Coming into the season we knew that the BYU front 7 was one of the best in the country. We knew the linebackers were deep but we weren't sure about the the depth on the defensive line. Both of the starting defensive ends are out for the season, and the replacement starters haven't missed a beat. Ezekiel "Ziggy" Ansah is one of the defensive ends who came into the season as a backup and he has NFL scouts really excited. We were confident that the defensive backs would be pretty good, but we didn't realize they would be this good. They're a big reason why this is the best BYU defense in the history of the program, and certainly one of the best defenses in the country.
There was optimism that this offense would be good. We knew the Cougar wide receivers were good, we knew BYU's running back was good, and we were pretty confident that the tight ends were good. The questions coming into the year were on the offensive line and at quarterback, and that's where the question marks still are. Riley Nelson has struggled against quality opponents in his career but the hope was that his progress from his Jr to Sr year would get him to where he needed to be. We still don't really know if he is or isn't where he needs to be. He played well against Washington State and Weber State, two poor defenses. He fractured some of his vertebrae against Weber State and played hurt against Utah and Boise State. He wasn't very good against Utah and he was terrible against Boise State. Taysom Hill came in for him in the 3rd quarter of the Boise State game and played pretty well against them, Hawaii, and Utah State. Hill hurt his knee against Utah State and is out for the season, and Riley says that his back is 100% now. This will be the game where all of the excuses are off the table and we see how good (or bad) Riley really is.
We learned that BYU's depth at running back is excellent, which was vital because the primary back is out for the rest of the season, but the run blocking up front has been poor. The O-Line coach made a change up front moving his best guard to center against Hawaii, and the O-Line has improved from terrible to average. It was a big upgrade, considering that the next two best guards on the team are both injured for the rest of the season as well.
The Beavers are coming into their fifth game of the season and we have yet to see the offense and defense play a complete game together. Each week it has been one or the other stepping up, and many feel that the Beavers are due for a big performance.
Offensively the team is led by two of the most dynamic wide receivers in the country in Markus Wheaton and Brandin Cooks. Both rank in the top ten in the Nation in receiving yards per game. Wheaton is seventh averaging 124.5 while Cooks ranks ninth with 121.5.
The Beavers have utilized several running backs this season, but the starter is redshirt freshman Storm Woods. While the run game is better than it was a year ago, the Beavers have not consistently dominated in the run game yet this season.
Like the Cougars, the Beavers strength has been on defense. Oregon State currently ranks number four in the Nation in rush defense and number one in the Nation in 3rd down conversion percentage.
They are led up front by a very strong and physical defensive line including sophomore defensive end Scott Crichton who is tied for second in the Nation in sacks and fifth in tackles for loss.
The numbers haven't looked great for the Beavers pass defense, but they made huge strides last week against Washington State. Jordan Poyer is one of the top cornerbacks in the country and he hauled in three interceptions last week agains the Cougars.
The big question mark is obviously at quarterback this week as starter Sean Mannion underwent knee surgery on Wednesday leading the Beavers to hand the reigns over to junior Cody Vaz.
Vaz is more mobile than Mannion and has a quicker release, but he has very limited game experience. He does know the Beaver playbook well however as he's been the backup for three years.