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Kerry says: Tall order, but doable, for OSU defense and offense

Mike Riley has handed the reins to his offense to Cody Vaz, whose primary mission will be to eliminate the mistakes (i.e. interceptions) that cost Oregon State dearly in its 20-17 loss at Washington last Saturday.

First a word on Riley’s decision to bench Sean Mannion, whose four picks provided the biggest statistic as the Huskies took down OSU from the ranks of the unbeaten.

I understand the thinking of those who believe Mannion’s hook is coming too quickly. The sophomore has been the guy with the Beavers’ offense for a year and a half and has seemed destined to be the program’s leader far into the future.

What’s this benching going to do to his confidence?

Frankly, Riley can’t worry about that.

Mannion hasn’t been in sync in his last two starts. Vaz has been pretty much unflappable in his two starts and in his relief role of Mannion late in the Husky game. It’s about going with the guy who is playing better right now, and that’s Vaz.

Fortunately for the Beavers, there will be no ill will between Mannion and Vaz, two great young men who both want to play but genuinely root for each other and think of team first. Mannion will be fine and ready if Vaz were to falter or get hurt.

The Beavers need to crank their offense into gear against a smallish but fast Arizona State defense that has yielded an average of 44 points and 470 yards total offense in its last two outings, losses to Oregon and UCLA.

By the end of the 45-43 loss to the Bruins, the Sun Devil “D” was missing three starters, including stud tackle Will Sutton, who injured a knee on the second play of the Oct. 18 rout by the Ducks. Sutton’s availability for Saturday is unknown, although first-year coach Todd Graham said he hopes the 6-1, 265-pound junior will be able to go.

The other side of the ball will provide a collision between Arizona State’s potent offense, which averages 477.1 yards and 38.4 points per game, and Oregon State’s stingy defense, which leads the Pac-12 in giving up only 17 points per contest. ASU amassed 535 yards total offense in its loss to the Bruins.

The Sun Devils’ biggest playmaker is running back D.J. Foster, a 5-11, 185-pound true freshman who leads the team with 371 rushing yards and a 5.5-yard average, is second in receiving with 29 catches for 454 yards and has 13 plays of 20-plus yards. Sophomore quarterback Taylor Kelly has thrown for 2,008 yards and 19 touchdowns with only five interceptions and has also rushed for 303 net yards this season.

It will be a tall order for Oregon State’s defense, which has been up to the challenge on most occasions this season.

I have a better feeling about this game for Oregon State than I did before the visit to Seattle — especially if Sutton is unable to play and injured Beavers Markus Wheaton, Storm Woods and Jordan Poyer can answer the bell.

THE PICK: Oregon State 34, Arizona State 24