By T.J. Mathewson
Contributor, 750 The Game
Colorado doesn’t present quite the challenge one might’ve thought after the first couple weeks of the 2023 loss, but the Buffaloes are going to be no slouch on a late Saturday night. It’s the second consecutive late-night kickoff, 8 PM local at Folsom Field, in a true measuring test of how well the Beavers will be able to flush the disappointing loss from a week prior. Sure, there’s no more access to the College Football Playoff, but nearly everything else is still available to go take, and it starts this weekend in Boulder. Deion’s group has faltered a bit since the 3-0 start, dropping 4/5 in the conference since, though they have been competitive in every game sans a 42-6 beatdown at Oregon. That’s the only game all season the Buffs have lost by at least two touchdowns, and yet the Beavers open as a two-touchdown road favorite on Saturday. What can the Beavers do to win and cover? Let’s examine:
1. What’s the road crux this week, and how will the Beavers adapt?
There’s been at least one fatal flaw in every Oregon State road game this season:
- The worst half played in nearly two years vs Washington State
- The worst tackling/defensive performance vs California
- Over-aggression and shaky passing attack vs Arizona
Outside of a historically efficient offensive attack vs. California, the Beavers have been unable to overcome whatever hitch they have had in their road opponents. I don’t think Oregon State wants to find out what other weaknesses they can show on the road. Something about this team away from the energy of Reser Stadium will be the difference between this program having an elite season or a good season. Whatever punch gets thrown Oregon State’s way, they need to be ready to counter.
2. How will the Beavers handle a depleted secondary?
The Beavers were forced into playing true freshman corner Andre Jordan, who was not listed on the two-deep, Saturday in Tucson with Ryan Cooper Jr. and Noble Thomas both out of action. While both are questionable to return in Boulder, the Beavers have had to lean on a couple of true freshmen in Jermod McCoy and Jordan to rep alongside Jaden Robinson. The Buffaloes are going to throw a lot. They rank ninth nationally in pass rate (61%), and distribute it to a number of talented receivers like USF transfers Xavier Weaver and Jimmy Horn, alongside two-way star Travis Hunter. They force these corners to tackle in space and do it again and again at elevation, where the lack of oxygen can get to you. Thankfully, there’s a good way the Beavers can counter this….
3. Expose the biggest weakness…..
UCLA battered Shedeur Sanders and the Colorado offensive line to the tune of seven sacks, 13 knockdowns, and countless pressures on their way to a win at the Rose Bowl Saturday. The trickle-down effect of the porous Colorado offensive line is shown everywhere: Sanders has been the most-sacked quarterback in college football (5.3 sacks/game), the Buffaloes rushing attack has cratered (2.5 YPC after a mere 25 net rushing yards vs. UCLA), and Coach Prime saying they need to “got get new lineman” after the game (he clarified his comments at his Tuesday presser after a “phenomenal” meeting with his lineman). Offensive lines win and lose football games, and the Beavers’ massive advantage against the Colorado offensive line leaves you feeling better about the upside of this defense on the road this week.
Colorado’s been a lot tougher in conference play than their record makes them out to be. I wouldn’t be totally shocked if this game is within a score in the second half with Colorado’s talented skill players making “WOW” play or two. However, the mismatch in the trenches on both sides of the ball, arguably the biggest so far in Oregon State’s season (sans UC Davis) should leave you feeling pretty confident in the Beavers taking control of this game in the second half. Final Note: A run-heavy approach should keep the ball away from two-way star Travis Hunter, who snagged two interceptions in the first half vs. UCLA.
Oregon State 45, Colorado 24