Colorado (2-0) at Oregon State (3-1)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, September 28, 3 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Reser Stadium (45,674) -- Corvallis, Oregon. Television: Pac-12 Network. Home Record: Colorado 1-0, Oregon State 1-1. Away Record: Colorado 0-0, Oregon State 2-0. Neutral Record: Colorado 1-0, Oregon State 0-0. Conference Record: Colorado 0-0, Oregon State 1-0. Series Record: Oregon State leads, 3-2.
GAME NOTES: In a Pac-12 North Division battle at Reser Stadium, the 2-0 Colorado Buffaloes will face off with the 3-1 Oregon State Beavers on Saturday afternoon.
With wins over Colorado State (41-27) and FCS foe Central Arkansas (38-24), Colorado is off to its first 2-0 start since 2008 and looks to push it to 3-0 for the first time since that same season. That 2008 squad finished just 5-7 and began the Buffaloes' current five-year bowl absence. This contest kicks off the Pac-12 schedule for the Buffaloes.
The Beavers have rebounded well from the 49-46 stunner suffered against FCS foe Eastern Washington to open the season. Since the setback, the Beavers have won three straight games, including a thrilling 51-48, overtime victory against Utah in the Pac-12 opener.
This will mark the first time these two teams will match up as Pac-12 conference foes. The last time they met was in 1998 when Colorado earned a 28-21 victory. Oregon State has won three of five total meetings.
Although there have been just two games for Colorado under new head coach Mike MacIntyre, the early returns on offense are obvious. Last season Colorado was the worst offensive team in the Pac-12, scoring only 17.8 points per game to go with 302.3 yards each week. Those numbers have skyrocketed under MacIntyre, with the Buffaloes posting 467 yards and 39.5 points per game. It remains to be seen if the production is sustainable against tougher competition.
Connor Wood seems to have found a rhythm in MacIntyre's offense. Wood has completed 68.3 percent of his pass attempts for 741 yards and six touchdowns through two games, with just a pair of interceptions.
It helps that Wood has Paul Richardson to throw to. Richardson missed last season with a knee injury, but looks fully healthy in 2013. Richardson tied a school record by hauling in 11 passes for 209 yards and two touchdowns against Central Arkansas. Richardson has had more than 200 yards and two touchdowns in each game this season. Nelson Spruce (12 receptions, 161 yards, TD) gives Wood a solid No. 2 option.
Running the ball has not been a strength with top rushers Tony Jones (85 yards, 25 attempts) and Christian Powell (64 yards, 21 attempts) averaging less than four yards per carry.
Despite an improved offense, the Colorado defense still needs help. The Buffaloes are allowing 25.6 points per game, which is among the three worst marks in the Pac-12. However, Colorado has shown some life, by letting up just 317.5 yards per game. Again, the trick will be keeping that type of production up once the Buffaloes face the dangerous offenses of the Pac-12 every week.
Getting more of a pass rush could help in that regard, as Addison Gillam, who leads the team in tackles with 20, has one of just three sacks by the Buffaloes. Derrick Webb is another strong tackler, with 19 stops already.
A year ago the Beavers struggled to settle on a quarterback. With the way Sean MAnnion has been playing, it is clear he wants nothing to do with a quarterback controversy this time around. Mannion completed 38-of-55 pass attempts for 367 yards and three touchdowns last weekend against San Diego State. In doing so he became the first Oregon State quarterback to throw for 350 or more yards in four straight games. Mannion's current statistical line (71.5 completion percentage, 1,604 yards, 15 TDs, INT) rivals any signal caller in the country.
Following in the wake of Markus Wheaton has been Brandin Cooks, who has taken to the No 1 receiving role well. Cooks has already caught 43 passes for 639 yards and seven touchdowns. Like Mannion, Cooks is putting up numbers better than most players in the nation, let alone the Pac-12. Richard Mullaney (22 receptions, 344 yards, two TDs) and Connor Hamlett (20 receptions, 141 yards, two TDs) are two more options that Mannion has relied on.
The running game has not been nearly as productive. Part of the issue has been the loss of leading rusher Storm Woods, who is out indefinitely with a concussion. Terron Ward stepped in to rush for just 26 yards on 12 carries against San Diego State.
Other than a 33-14 win over Hawaii, Oregon State has not been doing much in terms of stopping opposing squads. Luckily the offense has been able to out- gun foes, but it is clear the Beavers need to improve on defense. Oregon State is ranked second to last in the Pac-12 in total defense (432 ypg) and points allowed (35.3 ppg).
Steven Nelson (17 tackles, four INT, six passes defended) has been an extremely productive player in the secondary, while Michael Doctor (13 tackles, 2.0 sacks) is the leading pass rusher. Scott Crichton (18 tackles, 6.0 TFL) has been solid on the defensive line and is an all-conference type of performer.
It is difficult to imagine that Colorado will win this contest. Although the Buffaloes are certainly improving, the aerial assault the Beavers have with Mannion and Cooks will win out.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Oregon State 35, Colorado 20
09/25 10:36:30 ET