Thursday Night Football: Oregon State at Utah Preview
by Matt Severance - 10/01/2008
Think No. 15 Utah will be on upset alert Thursday night?
After all, the 5-0 Utes will be facing Oregon State, which one week ago shocked top-ranked USC. However, the Beavers (2-2) are clearly a different team on the road, where they lost to Stanford and were routed by Penn State. Thus they are an 11.5-point underdog on SuperBook, with an over/under of 53.
Utah is off to its best start since 2004 and has added motivation: It lost in the 2007 season opener to Oregon State, 24-7.
You can be sure that Utah will focus on Beavers RB Jacquizz Rodgers. The diminutive Rodgers is the nation's leading freshman rusher with 449 yards and has scored six touchdowns. He rushed for 186 yards with two TDs on 37 carries against USC, but he'll be going up against the nation's No. 5 run defense on Thursday night.
"We've got to focus on slowing him down," Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. "This will be a big test for us, it will be a big challenge. In my opinion, it's our biggest challenge to date. In the six games that we have played, this will be the toughest challenge. All you've got to do is turn on the SC tape and you get a feel for what these guys are capable of."
Oregon State is more than just Rodgers, as quarterback Lyle Moevao is 97-for-157 for 1,089 yards and eight touchdowns with four interceptions. The Beavers are No. 23 in the country in passing, averaging 272.3 yards per game.
Utah's offense, meanwhile, is led by QB Brian Johnson, who was knocked out of last year's game against the Beavers. He has eight TD passes on the season and is completing 69.2 percent of his throws with an average of 225 yards per game. And the Utes have a great ground duo in Matt Asiata and Darrell Mack, not to mention that Johnson is mobile. Asiata has rushed 64 times for 320 yards while Mack carried 65 times for 319, and they have combined for nine TDs.
Plus the Beavers could be in for a natural letdown after that big win last week. And they have to play at altitude (Salt Lake City is 4,657 feet above sea level).
"I think this game, because of what we just came off of, can be somewhat of a trap game," Beavers Coach Mike Riley said. "Our approach mentally is big, and we have to get ready to play our best game of the year, so our motto about getting better every day and every week is bigger than ever to me."
OSU has handled success in the past. After beating second-ranked California last season, the Beavers had a bye and then defeated Stanford, 23-6. In 2006, OSU followed its win over No. 3 USC by beating Arizona State, 44-10. The Beavers have gone 8-1 and 7-1, respectively, to finish the past two seasons.
The Mountain West Conference has had the Pac-10's number this season, going 5-1. Utah is 2-2 under Whittingham against the Pac-10 but will be playing on only four days' rest Thursday.
Bet on the Oregon State-Utah game at SuperBook.