The Oregon State Beavers will travel to Northern California to take on the Stanford Cardinal. This is a huge showdown of two elite Pac-12 schools that have much riding on the outcome.
The Beavers (7-1) rebounded last weekend with a big win over Arizona State. It came after losing their first game of the season and having their slim national title aspirations extinguished.
Coach Mike Riley made a quarterback change for the game, and thus far it's looking like positive progression.
Stanford (7-2) was a controversial call in Notre Dame and a tough loss in Seattle against the Washington Huskies from being in the thick of national champion consideration.
The Cardinal bring a solid rushing game, but that is the strength of the Beaver defense. It should provide for a great showdown.
Here is an overview of this contest, featuring key players and a game prediction.
When: Saturday, Nov. 10 at 3 p.m. ET
Where: Stanford Stadium, Stanford, California
Radio: Free Football Radio
Betting Line (via OddsShark)
Over/Under: OFF, Spread: Stanford -5
This game promises to be an exciting Pac-12 battle. The Beavers offer a very good defense to pit against a decent Cardinal offense.
This game opened as a six-point spread and could continue to be driven down as the game approaches. I'd proposed getting money on Oregon State soon.
Those that lean toward Stanford may want to get involved now.
The Cardinal will likely need to air the ball out in this matchup. Oregon State plays stout run defense and that isn't the strength of Stanford's offense.
This doesn't figure to be a high-scoring game, but both teams have put up points in bunches at times this season.
Injury Report (via USA Today)
This game couldn't be much bigger for these teams. They are both still right in the mix to win the Pac-12 North, standing at 5-1 in the conference. Both of their losses were to Washington, who won't be a factor in reaching the Rose Bowl.
Both of these teams control their destiny in reaching the Pac-12 championship game, and the winner will have an inside track to a Rose Bowl appearance.
Oregon is likely going to remain undefeated, which should send them to the national championship game. This will give the Rose Bowl committee the option of choosing a replacement.
Grabbing an elite Pac-12 team will make sense, maintaining the traditional Rose Bowl conference matchups.
Oregon State Player to Watch: Cody Vaz, QB
Boring as it sounds, I'm going with Vaz as the key to the Beavers winning this game. He took over for a struggling Sean Mannion who had a four-interception performance against Washington two weeks ago.
Vaz got off to a difficult start of his own last week against Arizona State. He steadied himself, though, and brought his team back from a 14-3 deficit to post a 36-26 win.
Composure is one of the traits that shines trough with Vaz. Following the comeback last weekend he was asked if he gets rattled in games.
I'm sure there's been a few times. I just try not to show it.
I just try to take it one play at a time, to be honest. As a quarterback you can't get too low when you have a bad play and you can't get too high when you have a good play.
The Beavers gave the start vs. Arizona State to the junior a week after they lost their first game of the season. Vaz had his first collegiate start against Brigham Young and Utah the two weeks prior to taking over against Washington.
It was a good move, as it creates a more balanced offensive attack that can have success in the air. He has seven touchdown passes to just one interception and threw for 267 yards last week.
Stanford Player to Watch: Josh Nunes, QB
Stepfan Taylor has been the key to Stanford's offense this season. He's gained 947 yards through nine games, even though he was used sparingly last week against Colorado.
But Oregon State is going to be ready to control Taylor's production, leaving the Cardinal to rely on Nunes to kick-start the offense.
Nunes isn't making fans forget about Andrew Luck, but he's had a productive junior season and is partly responsible for Stanford's great season.
His biggest issue has been accuracy.
A 53 percent completion percentage won't cut it in college football, but that is the neighborhood he's been living in since a fast start against San Jose State in Week 1. He's completed less than half his passes in four games, including both of Stanford's losses.
As important as Taylor is to the Cardinal, the key is Nunes being able to move the ball and keeping the Beaver defense honest.
Stanford has announced that Nunes will be replaced in the starting lineup by Kevin Hogan.
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
The concerns with the passing attack are warranted. Cardinal fans hope he can ramp up the passing game.
---End of Update---
Prediction: Oregon State 24, Stanford 20
This game will be a fierce battle in the trenches, but one I see the Beavers taking. They have a better defense and a balanced offensive attack.
Stanford won't go easily, as they can move the ball on the ground and through the air. The odds-makers will likely predict a higher total score when the over/under is released, but the defenses will show up for this game.
Darin Pike is a writer for Bleacher Report's Breaking News Team and a Featured Columnist covering the NFL and the Seattle Seahawks.