NCAA Football

             === Pac-12 showdown pits Beavers against Cardinal ===
 Stanford, CA (Sports Network) - The 13th-ranked Oregon State Beavers and the
 16th-ranked Stanford Cardinal meet in California on Saturday afternoon in a
 must-win game if either squad hopes to play for the Pac-12 Conference title.
 Oregon State has exceeded preseason expectations by winning seven of its first
 eight games for the first time since 2000. The team's only loss coming on the
 road against Washington on Oct. 27 in a 20-17 final. The Beavers bounced back
 from that defeat nicely last weekend with a 36-26 win over Arizona State to
 move to 5-1 in Pac-12 play, one game behind rival Oregon with a date against
 the Ducks still remaining on the schedule (Nov. 27).
 Stanford has had a similar season as Oregon State, as it also lost on the road
 to Washington (17-13) and it is currently in a deadlock with the Beavers in
 the Pac-12 North standings. Since losing to Notre Dame in overtime on Oct. 13,
 the Cardinal has ripped off three wins in a row and has improved to a perfect
 5-0 at home in the process.
 Stanford has doubled up on Oregon State in the all-time series, 50-25-3.
 During their modest two-game win streak in the series, the Cardinal have
 outscored the Beavers, 76-13.
 The Beavers have been able to keep up a quality offense (26.2 ppg, 420.6 ypg)
 despite having a lack of continuity under center.
 Sean Mannion started the season at quarterback and came out of the gates on
 fire, tossing six touchdowns to just one interception in the first three
 games. Since then however he has been battling a knee injury, and in the
 action he has seen he has played poorly, throwing three interceptions against
 Washington State and four against Washington. Cody Vaz has grabbed the
 starting role in recent weeks, and even though he had a horrific completion
 percentage against ASU (14-of-33), he still threw for 267 yards and three
 touchdowns. He now has seven TD passes to just one pick on the season.
 Storm Woods (540 yards, six TDs) was unable to play last week due to a
 sprained knee, but Terron Ward filled in spectacularly with 19 carries for 146
 yards and a touchdown. Woods' status for this game remains unclear, but head
 coach Mike Riley has confidence in Ward.
 "We are proud of all of our guys and we have good depth at running back,"
 Riley said. "That is what this team has done so far. If someone is hurt, then
 somebody steps in and makes the big plays like Terron did. I am not really
 surprised because they have all done good stuff and when they get their
 opportunity, they take advantage of it."
 Brandin Cooks and Markus Wheaton are both coming off 100-yard receiving days,
 marking the third time this season the duo has accomplished that feat. Cooks
 (906 yards, four TDs) and Wheaton (787 yards, eight TDs) rank third and fifth
 in the conference in receiving yards, respectively.
 The Oregon State defense has held opponents in check by allowing just 18.1 ppg
 and 339 ypg, although it hasn't played as well away from Corvallis (23.3 ppg).
 With five interceptions (one for a TD) and nine passes defended, Jordan Poyer
 is one of the nation's best defensive backs. He missed his first-career game
 last week with a knee sprain, but he is expected to return for this crucial
 matchup. Much of Poyer's success is thanks to the pressure Scott Crichton puts
 on the quarterback, as he sits with 14 tackles for loss, nine sacks and two
 fumble recoveries.
 Stanford's offense (29.3 ppg, 373.8 ypg) has found success this season by
 riding its workhorse back, Stepfan Taylor. Taylor has proven in recent years
 that his is one of the best running backs in the country, and the 2012
 campaign has been no different as he has 206 carries for 947 yards and eight
 touchdowns to go along with 26 receptions. Although Taylor has five 100-yard
 rushing games this season, he has just 101 rushing yards combined in the last
 two games.
 Josh Nunes has started all nine games for the Cardinal and has thrown 10
 touchdowns, but he has completed fewer than 53 percent of his passes and has
 thrown seven interceptions. He made five pass attempts against Colorado before
 being spelled by Kevin Hogan, who was fantastic with 184 yards and two
 touchdowns on 18-of-23 passing while adding another 48 yards rushing.
 The starter under center has yet to be announced, but it's clear head coach
 David Shaw is happy with what he saw out of Hogan.
 "We knew we were going to give Josh the first two series and give Kevin the
 next two series and see where we went from there, and Kevin took the ball and
 ran with it," Shaw said. "He's fast, he can run, he's athletic, he can throw
 on the move ... I can't find a lot of negatives to what he did. I'm very, very
 impressed. There's a chance you might see more than one quarterback (against
 Oregon State), but you'll see a whole lot of Kevin Hogan."
 Zach Ertz caught six balls for 41 yards and a touchdown last week, and he's
 been Stanford's unquestioned No. 1 receiver with 38 receptions, 566 yards and
 four touchdowns on the season.
 The Stanford defense has been the best in the conference, allowing just 16.6
 ypg, and a big reason for that is its rushing defense, which is the nation's
 best in allowing just 55.6 yards per game. The unit held Colorado to
 negative-21 yards rushing a week ago.
 It is also a big play defense with 83 tackles for loss, 40 sacks, 11
 interceptions, and 10 fumble recoveries. Chase Thomas (49 tackles, 9.5 TFL,
 INT), Trent Murphy (12.5 TFL, 7.5 sacks) and Ed Reynolds (five INTs) are all
 having all-conference type seasons.
 11/07 11:35:55 ET

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