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Kerry says: Bye week helps Beavers -- but not enough

by: KARL MAASDAM/OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY - Oregon State and Sean Mannion will take aim at an upset of the Arizona State Sun Devils on Saturday.Arizona State is a two-touchdown favorite over Oregon State for a reason. The Sun Devils are ranked 19th nationally and have lost only to Stanford (42-28) and Notre Dame (37-34).

Arizona State has rolled up huge offensive numbers in every game but the last one -- a 20-19 win over Utah -- but OSU coach Mike Riley feels defense is its calling card. The Devils lead the Pac-12 in total defense (332.7 yards per game) and pass defense (206.4) and will provide a strong challenge for OSU quarterback Sean Mannion and his offense.

Will Sutton, a 6-1, 305-pound senior tackle, is a candidate for the Pac-12 defensive player of the year award. Carl Bradford, a 6-1, 240-pound junior linebacker, has 36 tackles, 11 tackles for loss and 5 1/2 sacks. Davon Coleman, a 6-1, 285-pound senior end who is only a part-time starter, has 39 tackles, 10 1/2 tackles for loss and five sacks.

"They really get after it," OSU coach Mike Riley says. "We've gone against great defenses the last two games (Stanford and Southern Cal), but (Arizona State's) might be the best of the lot."

The Sun Devils will try to pressure Mannion with blitzes more than did the Cardinal or Trojans. That means protection will be at an even greater premium.

Oregon State's run game showed glimpses of life against USC. If Storm Woods and Terron Ward can get going even a little, it will help.

The bye week will help the Beavers in both preparation and in health. Tight end Connor Hamlett, who caught two passes for 13 yards against USC two weeks after knee surgery, will be more of a factor. "I'll be much more comfortable -- 100 percent, I think," he said Tuesday.

Tight end Caleb Smith (back) was running well Tuesday and will be available Saturday, as will linebacker D.J. Alexander (stinger), who is so important to the OSU defense.

The Beaver defenders can learn something from Utah, which contained ASU's multi-dimensional quarterback, junior Taylor Kelly, holding him to 144 yards passing and minus-9 yards rushing. The Beavers can't allow 6-foot, 205-pound senior tailback Marion Grice -- who has 738 yards and 12 TDs rushing -- to run wild.

When Oregon State reached 6-1 after its six-game win streak, I wrote about the possibility that the Beavers could lose out the rest of their regular-season schedule. The possibility remains. It doesn't mean the Beavers are in a "tailspin." It means the schedule is catching up to them.

I'm not discounting the chance for an upset Saturday night at Sun Devil Stadium. An Oregon State victory wouldn't shock me. I just don't see it happening.

THE PICK: Arizona State 34, Oregon State 24