No. 20 Stanford football is on a four-game winning streak and leads the Pac-12 North. The Cardinal are coming off a bye-week and play Oregon State on Thursday at 6 p.m. in Corvallis, Oregon. The Daily’s King Jemison, Alejandro Salinas and Ariana Rollins discuss the Beavers’ running game, Bryce Love’s potential production and Oregon State’s coaching change.
At 6-foot-2 and 237 pounds, it’s no fun for any team to tackle Oregon State running back Ryan Nall for 60 minutes. Nall ran all over Colorado in Oregon State’s last game, racking up 172 yards and scoring three times on the ground. The Cardinal rush defense has been less than impressive this season, and ranks 97th in the nation. Is there any way Stanford contains Nall for the entire game?
King Jemison (KJ): Nall is a load, but he and the rest of his team have struggled mightily against the better defenses they’ve faced this year. Against Washington, Nall averaged a miserable two yards per carry, gaining just 18 yards overall on the ground. It’s true that Stanford’s rush defense has been … not great, but the Cardinal passing defense is starting to pick up the slack. The secondary has collected 11 interceptions and only given up 10 passing touchdowns. Stanford should be able to make Oregon State one-dimensional and generate a takeaway or three. Nall will pick up some yards, but he shouldn’t be able to gash the improving Cardinal front-seven.
Alejandro Salinas (AS): Nall is certainly a force to be respected, but not feared. Sure, he’s had several impressive rushing games, including 172 yards against Colorado and 115 yards against Colorado State, but he has only rushed for over 100 yards in three games this season. The third game was against Washington State, where he rushed for 118 yards. In the other three games he played this season, he racked up 60 yards of rushing or less. Additionally, his three big rushing games were all during games that Oregon State lost, which means to say his performance doesn’t necessarily sway the score of the game. Averaging one touchdown a game, Nall may get some yards against the Cardinal defense, but certainly not enough to impact the outcome of the game.
Ariana Rollins (AR): Ryan Nall looked like a force to be reckoned with last game, and Colorado’s rushing defense is ranked 96th in the nation, which is one above Stanford. The Cardinal have struggled without Solomon Thomas, and I don’t see any reason why they won’t struggle at least a little against Nall. That being said, Stanford has consistently improved over the season, and our secondary has been working well to keep our opponents from scoring too much. The Cardinal certainly won’t contain Nall the entire game, but he’s not an incredibly explosive back, making him a little less dangerous than he might seem.
On the other side, we have a much different back but a similar matchup. Bryce Love is averaging an FBS-leading (if you haven’t heard) 198.1 rushing yards per game, while Oregon State’s porous rush defense is allowing an average of 200.1 yards per game on the ground, ranking just behind Stanford at 100th in the nation. What kind of Love performance will we see Thursday and where will his rushing total end up?
KJ: As long as Bryce is fully healthy, he’s gonna put up big numbers against the putrid Oregon State defense. Colorado running back Phillip Lindsay put up 185 yards against the Beavers in their last game, including breaking off a 74 yard touchdown. Unfortunately for that struggling defense, Bryce Love has made a name for himself with long touchdown runs. If he plays most of the game, Love should put up over 200 yards and create one or two of his signature big plays. The problem is the Heisman candidate is one game removed from an ankle injury that sidelined him for the rest of the game against Oregon. If he’s not 100 percent, David Shaw would be wise to give backup Cameron Scarlett a heavy workload Thursday night. Stanford is plenty good to beat Oregon State without much Love, but they will need him desperately next week at Washington State.
AS: Assuming Bryce Love is completely healthy in Thursday’s game, we can see him put up at least 200 yards. Against Oregon, ranked 21st in the nation in rush defense, he was on pace to easily break the 200 yard barrier after accumulating 147 yards on only 17 carries before his game ending ankle injury on his first carry of the second half. Against Oregon State, ranked even lower than Stanford in rush defense at 100th in the nation, I expect to see his numbers well over 200 rushing yards, potentially closer to 300. We could witness a season-best rushing performance and a few long carries from a healthy Love. However, with Washington lingering around the corner, head coach David Shaw may choose to play Bryce a bit more conservatively this week to make sure the standout running back is completely healthy for a tough matchup next week.
AR: Look, both of these teams have rush defenses that could be, and have been, compared to turnstiles. The main difference here is the caliber of the running backs, and Love is leagues above most people in the game. If he plays, I don’t doubt he’ll break 100 yards yet again, though Shaw might play him less if Stanford has a large lead in order to keep him healthy for next week. However, Love is listed as day-to-day, so there is a decent chance we’ll see Cameron Scarlett play instead. Scarlett and Nall actually played on the same high school team, so if this happens, it’ll be an interesting matchup, to say the least.
Oregon State’s season has been disappointing to say the least, losing five of their first six games by an average of 31.4 points. Head coach Gary Andersen stepped down a couple weeks ago, and the Beavers had their most competitive game in weeks in interim head coach Cory Hall’s first game, losing to Colorado in a 36-33 shootout. Did the coaching change give the Beavers a spark and does Oregon State have any hope of getting their first conference win Thursday?
KJ: Interim coaches often bring the best out of a team. They infuse fresh energy and a new perspective, and the results speak for themselves. Look at Ed Orgeron at USC and LSU. The problem for the Beavers is their best is still not very good. This is likely Stanford’s easiest game this season outside of Rice. I’m sure Coach Hall will have his team ready to play, but Stanford’s rushing attack should overwhelm the outmanned Beavers, and the elite Cardinal secondary will likely generate some turnovers. The game could be close for a half, but Stanford should win comfortably.
AS: It goes without saying that interim head coaches can act as a reset button for a team, often reinvigorating a team with a new sense of purpose and energy. Interim head coach Cory Hall has surely done that with Oregon State, as seen in their narrow loss to Colorado, which can arguably be viewed as their best game of their season since beating Portland State at the beginning of September. Although Oregon State may enter Thursday’s home game with a bit more positive momentum than usual, I expect a competitive game up until half time, when the explosive Cardinal offense will take over and run by Oregon State’s fatigued backfield.
AR: Though Andersen’s resignation came as an abrupt shock to many on the team, Cory Hall did lead the team to what at least looked like their best game yet. Though it’s easy to just chalk it up as a loss, they held the lead until midway through the third quarter, and almost scored to win, or tie, with a minute left in the game. Hall has spoken about trying to make the game fun again, and that might be what this team needed. The Beavers are also coming off of a bye week, giving them a chance to adjust to their new coach, and I expect them to be competitive at home – just not enough to break their conference losing streak.
Contact King Jemison at kingj ‘at’ stanford.edu, Alejandro Salinas at asalinas ‘at’ stanford.edu and Ariana Rollins at arianar ‘at’ stanford.edu.