KERRY SAYS: A lot on the lines for Beavers
CORVALLIS — Thursday night's game between Oregon State and 20th-ranked Stanford at Reser Stadium will be a battle between teams that want to run the ball and run the ball and run the ball some more.
The Beavers have Ryan "Wrecking" Nall, who ranks sixth in the conference with 513 yards and seven touchdowns in six games and is coming off a 174-yard, three-TD performance against Colorado.
The Cardinal have Bryce Love, a Heisman Trophy candidate and the nation's rushing leader by a wide margin with 1,387 yards and 11 TDs in seven games.
Both quarterbacks — Oregon State's Darell Garretson and Stanford's Keller Chryst — will throw enough to keep the opposing defense honest. But establishing the run is the priority for both sides.
The Cardinal will go to Love and backup Cameron Scarlett out of Central Catholic, at times in a Jumbo package featuring seven offensive linemen. Love, a 5-10, 195-pound junior, is every bit as good as Christian McCaffrey, the Cardinal's meal ticket a year ago and now a rookie with the Carolina Panthers.
A year ago, in Stanford's 26-15 home win over Oregon State, McCaffrey carried 32 times for 199 yards and a TD and Love added 89 yards on nine totes as the Cardinal piled up 365 yards on the ground (and only 60 through the air).
When interim coach Cory Hall took over for Gary Andersen two weeks ago, he declared a return an offensive philosophy the Beavers used in victories over Arizona and Oregon at the end of last season.
"We're going to run the ball," Hall said. "We want to inflict pain."
The Beavers rushed for 280 yards against Colorado, but had a balanced attack that produced 30 first downs and 559 yards total offense in a 36-33 loss.
Statistically, Stanford's defense is a bit down this year, yielding 416 yards per game, only sixth in the Pac-12. The Cardinal are 10th in the conference in rushing defense at 195.4 per contest.
But the Cardinal still play a sturdy brand of defense, and their focus will be on stopping Nall, Artavis Pierce, Thomas Tyner and Trevorris Johnson and the OSU ground game.
The onus will be on both Oregon State lines. The offensive line must open holes for the Beaver ballcarriers and pave the way for long, time-consuming drives. The defensive line — and really, the defense as a whole — must do a decent job containing the nation's premier back.
Oregon State's run defense ranks 11th in the league at 200.1 yards per game. If the Beavers allow Love and Scarlett that much real estate, victory is probably a pipe dream.
Under Hall, the Beavers have renewed energy and spirit. But Stanford is a much better team than Colorado, and I'm not foreseeing an upset that will rock Reser on Thursday night.
THE PICK: Stanford 34, Oregon State 17