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Chess Game Awaits Colorado and Oregon State

Photo Credit: Dustin Bradford/Icon Sportswire

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Since entering the Pac-12 Conference, Colorado has been a shell of its previous self. The Buffaloes are 1-20 in league games since joining up in 2011.

Their only victory came in 2013 when the Buffs defeated a lowly Cal team. But now Colorado comes into Corvallis looking for that elusive second conference win, this time against the Beavers—who haven’t had the best of years themselves.

Oregon State (0-3, 2-4) has proven to be a Jekyll and Hyde team depending on if they’re at home or on the road. The Beavers have been a much better team in the friendly confines of Reser Stadium. They are 2-1 at home with the lone loss coming at the hands of Stanford, 42-24. It was a closer game than the final score indicated as Oregon State was just down 21-17 at the half.

The Beavers and Buffaloes played a close one last year in Boulder, where OSU squeezed out a 36-31 win. This Beaver team, offensively, is quite different from last year’s, but one constant remains: a dynamic ground attack.

The rushing game was able to give Oregon State a quick 14-0 lead last time these two teams met and the Beavers will try to use the same formula in 2015. Unfortunately for Colorado, the Beavers’ running game has another dimension to it in quarterback Seth Collins.

Former signal caller Sean Mannion was the prototypical drop back passer and rarely ran the ball. Collins is the exact opposite. He’s able to keep a defense off balance with potential fakes and option plays.

Simply put, this is bad news for Colorado…

Sept. 25, 2015 - Seth Collins runs down the field for a big gain, but the play is recalled after a penalty. Oregon State University played Stanford at Reser Stadium in Corvallis, OR on September 25, 2015 (Photo by David Blair/Zuma Press/Icon Sportswire)

Sept. 25, 2015 – Seth Collins runs down the field for a big gain, but the play is recalled after a penalty. Oregon State University played Stanford at Reser Stadium in Corvallis, OR on September 25, 2015 (Photo by David Blair/Zuma Press/Icon Sportswire)

The Buffs are dead last in the conference in run defense, giving up 210 yards a game on the ground. Those are the kind of stats that should make Collins and tailback Storm Woods drool with anticipation.

Oregon State runs a similar offense as Oregon, whom the Buffaloes played earlier in the season, and no doubt the Beaver coaching staff will take a close look at that game film. What they’ll see is Oregon tailbacks Royce Freeman and Taj Griffin running over, around and through would-be Colorado tacklers. The Ducks racked up 361 rushing yards on that night and the Beavers will try to somewhat duplicate that kind of production.

What Oregon State will have that the Ducks didn’t is a play-action passing game.

While the Beavers should be able to run at will, Collins will need to keep the Colorado defense somewhat honest with a passing game that has been up and down. As with many true freshmen quarterbacks, Collins has been inconsistent with his arm. He’s only completing 52 percent of his passes with six touchdowns to four interceptions.

Whether it’s on the ground or through the air, the Beavers need to go out in front first with a quick start. Oregon State has to be multidimensional with its offense to be effective. It’s when the Beavers fall behind that they tend to have troubles. Collins isn’t a good enough passer yet to bring his team back solely with his arm.

Colorado isn’t the team Oregon State wants to test that particular theory out on. Oregon yes, Colorado no.

The Buffaloes’ secondary is actually doing a decent job by giving up just 202 passing yards per contest. They also have nine picks on the season and have been credited with 13 sacks. They’ll make it very difficult for Collins to find receivers such as Victor Boldin and Jordan Villamin if the run game is subdued or eliminated altogether.

After coming out of the gate slowly, the Buffaloes managed to shut out Arizona for two straight quarters, allowing their offense to eventually take a 24-17 lead heading into the fourth quarter. But Colorado wore down and the Wildcats scored three touchdowns in the final 15 minutes to win 38-31.

Although they almost overcame it, Colorado fell behind early and couldn’t recover. The Beavers will want to do the very same thing if they can.

Unlike the Beavers, the Buffs showed that they can ride Sefo Liufau’s arm to get back into a game if they have to. He completes 60.5 percent of his passes and averages nearly 250 yards a game. Liufau also has a weapon that OSU is lacking, and that’s one of the best receivers in the conference in Nelson Spruce.

He’s not having the season he did last year with just one touchdown and 72 yards per game, though. Defenses are double and triple-teaming him at times. What’s scary for the Beavers is that one would think Spruce is due to break. OSU has to be hoping it’s next week against UCLA and not in Corvallis.

Should he break out, it will be a long day for the Beaver secondary, no matter what the score is. They had a long day last week in the Palouse against Washington State, but most secondaries do when they face the Cougars.

Oregon State might be a little wary after giving up 409 yards and six touchdowns through the air. Colorado might want to test the Beavers to see if there’s a hangover.

A win is paramount for Oregon State here as the next three games won’t be fun with Utah, UCLA and Cal next on the docket. Colorado needs the win just for its overall confidence. The Buffaloes have played several league games close, but until they break through, they’ll be viewed as just the same ole Buffaloes.

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