It’s been nearly two weeks since the Utes posted their biggest road win in the Pac 12 Era at UCLA. These two weeks have seen the Utes move from unranked to 24th and now to 20th in the AP Poll. Utah gets a chance to prove themselves worthy of that ranking Thursday night in Corvallis, Oregon against the Oregon State Beavers. Both teams will come into the game with identical 4-1/1-1 record this season. However, I think it’s fair to say that Utah is the more tested team and certainly boasts the better resume through 5 games. Oregon State has wins against Portland State, Hawaii, San Diego State and Colorado, with it’s only loss coming at #18 USC.
The Beavers hold the all time edge in the series between the schools at 11-6-1 and have won back to back meetings, including last year’s 51-48 overtime win in Salt Lake City. The Beavers begin and end with their senior QB Sean Mannion, who currently sits 588yds away from breaking Matt Barkley’s all time Pac 12 passing yardage mark of 12,327 yds. Mannion threw for 443 yds and 5 TD’s in last year’s win in Salt Lake City. The interesting part of this year’s Beaver team, through 5 game, is that while they are known for their offensive prowess, it’s the defense that has been getting it done so far this year. Offensively OSU ranks 11th in scoring, 9th in passing, 11th in rushing and 10th in total offense right now in the Conference. While defensively they rank 5th in scoring, 5th in rushing, 2nd in passing and 2nd in total defense.
Three Players to Keep an Eye on for Oregon State
1. Ryan Murphy-Yet another outstanding return man in the Pac 12 Conference. Murphy leads the conference in Kickoff Returns and ranks 3rd in the NCAA averaging 33yds/return with 1 touchdown. Also an outstanding safety.
2. Victor Bolden-Markus Wheaton and Brandin Cooks are gone. The closest thing that Oregon State has to those two guys is Bolden, who’s got elite speed. He missed the USC game with a dislocated finger but returned against Colorado. 24 receptions for 230yds and 1 TD this season. He’ll test the Utah Secondary deep.
3. Michael Doctor-5th year senior and leader of the Beaver Defense from the LB position. Teams leading tackler and play maker, who must be accounted for.
Utah can begin to stake a claim as one of the elite teams in the Pac 12 Conference this season with a win in Corvallis on Thursday night. In a year where things change week to week, back to back road wins is nothing to turn your nose up at. This certainly isn’t a make or break game for a successful season, but a win could go a long way towards raising the expectations and national profile of the program.