Oregon State Football: Key Matchups in Must-Win Game vs. Stanford

Brian Leigh@@BLeighDATFeatured ColumnistNovember 7, 2012

CORVALLIS, OR - NOVEMBER 03: Running back Terron Ward #28 of the Oregon State Beavers runs with the ball in the third quarter of the game against the Arizona State Sun Devils on November 3, 2012 at Reser Stadium in Corvallis, Oregon. The Beavers won the game 36-26. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
Steve Dykes/Getty Images

Oregon State's undefeated run was put to rest by Washington a couple weeks ago, but that doesn't mean game over for their annus mirabilis. They're still having delusions of rose petal-infused grandeur in Corvallis, which is understandable since the upstart Beavers still hold their fate in their own hands.

It won't be easy, though. Saturday's trip to No. 15 Stanford—the team's last road game of the season—marks the start of a brutal closing schedule that also includes games against Cal and Oregon.

In order to get that closing stretch off on the right foot, the Beavers will need to hike up their bootstraps and beat an adept Stanford squad in Palo Alto. Oregon State hasn't been on the road since losing at Washington, so it'll be interesting to see how they respond to donning the white unis once again.

Let's take a look at some matchups worth watching this weekend in what promises to be a good one.

QB Cody Vaz vs. QB Kevin Hogan

As astutely noted by ESPN.com's Kevin Gemmell, it's not exactly every day that you see a top-15 battle between two teams with so much upheaval at quarterback.

For the Beavers, Cody Vaz stepped in admirably for injured starter Sean Mannion against BYU and Utah. So admirably, in fact, that after Mannion returned and gave away a perfect season against Washington, Vaz was called upon to start once again.

In Stanford, Josh Nunes, the unfortunate heir apparent to Andrew Luck, battled year-long inconsistency and was gradually replaced by Saturday's starter, Kevin Hogan.

Saying that a game as complicated as football boils down to one position is an egregious oversimplification. But when replacements falter, they usually falter in a big way.

It's not too far-fetched to say that whichever QB shrinks from the spotlight less has a good chance of leading his team to a victory.

DE Scott Crichton vs. Stanford O-Line

Nothing makes an inexperienced quarterback more uneasy than a dominant pass rush, right?

Crichton has been a force to be reckoned with in 2012, The relentless edge rusher has nine sacks on the season––good for seventh in the nation––along with 14 tackles for loss.

While he'll be counted on to help keep Stanford's patented running game in check, his primary main objective on Saturday will be making Kevin Hogan's life a living hell.

If he plays like he's been playing all season, that shouldn't be too much of a problem. 

Markus Wheaton vs. Stanford Central Defense

Stanford has the nation's 12th-ranked scoring defense, holding opponents to a paltry 16.6 points per game. A large part of that is due to its strength in the middle of the field.

Markus Wheaton specializes over the middle, however, which could make him even more vital to the Beavers' offensive success than usual. That sentiment should not be taken lightly considering the speedy Wheaton's 787 receiving yards and eight touchdowns this season.

ESPN.com's Todd McShay ranked Wheaton the fourth-best slot receiver in the upcoming draft, giving him plaudits for his willingness to go over the middle, along with his ability to make things happen after the catch.

If he's able to find space to work in the middle of Stanford's taut central defense, he could have the Beavers moving the chains all game long.


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