Oregon State hits the field tonight for the first time in 12 days, against 20th ranked Stanford. After a surprisingly solid effort in a 36-33 loss to Colorado 5 days after Gary Andersen had resigned, the team and program actually had time to make some adjustments, not just change the mix of plays already in the system. Not that that by itself didn’t take on a distinctly different look against the Buffs.
It should be an interesting evening, if for no other reason than to see what interim coach Cory Hall does with extra preparation time.
There are other reasons to be interested though.
The Cardinal have had a similar length break, which means Bryce Love’s chances for a Heisman may have gotten lost in the shuffle of everything else that happened in the college football world, much of it bad around the conference unless you are in Arizona. But it also means Love, who has had a heavy work load in the first half of the season in piling up a per game rushing average of 198 yards, is rested for a stretch run that might also rekindle interest in him and his Heisman hopes. If he’s too do that, it will come at the expense of the Beavers.
Stanford isn’t quite what they sometimes have been in recent years, but even diminished, they still resemble Stanford. And recent history tells us that Cardinal coach David Shaw does make good use of in-season opportunities. Also, in Love, the Cardinal may have the back that will finally break through, this from a run where they have had a Heisman finalist 4 times in recent years.
As good as some of the arrays of running backs the Beavers have recently faced from other teams in the conference, this may be the best yet.
The progression from Toby Gerhart to Stepfan Taylor to Tyler Gaffney to Christian McCaffrey to Bryce Love is unparalleled by anything since the hey days of USC tailbacks in the 60’s & 70’s, and it’s one of the major reason why the Cardinal have run off 7 wins in a row over the Beavers.
It’s why tonight will be an excellent opportunity to watch a genuinely great opponent, but also an excellent opportunity to see what, or whether, or who, in the Oregon State program, players, coaches, and admin., are individually if not necessarily collectively prepared to do about it, on the level that will be required to climb out of the trench the program is and has been in for some number of years now.
With 4 regulars in the secondary out, 3 of them corners, plus 2 more DBs listed as doubtful, both run support and pass protection once the remaining inexperienced players in the Oregon State secondary over-commit will be problematical.
The continuing absence of WR Seth Collins as well as the continuing recovery of QB Jake Luton seriously limits the offensive playbook options as well.
It’s why Stanford is a 3 touchdown favorite, despite the effort Oregon State put forth against Colorado.
The game should be a rushing game showdown between Love and Oregon State’s Ryan Nall. Especially if Oregon State is interested in maximizing their chances by minimizing the time Stanford has the choice of handing the ball to Love.
With lots of program investors waiting until they see the identity of the new coach (it can’t be Hall, but another effort comparable to the Colorado game could keep him employed), and the logistics nightmare that is a weeknight game in Corvallis always is, especially while classes are in session, there’s a good chance this will be an even more under-attended game than it would be in Palo Alto, so the energy infusion from the fans will be seriously curbed as well.
We’ll see who has some love for the game.
(Photo by Andy Wooldridge)