Two of the Pac-12's best will go head-to-head on Saturday night in Corvallis as No. 6 Stanford and No. 25 Oregon State look to keep pace with undefeated Oregon in the Pac-12 North Division.
The Cardinal, who are four-point favorites on the road, according to Covers.com, have won three straight against the Beavers dating back to 2010, beating them by 25 points the last time the two programs met at Reser Stadium two years ago. However the stakes are much higher this time around as both teams have legitimate BCS hopes, entering Saturday's game with identical 6-1 records.
With each side set to showcase immense talent in this matchup, let's take a look at the key difference-makers college football fans should be watching for.
Ty Montgomery, Stanford, WR
Stanford playmaker Ty Montgomery has been a huge key to the Cardinal's success in 2013. The junior wide out is the team's leading receiver through seven games this season and is an elusive return man, having scored two kick return touchdowns already this season.
Oregon-based sports reporter Stephen Nelson highlights Montgomery's productivity:
The 6'2", 215-pound Dallas native can excel as a runner when called upon as well. Montgomery is averaging 11.5 yards per carry on six attempts coming into Saturday night's game.
Although he's unlikely to carry the ball that often against Oregon State, David Shaw and the Stanford coaching staff will be searching for unique ways to get Montgomery the ball in space where he shines more often than not.
Sean Mannion, Oregon State, QB
It's impossible to talk about Oregon State without mentioning the Beavers' MVP, quarterback Sean Mannion.
The junior signal-caller leads the nation with 2,992 passing yards through seven games this season. Mannion also leads the country in passing touchdowns, having tossed 29 coming into Saturday's matchup with Stanford. He's thrown at least three touchdown passes in every game this season and has tossed four or more on five different occasions.
Fresno State's Derek Carr ranks second behind Mannion with 23.
What's even more impressive than the 6'5" passer's yards and touchdowns is his stellar completion percentage (68.6) and the fact he's only thrown three interceptions thus far in 2013. The Beavers will need him to play mistake-free above all else on Saturday as Stanford's defense has forced nine interceptions this season.
Trent Murphy, Stanford, LB
The man who will be in charge of making Mannion's life miserable on Saturday night is Stanford linebacker Trent Murphy, who ranks sixth in the nation with seven sacks in seven games this year.
Which player will leave the biggest mark on Saturday night?
A 6'6", 260-pound senior from Phoenix, Murphy recorded 6.5 sacks as a sophomore in 2011 and 10 last season as a junior. The veteran has upped his game over the past month, though, recording 13 total tackles and five sacks over Stanford's past three games.
Earlier this season, Murphy returned an interception 30 yards for a touchdown, proving that he can make plays on the defensive end in a variety of ways.
Regardless of whether he records a single sack this weekend, Murphy's presence alone is sure to impact Oregon State's offensive approach.
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