Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 11/8/12
It’s getting to crunch time in the Pac-12 season where one game can be the difference between a BCS bowl game or a lesser destination, especially with just a few weeks to go within the regular season. This coming weekend features two teams that are in danger of falling out of the Pac-12 North title race, Oregon State and Stanford, as they do battle in Palo Alto in a Saturday afternoon game.Stanford comes into the date with a 7 and 2 record, but they are also facing the toughest stretch of their schedule. After their date with the Beavers, the Cardinal travel to Eugene to meet the Oregon Ducks and then finish off the regular season traveling to UCLA. With one conference loss to Washington on September 27, Stanford can’t afford another conference loss to remain in the Rose Bowl picture. Oregon State, meanwhile, rebounded from their loss to the Huskies on October 27 by beating Arizona State at home to bring their record to 7 and 1. After meeting the Cardinal, the Beavers finish their season with three home games: California, Oregon and the reschedule of their season opener versus Nicholls St.The stakes for this game couldn’t be any higher as both teams want to keep pressure on Oregon to force the Ducks to win out to represent the North in the Pac-12 championship. With that backdrop in mind in the matchup between the eleventh ranked Beavers and the fourteenth ranked Cardinal, I have come up with my three bold predictions as to what we might see this weekend.1. With both teams making switches at quarterback, the offenses that finds their rhythm first will win this game. Oregon State brought on Cody Vaz after incumbent starter Sean Mannion underwent knee surgery, and the Beavers kept up their winning ways. Mannion made a remarkably quick recovery and was given his starting job back against Washington, and he struggled mightily with four interceptions before Vaz came on in relief. Vaz retook the starting job against Arizona State, and will remain at the controls this weekend. Stanford, meanwhile, is replacing an inconsistent Josh Nunes with freshman Kevin Hogan who helped lead the Cardinal to a dominant win over Colorado.Both teams have experienced players surrounding their quarterbacks, but the winning team will be the first to give their new starter confidence with an early touchdown or a sustained drive for a score. It’s also important for the quarterbacks to avoid mistakes to put their defenses into no-win situation with inopportune mistakes, so Vaz and Hogan will need to be at their best.2. Two stout defenses will be meeting here, and one of them will make a big play to help their team win. With the margin of talent pretty close between these two teams and the offenses acclimating to new signal callers, the defenses will need to be at the top of their play to help their teams win. Stanford and Oregon State both have strong defenses, as they are ranked 1 and 2 in the conference in points allowed and rushing defense, while they are near the top in most other team defensive categories.A key battle for me will be how Oregon State establishes the run versus the top ranked rushing defense in the conference in the Cardinal. While Oregon State isn’t known as a great running team, they must establish the threat of the run in order to keep the Cardinal from teeing off on Vaz. Oregon State’s defense is equally strong in pass and run defense, and so they will need to stay strong all game to keep the Stanford offense in check. I believe whichever defense can create a turnover at a key time or score points on a return will tip the balance to their side.3. Both teams will score over 20 points in this game, with the winning team scoring points in the final minute. In a battle between two evenly matched teams, I feel that each team will need to maximize their possessions and score points as much as they can because it will be close. In situations like that, I expect there will be a late touchdown or game winning field goal in the last minute to decide the winner of this one. I wouldn’t be surprised if this one ends up in overtime because I believe that both teams really want to win this game, and I don’t expect a blowout.With Vaz being more experienced and the Beavers having a good road record, I am expecting that Oregon State will be the victor with a late touchdown to pull off a 28 to 24 win to give them their eighth win of the season. It should be a very entertaining game, however, and one I’m looking forward to watching up close.
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