Stanford presents a far more difficult challenge for Oregon State than that from its first seven opponents.
The eighth-ranked Cardinal pretty much have it all: a big, mobile quarterback who can throw; a veteran running back who eats up yardage like Joey Chestnut devouring hot dogs; a huge, experienced offensive line; a 3-4 defense led by an outstanding crew of linebackers; a terrific special-teams crew and one of the Pac-12's top head coaches in David Shaw.
Stanford has the most balanced offense in the conference (208.3 yards passing, 198.0 yards rushing per game) and a defense that harassed quarterback Brett Hundley all afternoon in a 24-10 win over then-ninth-ranked UCLA last Saturday.
The Cardinal also were beaten 27-21 by Utah on Oct. 12, a team Oregon State knocked off 51-48 in overtime a month earlier.
There will be several keys Saturday at Reser Stadium.
Stanford QB Kevin Hogan was sensational in his debut as a starter against Oregon State last year, leading the Cardinal from a 23-14 deficit to win 27-23 with his arm (22 for 29, 254 yards, three touchdowns) and his legs (11 carries, 49 yards). The OSU defense can't let the 6-4, 230-pound sophomore run wild again.
Oregon State's front seven will have to contain Stanford's ground game. Redshirt freshman middle linebacker Rommel Mageo, in particular, will have to have the game of his young career.
OSU's secondary must contend with Stanford's 6-2, 215-pound receiver, Ty Montgomery, right there with Brandin Cooks as the most electrifying offensive players in the league.
The Beavers' kickoff unit will also have to deal with Montgomery, the nation's leading returner. OSU special teams coach Bruce Read told me the Cardinal have 10 of 11 players back from their kickoff return crew of a year ago. "They're all veteran guys," Read said. "It's going to be a real challenge."
Oregon State's offense won't be able to run much against a Stanford defense that yields only 116.3 yards per contest. Sean Mannion, Cooks and Co. must do what they've done all season -- move the chains through the air, keeping the Cardinal off-balance with the fly sweep and an occasional burst between the tackles by Storm Woods or Terron Ward.
I've gone back and forth on this one since Sunday. Nothing other than a hunch (and I'm wrong as often as I'm right about such things) tells me the Beavers are going to pull this one off and equal the longest win streak (seven games) in school history.
THE PICK: Oregon State 36, Stanford 33 (overtime)