, interim coach Cory Hall might play it safe to prevent injury to Garretson, who returned last week.
After Oregon head coach Gary Andersen abruptly resigned on Oct. 9, Oregon State has been scrambling to reform itself after an event Ryan Nall described as “emotional, tears were shed.”
Combine this with the potential for upheaval on offense, and you can expect the stout Stanford secondary to make some big plays. With a plus-8 turnover margin, the Cardinal defense has been in overdrive this season.
Justin Reid has 5 interceptions on the season, tied for the lead in the nation and Peter Kalambayi has 9 sacks, third in the nation.
Combine that with the return of JJ Arcega-Whiteside, who has added to the depth in the pass game aided by the tight ends, and the improving passing game under a combination Keller Chryst, K.J. Costello — and the occasional play by Ryan Burns — and the Cardinal can come out of Corvallis with a win.
Don’t let the rankings fool you, though; Thursday night games on the road are notorious for creating upsets.
Furthermore, though they lost, Oregon’s 36-33 game against Colorado last week was the best they’ve played all season, perhaps hinting at a revitalization of the program under their new coach.
However, the last time Oregon State won on a Thursday was in 2008, against USC.
Watch the Cardinal face the Beavers at 6 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 26 on ESPN.
Contact Ariana Rollins at arianar ‘at’ stanford.edu.