Consistency has not been a friend of Brigham Young University in 2012.
The Cougars have played every kind of game in 2012. They've won huge, and they've lost close games. They've won by scoring no more than six points—but they haven't been able to do any of it one week after another.
Every week has been a different story, and the stories in which the Cougars have faced major-conference opponents haven't necessarily been pleasant ones. That doesn't bode well for the fact that the next team to pay them a visit is Oregon State.
The Beavers, at 4-0, have certainly been consistent. They haven't blown any opponent out of the water this season—their average margin of victory has been just 6.5 points—but they've proven themselves. Given victories over Wisconsin, UCLA and Arizona, we can say that Oregon State is legitimate.
But here's the tricky part: Neither of these teams will have its starting quarterback on Saturday. Or, at least, the starting quarterback it put on the field the last time out.
Therefore, things could get very interesting.
Where: LaVell Edwards Stadium, Provo, Utah
When: Saturday, October 13 at 3:30 p.m. ET
Listen: KSL Radio in Utah (102.7 FM and 1160 AM), Oregon stations here
Live Stream: OSUBeavers.com
Betting Line (via OddsShark): BYU -4
Oregon State Injury Report (via Yahoo! Sports)
- QB Sean Mannion (knee) is out indefinitely.
BYU Injury Report (via USAToday.com)
- LB Zac Stout (Achilles) is questionable for Saturday's game.
- QB Riley Nelson (back) is questionable for Saturday's game.
- DL Ian Dulan (back) has been out for three games and is questionable for Saturday.
- RB Michael Alisa (forearm) is out indefinitely.
- OL Houston Reynolds (Achilles) is out for the season.
- LB Kevan Bills (knee) is out for the season with a torn ACL.
Oregon State has a lot to gain and a lot to lose from this matchup, especially lately, when it seems like a new, formerly indestructible top-10 team crumbles every week.
This is the point in the season where that trend continues—the schedule gets tougher, the pressure builds and even the top teams cannot hold up—so if Oregon State can find a way to fight through the bulk of its schedule without a loss, the payoff could be huge.
It may not come in the form of a berth to the BCS title game, but if the Beavers keep winning, a major bowl game is certainly within their grasp.
From here on out, their only big tests are No. 17 Stanford on Nov. 10 and No. 2 Oregon on Nov. 24, but they need to keep winning the less exciting games in order to still be in a good place when those contests come around.
What They're Saying
The quarterback situation is not ideal—for either team—at the moment.
Let's start with Oregon State. Despite the fact that USA Today currently lists the Beavers as being injury-free, sophomore quarterback Sean Mannion is "out indefinitely," head coach Mike Riley told ESPN.com's Ted Miller this week.
According to Miller's report, Mannion hurt his knee the last time out in a 19-6 win over Washington State, a game in which he threw three picks. There are very few details about the nature of the injury, but according to Yahoo! Sports, Mannion will undergo surgery. There is currently no timetable for his return.
This is certainly going to hurt the Beavers: Mannion has been primarily responsible for leading them to the nation's eighth-best passing offense.
The Cougars, meanwhile, are far from full strength. Their own freshman quarterback, Taysom Hill, is out for the season, according to the Associated Press (h/t ESPN.com), with a left knee injury that will also require surgery.
He suffered the injury in Friday's 6-3 win over Utah State, according to the AP.
That means senior Riley Nelson will have to answer the call, despite the fact that he's missed two games with "back fractures," the AP reports.
The situation could be worse for BYU; at least it has its starter back—sort of. Nelson was the No. 1 guy to start the season, but after back spasms and a couple of rough outings, he was replaced.
Oregon State Player to Watch
Sean Mannion may have thrown a few picks of his own against Washington State the last time out, but his defense certainly helped to offset them, coming up with four interceptions.
And much of the credit for that stellar defensive performance goes to senior cornerback Jordan Poyer, who came up with three of them.
Poyer gained 52 total yards on the three interceptions, and his third (and biggest) solidified the victory with just over three minutes remaining.
Afterward, Beavers defensive end Scott Chrichton told the AP (via ESPN.com), "It was the biggest performance. That's a superstar right there. He carried us."
And if he can carry Oregon State once again on Saturday, the Beavers' suddenly perilous quarterback situation might not even matter all that much.
BYU Player to Watch
No matter who the quarterback is, it always helps when he has a receiver who makes him look good, and that's what junior Cody Hoffman is good for—or at least he was against Utah State the last time out.
The Cougars offense was by no means explosive against Utah State. The team's six points came from a single touchdown, scored with three seconds remaining in the first half, and BYU failed to convert on the extra point. The passing offense gained just 235 yards.
But Hoffman gained 114 of those, marking his third 100-plus-yard performance of the season. And fortunately for the Cougars, his other two came when Nelson was still starting at QB. Perhaps these two can rediscover a rhythm that gets the offense going once again.
The winner of this game will be whichever team can best adjust to adversity.
Who will have more success on Saturday?
The Cougars would love to be able to turn to Hill right now, who has led them to two straight wins. The Beavers would love to be able to turn to Mannion, who has carried them to a 4-0 record, a No. 10 national ranking and has forged a passing offense that gains 339.5 yards per game.
But it's on to Plan B for both sides. In that regard, at least they're both on a level playing field. Sort of.
BYU would certainly seem to have the upper hand here. It has a veteran quarterback waiting in the wings, ready to reclaim his starting job. The Beavers only have Cody Vaz, who hasn't played since 2010. But perhaps Vaz will surprise some people.
Or maybe he won't, and this game will present the spark BYU needs to get rolling.
Oregon State is in a tough spot right now, and it has to be feeling pretty hopeless without its leader. BYU, on the other hand, is playing at home behind a quarterback who at least has some experience on the field in the last year.
This game presents the perfect scenario for the Cougars to rise above and rally. Back in the first couple of weeks of the season, Nelson seemed to know what he was doing. He'll rediscover that form on Saturday.