Oregon State quarterback Sean Mannion is ready to return from a knee injury that kept him out the past two weeks, and the No. 7 Beavers will continue their surprising ascent up the rankings because of it.
The Oregonian's John Hunt reported that Mannion was taking all the first-team reps at a recent practice, and that coach Mike Riley announced he would again be the starting quarterback, effective the Beavers' next game on Saturday against Washington.
While backup Cody Vaz did an amazing job keeping the Oregon State Beavers undefeated while Mannion was on the shelf with a knee injury, Mannion adds a dimension to the offense that Vaz does not.
This cannot be found in the stats.
Vaz did a fantastic job while going against two defenses that are in the top 30 in the nation in BYU and Utah. He completed 36-of-58 passes for 506 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions for a passer efficiency rating of 152.4.
Vaz even earned Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week honors after his fine performance in his first start which came against BYU.
That rating is actually better than the 139.7 that Mannion posted this season while going 107-for-169 for 1,358 yards and seven touchdowns, along with four interceptions.
However, what is not apparent in the stats is Mannion's ability to create big plays and the fact that his arm talent allows the Beavers to open up the playbook.
Mannion's 339.5 passing yards per game ranks fourth in the nation, and there is not a throw that he can't make. Vaz is clearly no slouch, but he is a quarterback that is more a manager of the offense.
Simply put, this offense is more dangerous and tougher to defend with Mannion at the helm, and if the Beavers are going to continue their undefeated run, they are going to need a QB that can go above and beyond.
The Beavers have a few tough games coming up, first playing at Washington then hosting Arizona State, leading them to a huge showdown as they travel to Stanford.
Mannion's presence will be especially important against a tough Stanford defense that needs to be stretched out to be beat.
Two weeks after the Stanford game, Oregon State will host Oregon, and the Beavers will need all the firepower they can muster to hang with the Ducks.
Mannion's return will help the Beavers roll into that contest undefeated and in a prime spot to earn a spot in the Pac-12 Championship Game (and maybe even the BCS Championship Game) if they can pull off win in that in-state battle.