In a clash of elite Pac-12 teams, No. 11 Oregon State (7-1, 5-1) visits No. 14 Stanford (7-2, 5-1) on Saturday afternoon. The stakes are huge for both teams, as they control their destiny in reaching the Pac-12 Championship Game.
The Cardinal offense has been adequate this season but was lacking punch at the quarterback position. David Shaw has given Kevin Hogan some reps in relief but decided this week that a permanent solution was in order.
And, just to be clear, David Shaw said that Kevin Hogan will start at QB against Oregon State.— ESPN_Pac12blog (@ESPN_Pac12blog) November 6, 2012
Replacing a starting quarterback this late in the season may seem like an act of desperation but it worked out well for Oregon State, who made the same change prior to their Week 10 game against Arizona State.
Where: Stanford Stadium, Stanford, California
When: Saturday, Nov. 10 at 3 p.m. ET
Listen: Free Football Radio
Current Betting Lines (via OddsShark)
Money Line: Oregon State +155, Stanford -175
Spread: Stanford -4
This game has battle written all over it. Both teams can play physical defense and have shown offensive firepower.
The Cardinal ground game has been the focal part of the offense but they'll need to get the ball moving through the air with Hogan under center. The Beavers are very stout against the run.
Earlier in the week I encouraged fans that were going to take the Beavers to get in on early action, as I saw the spread continuing to narrow as the game approached. It opened at six points and is now down to four.
The value bet on Oregon State at this point would be the money line, as this is a game I see Oregon State winning.
My early prediction on this game was 44 points. I thought the over/under would come in a bit higher, giving more weight to the offensive talent in the game.
Seeing it hit at 44½ didn't exactly peak my interest on this betting line. I would still lean towards the under here, but if Hogan can light a fire under his offense in front of his home crowd the score could reach the over in the first half.
Key Injuries (via USA Today)
Jordan Poyer, CB, Knee, Questionable
Josh Williams, LB, Suspension, Out
Geoff Meinken, FB, Knee, Out
The winner of this game could emerge as the No. 2 team in the Pac-12. With a potential appearance in a BCS game on the line, both teams have much riding on the outcome.
Both teams have Oregon remaining on the schedule. Winning the rest of their games will land them in the Pac-12 Championship Game with a Rose Bowl berth on the line.
Keys to Beaver Victory
Oregon State needs to play stifling defense. They've done it against most of their competition and can do it against the Cardinal.
Stepfan Taylor is a quality running back and he has a solid offensive line to bore holes. But yards were hard to come by in several of his games and he'll find the same true against the Beavers.
They will force Stanford to throw the ball. Hogan would have a better opportunity if he had been starting the entire season but that isn't the case.
Keys to Cardinal Victory
Stanford has taken the big risk by moving the redshirt freshman into the starting lineup. He had a great game coming off the bench last week, going 18-of-23 for 184 yards and two touchdowns.
But that was against a Colorado defense that wasn't prepared to face him. To be fair, they weren't prepared to face Nunes, either.
Piling yards on Oregon State is a much different animal, but for Stanford to secure a win that is what Hogan must do.
This game will be a fierce battle in the trenches which favors the Beavers. Their defensive front can control the Cardinal offense and Oregon State, thus far, has a more balanced offensive attack.
Stanford will put up a strong fight and try to push the ball on the ground. If they are effective running the ball the balance will tip in their favor. If not they'll need a freshman quarterback to carry them.
Predicted Score: Oregon State 24, Stanford 20
Darin Pike is a writer for Bleacher Report's Breaking News Team and a Featured Columnist covering the NFL and the Seattle Seahawks.