DATE OF CONTEST: Saturday, September 19th
VENUE: Resor Stadium
"LIVE" FROM CORVALLIS: 6:45 (Cincinnati time)
THE SERIES: UC leads 1-0
LAST TILT: Bearcats hard on the Beavers 34-3
Two years ago, Oregon State came to Nippert for an ESPN game favored to win over Brian Kelly's Bearcats. Why?
Well, the Beavers were from the Pac-10 and the Bearcats were not believed to be "the cream of the crop" of the Big East. Just like there's somewhat of an East Coast slant in the media for certain teams, there's also a West Coast slant for teams that theoretically have bigger names than little ol' Cincinnati.
I remember interviewing then-Bengal T.J. Houshmandzadeh (who played at Oregon State along with the "artist formerly known as Chad Johnson") and he laughed when I asked about UC's chances.
"C'mon man, it ain't even going to be close," he said.
How prophetic he was. It wasn't close. UC trapped and whacked the Beavers 34-3. It was so lopsided that sideline lovely Erin Andrews had to scrap a number of planned cut-ins and move to the UC side of the field to learn about the mighty Bearcats.
While that game didn't necessarily blow away the nation on the Bearcats, you can pinpoint that as to when Brian Kelly started turning some heads locally. Ironically that year, UC had also just beat up on Southeast Missouri State with a 59-3 win.
So, here we are again. The Bearcats have blown out SEMO and now Oregon State is the next scheduled affair. Only this time it's in Corvallis, meaning a long plane ride and some time adjustment is in order.
And, this time the Bearcats are not unknown to Mike Riley and the Beavers. While not everyone on his squad may be familiar with UC, two of his quarterbacks are. Current starter Sean Canfield and reserve Lyle Moevao both played here and might still be having nightmares. Each was picked off three times and the best the Beaver offense could do was a second quarter field goal.
You can bet that revenge will be a major factor in this game, no matter what anyone from the Oregon State camp says to the contrary.
While the Beavers skew young, they still have a number of guys on their team that dismantled then #1 USC last year playing on this same field. The Bearcats have already encountered hostile territory, but that was in the same time zone. Oregon State has won their last 26 non-conference games in Corvallis--will the Bearcats be the first to put a dent in that record?
Let's throw some material at the ventilator and see what happens?
UC's offense vs. Oregon's defense
The Beavers only gave up a touchdown against Portland State in their opener, but gave up three second-half touchdowns at UNLV last weekend and needed a late field goal to win. Outside of Lance Mitchell, who forced a fumble and had an INT last week, the secondary is relatively inexperienced. They've also had some pass rushing issues and that combined with the secondary should be of concern to Beaver fans when they're facing Tony Pike and the UC fast-paced spread. Given too much time, Pike has been very precision-like in picking about defenses. Plus, Pike has more than one go-to guy.
Surely, Mike Riley's seen tape of Mardy Gilyard, but if you double Gilyard, you must contend with Binns, Woods or Marcus Barnett (and "Bones" caught five balls and scored twice on Oregon State in the last go-round). Another key is the explosive emergence of Jake Ramsey as both a receiver and quicker runner. And, the volume in the running game only gets turned up when Isaiah Pead is in the game.
NOD: UC's offense is the toughest Oregon State's faced thus far. The biggest advantage the Beavers have is, will UC be able to play at the same speed in the Oregon altitude? However, Oregon State will be running also and I believe the Bearcat conditioning and training will hold up.
Oregon State offense vs. UC defense
Just as UC's offense will be the best Oregon State's faced. The Beavers have the best set of offensive weapons the Bearcats have seen. Jacquizz Rodgers grew up a fan of Barry Sanders and at 5-7 and 191 pounds is similar in size and talent. He missed two games last year and still ran for over 1200 yards.
Against UNLV, he ran for 166 yards and a score and caught 10 passes for 65 yards. Likewise, his brother James (of similar size and speed) had six catches for 48 yards and a score. Lefty QB Sean Canfield, while bypassing the deep ball, was 25 of 31 for 198 yards with a pair of TD tosses. Here's hoping that, "what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas". An upside for UC, is the Beavers don't really run a hurry-up style, so the Bearcats should have some breathers in between. If they can effectively stop the run, they should be in good shape, and they have effectively stopped the run in two games.
Oregon State does have some relative newcomers on their offensive line, so if Curtis Young and his D-line cohorts can find some way to disrupt the backfield, that would also be beneficial. I would look for Canfield to test UC's young secondary, but again they haven't really tried to stretch the field much that way.
NOD: UC hasn't faced a back like Jacquizz Rodgers yet and the key is stopping him. I would think if UC's Darrin Williams (similar size) looks bumped and bruised this week, it would be because he was mimicking Jacquizz Rodgers all week long. If you can stop Mr. Rodgers in his neighborhood, you win, simple as that. I think the Beavers will score more than UC's first two opponents have, but I don't think it'll be enough.
Brian Kelly already switched to Patrick O'Donnell in game two to be his punter and this will be an interesting test for a true freshman on the road. Ideally, you won't see O'Donnell and that means the offense is in gear. Realistically though, he will have to boot a ball or two in front of the screaming fans in Corvallis. Jake Rogers has been smooth so far and he does own a 55-yarder against the Beavers last time around. For Oregon State. Kicker Justin Kahut has made some key kicks (game-winner vs. UNLV), but also has had some inconsistent moments and did miss a PAT last week. Both teams have return threats. James Rodgers took a kickoff to the house last year. UC has Special Teams Player of the Week Mardy Gilyard who now has returned both a punt and a kickoff to the coveted "land of six".
NOD: Give Oregon State the edge in the kicking game due to familiarity with the conditions. If Oregon State keys on Gilyard on returns, you still have Darrin Williams on kickoffs and D.J. Woods on punts who are no slouches either. Beavers have given up substantial yards on returns, but again at home you always play a little more inspired.
Throw It Out And See Where It Sticks
In Corvallis, they have to be looking at their schedule with the Pac-10 ahead (Arizona, Arizona State, Stanford, USC. UCLA. Cal, Washington, Washington State and Oregon) and thinking this is a must-win. As unfair and wrong as it is, Oregon State still has more to lose here than UC. And, as unfair and as wrong as it is, the national story--if UC wins--will be Oregon State LOSES to Cincinnati, not Cincinnati BEATS Oregon State. I don't believe Brian Kelly will admit it, but that has to "get his dander up". I believe that even after the national dismantling of Rutgers, Kelly wants now wants to make a West Coast statement with this game. A lot will be made of the atmosphere at Corvallis and that's well documented. But, Tony Pike has played in front of hostile Rutgers fans, hostile Hokie fans in the Orange Bowl, hostile Mountaineer fans,etc. A "'Cat-calling" crowd is nothing new to Pike. From a historical point-of-view, Brian Kelly and Tony Pike have played two games in the West Coast (and beyond) time zone: San Diego State in '07 and Hawaii in '08. While Pike wasn't the feature performer in either, he did play in both and UC won both.