On Saturday, the Cal football team (3-2) will waltz into Corvallis, Oregon, for a game with an outmatched Oregon State squad (1-3).
The Beavers are carriers of a punchless offense and a mediocre defense that figures to be overcome by a Cal offense clicking on all cylinders. If Oregon State wants to stop a flood of Bears points, well, those Beavers better build a dam.
Oregon State comes into the matchup having just been stampeded by an up-and-coming Colorado squad, 47-6, and its performance in that game was anything but promising for its chances against the Bear Raid. The Beavers allowed Colorado wide receiver Shay Fields to put up a career game against their defense, as he corralled seven catches for 169 yards and three touchdowns.
Now, Oregon State is up against one of the nation’s hottest receivers in Chad Hansen, who’s made games the like the one Fields put up look like second nature. That’s bad news for the Beavers.
Cal’s Demetris Robertson, meanwhile, is on the verge of a breakout. He’s caught four balls and a pair of touchdowns in each of his last two games. Given the amazing speed he flashes, Robertson puts Oregon State in a tough position: Send safety help Hansen’s way and give up a potential deep ball to Robertson, or double the freshman and let Hansen break the dam. Oh, and Hansen’s no slouch on the deep ball himself, after reeling in a 40-yard touchdown against then-No. 18 Utah.
Melquise Stovall, Jordan Veasy, Bug Rivera and Vic Wharton III provide the Bears some much-needed depth in their receiving corps, as Cal likes to spread out three or four receivers nearly every time out. This will force the Beavers to turn to a nickel defense they’re not fully comfortable using.
At practice, Oregon State was experimenting with new players at the nickelback position, but a potent Cal offense is not the best testing ground for inexperienced players. The defensive backfield needs a lot of help, but it won’t be getting it from a defensive line that can best be described as shoddy.
The Beavers have only sacked their opponents six times this season, and three of those came against Idaho State. While sacks are by no means the be-all and end-all of pass rushing, they are still telling. Cal’s offensive line has taken a monumental step forward from last season, and if it can protect Davis Webb and give him time to pick apart Oregon State, the Bears may be racking up some video game-like numbers.
The run game advantage also falls firmly in the hands of Cal, as opposing running backs have comfortably torn past the Beavers’ line. While the Bears rarely have turned to their run game, Saturday’s matchup may just be too juicy to ignore. Boise State’s Jeremy McNichols was not stopped in the backfield even once against Oregon State — even with the Beavers expecting the run — and he rolled his way to 208 yards on 28 carries.
With just about every matchup swung firmly in Cal’s favor — Oregon State’s offense is one of the worst in the country, scoring only 22.5 points per game — the Bears’ main concern should be avoiding complacency. For a young team coming off a win over a top-25 team and heading into a bye week, that’s anything but assured. But heading into one of the toughest stretches of schedule in the country, Cal needs to do what is expected of it come Saturday. A win puts the Bears at 4-2 with bowl eligibility, unexpectedly, right in their sights.