Oregon State-Arizona: Keys to the Game, Injury Updates, and Prediction
Here comes yet another tough matchup for the Oregon State Beavers as they take on the Arizona Wildcats in Tucson on Saturday.
OSU has already faced two teams ranked in the AP Top 10, and this Saturday they will add another. The Wildcats are ranked No. 9 in the country and feature a high-powered passing game and a defense ranked No. 3 in the nation.
If the Beavers plan on making a statement on the road, they will have a tall order to fill. Here are the keys to the game for Oregon State and a prediction for how it will go down in the books.
3. Special Teams Remains Dark Horse Factor in OSU's Success
It has been the same basic concepts for Oregon Sate all season: Offense must keep pace while defense struggles, and special teams gives offense big boost with field position.
James Rodgers has been given the green light and will be available for Saturday's game. His presence on punt and kick returns is sorely missed when he sits out. Rodgers got the Beaver faithful on its feet when he returned a punt for a touchdown against Boise State.
Field position will be huge for the Beavs against the Wildcats as the offense continues to grow and mature.
If Rodgers can shake off the remaining effects of the concussion he suffered two weeks ago, Oregon State will receive a major boost.
2. Offense Must Continue to Step Up Level of Play
Junior RB Jacquizz Rodgers topped the 100-yard mark last week for the second time this season, but on both occasions, the Beavers were playing an unranked team.
Against TCU and Boise State, Rodgers rushed for just 121 yards combined. His presence in the offensive scheme has been somewhat absent this season, and he will need to execute against the Wildcats, who will be keying on him getting above 20 touches in the game.
If Jacquizz can run effectively, it will open up the opportunity for timely passes by sophomore QB Ryan Katz.
Katz has improved on a steady basis since the first game of the season against TCU. His completion percentage was up to 66 percent against Arizona State, and he collected 260 yards while Steven Threet struggled.
The young quarterback's success was largely due to the advanced play-calling of head coach Mike Riley. He used Rodgers in scenarios that forced the defense to creep up on the line before Katz put one through the air.
That type of execution and effective play-calling must be mimicked on Saturday.
1. Keep Pressure on Nick Foles, Force Bad Passes
Arizona averages over 300 yards passing per game. They are led by junior QB Nick Foles, who averages 34 passes per game and already has over 1,000 yards in 2010.
The bright side for the Beavers is his inaccuracy and rash decisions at times. Foles has already thrown four interceptions, and his style of play is very similar to Arizona State QB Steven Threet.
Oregon State shut Threet down last week, forcing him to throw three interceptions while keeping the Sun Devils' offense from effectively moving the ball.
That is exactly what OSU will have to do again in Tucson as the Beavers' young and inexperienced linebackers and secondary continue to progress.
If the Beavs are unable to penetrate the offensive line and put pressure on Foles, he may just have a field day (no pun intended). The difference between Arizona and ASU is the experience and strength of schedule. Arizona has already defeated a Top 10 team in Iowa and proved they deserve a high ranking.
Oregon State will have its hands full with Arizona's passing attack, so the offense will have to step up to keep pace.
Injury Updates and Prediction
Linebacker Dwight Roberson, who missed the ASU game with a knee injury, is questionable for Saturday.
Also questionable for Saturday is tight end Brady Camp, who suffered a back injury last week against the Sun Devils.
Finally, Aaron Nichols is likely to play this weekend after his concussion forced him to miss the second half of the Arizona State game last week.
Oregon State will pressure Nick Foles consistently throughout the game, but Foles will have some success against a weak secondary when given the chance.
Jacquizz Rodgers will have around 100 yards on the ground but will play a bigger factor in the short passing game, keeping Arizona's defense on its toes.
Ryan Katz will pass effectively but will record his first interception(s) of the season against the Wildcats' stingy defense.
Justin Kahut will have an active day, keeping the Beavers' red zone efficiency percentage high.
Overall, Oregon State will solidify its season with a close win in a high-scoring affair, 33-28.