Oregon State (5-1) at California (1-5)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, October 19, 10:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Memorial Stadium (63,000) -- Berkeley, California. Television: ESPN2 or ESPNU. Home Record: Oregon State 2-1, California 1-3. Away Record: Oregon State 3-0, California 0-2. Neutral Record: Oregon State 0-0, California 0-0. Conference Record: Oregon State 3-0, California 0-3. Series Record: California leads, 34-31.
GAME NOTES: Two teams with impressive aerial assaults will clash at Memorial Stadium on Saturday when the Oregon State Beavers take on the California Golden Bears in Pac-12 action.
An embarrassing loss at home to an FCS opponent in week one seems to have sparked the Beavers. Since the loss Oregon State has ripped off five straight wins. That includes a 52-24 win over Washington State last Saturday, as the Beavers ended the game on a 35-0 run. Oregon State is a perfect 3-0 in conference play and tied with Oregon atop the Pac-12 North Division standings.
California has had an almost exact opposite run this season. The Golden Bears are 1-5 overall and 0-3 in league play with their only win coming against an FCS program (Portland State, 37-30). Dating back to last season, California has lost 10 of its last 11 games and hasn't topped a FBS squad in the last calendar year. Obviously Sonny Dykes' first season as head coach in Berkeley has not been a memorable one thus far.
Although the Beavers were not as prolific a passing team last year as they have been this season, they still managed to torch the Golden Bears, 62-14, in Corvallis last year behind four touchdowns and 325 yards passing from Sean Mannion. Oregon State has won 11 the last 14 meetings.
The improvement on offense for the Beavers this season is one of the more intriguing and yet still surprising developments in the Pac-12. The Beavers are leading the nation in passing (433.2 ypg).
Mannion's growth as a passer has been a major reason why the Beavers have been so productive through the air. Mannion, who had to fight off Cody Vaz for the starting job this offseason, has thrown for 2,511 yards and 25 touchdowns, completing 67.1 percent of his pass attempts to go with only three interceptions. Not only is Mannion the only player in the country throwing for more than 400 yards per game but he is also the only player with more than 20 touchdown passes. Mannion was in rare form against Washington State, when he threw for a program record 493 yards.
There was some concern that Brandin Cooks might not be able to fill the shoes of primary receiver when Markus Wheaton left for the NFL last year. Those doubts look ridiculous now. Cooks has hauled in 63 passes for 944 yards and 11 touchdowns already. He leads the country in yards, receptions and touchdowns and is one of only three players bringing in more than 10 passes per game. Defenses can't key in on Cooks too much, as Richard Mullaney (30 receptions, 521 yards, two TDs) has also been producing at a high level.
The run game has been more or less an afterthought for the Beavers with Storm Woods (189 yards, four TDs) the leader on the ground.
The weakness for the Beavers has been on defense as they have been prone to getting into shootouts with how effective the passing game has been. Oregon State is allowing more than 30 points and 400 yards per game. However the unit has been very opportunistic, as it proved against Washington State with six forced turnovers, as the Beavers are second in the conference in turnovers forced (15) and turnover margin (+8).
California knows a thing or two about passing as well. The Golden Bears are second in the Pac-12 in yards through the air (368.0 ypg). However California has not been producing many points despite the high-flying attack. The Golden Bears rank dead last in the Pac-12 in scoring (24.8 ppg).
A freshman has been at the helm of California's attack. Jared Goff has shown flashes of brilliance in the pass-heavy system of Dykes but has had some stumbles as well. In all Goff has thrown for 2,036 yards and nine scores but has completed under 60 percent of his pass attempts and has also been intercepted six times.
There is a bit more of a balance for how the production of the passing game is spread out among their receivers for the Golden Bears. Chris Harper (38 receptions, 570 yards, four TDs) is the biggest play-maker but he missed last week's game. He is expected to play this week. MEanwhile Bryce Treggs (41 receptions, 460 yards, TD) has been a reliable pass-catcher as the team-leader in receptions.
Like Oregon State, California doesn't rely very much on the running game. Brendan Bigelow (277 yards) and Daniel Lasco (213 yards, two TDs) have each been solid when called upon.
The Golden Bears' lack of scoring success is just one of many factors that have led to their 1-5 start. Weakness on defense has been the primary downfall of the squad as California is last in the Pac-12 in both scoring (43.7 ppg) and total defense (518 ypg). In fact California is among the three worst teams in the country in each of those categories.
A failure to slow other teams down and a tendency to turn the ball over is not a recipe for success against Oregon State. Expect Mannion to find open receivers all game and force the Golden Bears to play catch up. That might cause Goff to force throws, playing right into the hands of the Beavers' ball- hawking defense.
Sports Network PRedicted Outcome: Oregon State 45, California 24
10/16 10:40:58 ET