Kerry Says: Beavers-Stanford looks like a close one
An opportunity for the biggest gain for Oregon State football in the Jonathan Smith era comes Saturday when Stanford invades Corvallis for OSU's Pac-12 opener.
The Beavers (1-2) have lost nine in a row to the Cardinal (1-3 overall, 0-2 in Pac-12 play), who are in a situation they've not found themselves under David Shaw.
Stanford has lost three games in a row for the first time under Shaw, who is 83-29 overall and 55-18 in conference play in his nine seasons on The Farm.
The Cardinal won three Pac-12 championships in Shaw's first eight seasons at the helm, but consecutive losses to Southern Cal (45-20), Central Florida (45-27) and Oregon (21-6) leave them in a precarious state.
"I'm not going to hit the panic button," said Shaw, who might if Stanford loses to Oregon State. "Trust the character of this football team, trust our work ethic, trust our resilience. We've been down before."
Stanford started the season ranked No. 23, but has dropped to 1-3 for the first time since 2007. The Cardinal are in danger of ending a 10-year string of bowl appearances.
Defense was the bigger problem in the losses to Southern Cal and UCF, but the offense was ineffective against Oregon, the Cardinal managing only 13 first downs and 234 yards total offense.
Senior quarterback K.J. Costello, who missed the USC game with a concussion, was 16 of 30 for 120 yards and an interception against the Ducks.
Prize tight end Colby Parkinson — who caught four touchdown passes in the first half of Stanford's 48-17 rout of the Beavers at Palo Alto, California, a year ago — didn't have a catch on five targets.
Costello banged a thumb on an offensive lineman's helmet on a pass on Stanford's first drive, which bothered him the rest of the game.
The Stanford offense has contributed only five touchdowns in four games. The best weapon has been Cameron Scarlett, the 6-1, 215-pound senior from Central Catholic High who has rushed for 330 yards and a TD this season.
"It's definitely an execution (issue)," said Scarlett, who had a 41-yard scoring run against OSU last season, after the Oregon game. "We know we have all the talent in the locker room that we need. We can move the ball up and down the field and get stops on defense. But it's hard to win games when we're jumping offsides and getting into first-and-25s, especially against a good team like Oregon.
"It's disappointing to have three losses, but we know we have what it takes to right the ship and turn things around."
The Beavers hope they're not providing the waters by which the Cardinal get their ship tilted in a proper direction. They're coming off a bye week after a satisfying 45-7 romp past FCS opponent Cal Poly, and they'd love nothing better than to keep the losing streak to Stanford from hitting double-digits.
Smith held out a large number of injured players against the Mustangs and should regain the services of several of them, including running back Jermar Jefferson, receiver Tyjon Lindsey and defensive end Jordan Whittley.
Stanford's defense against OSU's running game could be a key. The Ducks managed only 49 yards on the ground against the Cardinal. The Beavers, who rushed for 168 yards vs. Stanford a year ago, would like to approximate that mark Saturday. If Stanford can make the Beavers one-dimensional, the passing game gets tougher for quarterback Jake Luton and company.
Oregon State's defense seems improved after back-to-back solid efforts against Hawaii and Cal Poly, but Stanford's offense — however dormant it was against Oregon — could pose a stiffer test. If Costello finds his mark and Scarlett has a big game and Parkinson torments the Beavers again, it could be a long day at Reser for the home team.
Stanford started the week a 4.5-point favorite. Oregon State has a decent chance to flip that and score what would be a huge victory for the program. Honestly, though, the spread seems about right to me.
The pick — Stanford 28, Oregon State 24
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