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I was asked this week if Oregon State will have any trouble beating San Diego State on Saturday.

My feeling is this: The Beavers will have trouble with every opponent the rest of the way.

That said, the win over Utah creates a wealth of opportunities for Mike Riley's crew. At this point, 2-1 is exponentially better than 1-2, in terms of both confidence and achievement. There is the very real possibility of going into the Oct. 5 bye with a 4-1 record and plenty of momentum, with the offensive line healed and a chance to get the running game uncorked.

Oregon State is better than San Diego State, which was drilled at home by FCS foe Eastern Illinois 40-19 and then was routed at Ohio State 42-7. The Aztecs, though, have several X factors that make Saturday's game precarious for the Men in Orange.

San Diego State's Rocky Long is a veteran coach not to be underestimated. The one-time defensive coordinator at OSU under Jerry Pettibone has fielded strong units on that side of the ball through most of his career as a head coach. Expect the Aztecs to do what they can to harass Sean Mannion and force him to throw early and off-balance.

"I watched them play the Huskies a year ago (a 21-12 loss at Seattle), and they gave them fits," Riley says. "They give you a bunch of stuff defensively. If you're not sharp, they can be really disruptive. They have blitzers coming from every angle. They come from the bleachers. He has been a great defensive coach for a long time. I know what kind of game it will be on the road."

Yes, San Diego State has given up 40 points twice already. But the Aztecs had a bye last Saturday, giving them two weeks to prepare. That's always an advantage.

Long has also made a quarterback change. Junior Quinn Kaehler, a transfer from Diablo Valley (Calif.) College, will make his first start Saturday. The 6-4, 210-pound Kaehler, who threw for 4,044 yards and 38 touchdowns in 12 games a year ago, was 22 of 36 for 216 yards with one TD and one interception in a reserve role against the Buckeyes.

A new quarterback means the Beavers aren't quite sure what to prepare for. Often, a QB making his debut as a starter provides a lift for his teammates. And Kaehler obviously knows how to throw the football.

"There's some mystery there," Riley says. "What are they doing behind the scenes with the new guy?"

San Diego State uses a pro-style attack, which seems better suited for Oregon State's defense than a spread with a mobile quarterback. The Beavers will need to play as they did in the first half, not in the second half, against Utah to slow down the Aztecs and give the OSU offense a little breathing room.

The Beavers will try to go horizontal with the passing game as they've done in each of their first three games. Mannion will look for Brandin Cooks and Richard Mullaney downfield and use the screen pass as a pseudo-run at times. If the O-line protects as well as it has done thus far, the Beavers should have plenty of success there.

And they'll try to run the ball better, of course. Without injured tailback Storm Woods, Terron Ward will get the start, backed up by promising redshirt freshman Chris Brown, who will get an opportunity to carry the ball. Riley believes Brown is ready for the opportunity.

"He played the best football I've seen him play during the spring and (August training) camp," Riley says. "He was very impressive."

Oregon State leads the nation in pass offense and red-zone efficiency and is tied for second in turnovers committed. If the Beavers take care of those three areas, run the ball even a little better and show more consistency on the defensive side, they'll make their southern California trip a successful one.

THE PICK: Oregon State 34, San Diego State 17

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