October 16, 2013
Cal vs. Oregon State: 5 Things To Watch For
This Saturday, division foes meet in Berkeley. One team lost its home opener to an FCS school, then went on to win its next five games behind two offensive stars having career years. The other team holds just one win (over an FCS opponent) against five losses, and has suffered numerous injuries and humbling defeats along the way.
It's Oregon State versus Cal, and GoldenBearReport brings you our 5 Things to Watch For.
1. Does Cal stand a chance against Sean Mannion and Brandin Cooks?
In the last two games, the Cal defense has seen opposing signal callers have career days against them: Wazzu's Connor Halliday (521 yards passing) and UCLA's Brett Hundley (410 yards passing). This Saturday will hold no reprieve as the most prolific passer in the nation comes to town in Foothill High's own Sean Mannion.
Mannion has thrown for 25 touchdowns to just three interceptions through six games, and is averaging 418 yards passing per game while completing just over 67% of his passes. His primary target also happens to be the nation's most prolific pass-catcher, junior wide receiver Brandin Cooks. The 5'10, 186-pound Stockton product has 944 receiving yards and 106 rushing yards thus far through six games, is averaging more than 10 receptions per game and has scored 12 touchdowns this season. Cooks has more than double the receptions of sophomore wideout Richard Mullaney, the Beavers' second leading receiver (30 catches for 521 yards).
A couple things to note here: All five of Oregon State's previous FBS opponents rank 95th or worse in pass defense... Colorado being the lowest at 121st. Cal is 124th currently. That said, it's looking like the Beavers will be without their two primary tight ends in junior Connor Hamlett (25 receptions for 198 yards, four TDs) and sophomore Caleb Smith (13 receptions for 194 yards, two TDs). Whether this makes a difference or not remains to be seen. For Cal to hold any chance of winning this game, they'll need to find a way to shut down Cooks and force Mannion into some bad decisions. The Oregon State rushing offense is second to last in the country, so shutting down the passing game will be the key to a possible victory.
2. Can the Cal run game get something going?
With Daniel Lasco unavailable due to a shoulder injury, the burden will once again fall on freshman Khalfani Muhammad, junior Brendan Bigelow, and the Cal offensive line to generate some sort of a spark in the running game. And while the Beavers are a respectable 41st nationally in...
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