California-Oregon St. Preview
Oregon State went unbeaten in its first six games before dropping two of three.
A visit from struggling California could help the Beavers pick up some much-needed steam.
With a matchup against the country's top team - and their biggest rival - looming, Oregon State will first try to take care of business Saturday night against the Golden Bears, who conclude their schedule looking to snap their longest losing streak in 11 seasons.
Oregon State (7-2, 5-2 Pac-12) jumped out to its first 6-0 start in 105 years but has since looked pedestrian at times. The Beavers saw their undefeated season come to an end Oct. 27 with a 20-17 loss at Washington, then fell 27-23 at then-No. 16 Stanford last Saturday.
Oregon State, which pulled out a 36-26 win over Arizona State in between those defeats, allowed the Cardinal to score the game's final 13 points.
"Obviously, the loss was tough, but I think the vibe of our team is to move on and that's exactly what we're gonna do," said cornerback Jordan Poyer, who's tied for the league lead with five interceptions. "Our opponent this week is Cal, and that's exactly who we're focused on."
The Beavers would appear to have a good chance to bounce back against the Golden Bears (3-8, 2-6) before hosting No. 1 Oregon on Nov. 24 in the annual Civil War game. Cal has been outscored by an average of 22.5 points during a four-game skid - its longest since opening 0-10 in 2001.
Led by Anderson, Sofele and Brendan Bigelow, Cal ranks fourth in the conference with an average of 182.4 yards on the ground. Although the Beavers are 10th in the FBS in rush defense at 99.7 yards per game, coach Mike Riley knows his team can't afford to overlook the Bears.
"They're good, they are talented," Riley said. "We feel like there's three running backs that are all pretty good... they can block and they move the ball on you - we're not expecting anything different than a tough Pac-12 game."
While the Beavers could be in for a big day offensively against a defense that's allowing an average of 37.5 points during its losing streak, it remains to be seen who will start under center.
Cody Vaz threw for 226 yards and a touchdown last weekend but suffered an ankle injury, leaving the door open for former starter Sean Mannion. The sophomore Mannion has averaged 315.8 yards while throwing eight TDs and eight picks in five starts.
"The situation's pretty obvious," Riley said. "Cody's hurt and Sean is chomping at the bit ready to go."
Allan Bridgford, meanwhile, could draw a second consecutive start for the Bears with quarterback Zach Maynard (left knee) uncertain to play. Bridgford completed 9 of 21 passes for 113 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions last Saturday in a 59-17 loss to Oregon.
"We just need to get more first downs, complete more balls and make more plays overall," the junior said.
While Bridgford wasn't very sharp, Sofele ran for a season-best 134 yards on just 15 carries as Cal posted its fifth 200-yard effort on the ground.
Making things even tougher on Bridgford, Cal could be without star wideout Keenan Allen for a third consecutive game. The junior, whose 205 receptions are the most in school history, is dealing with a knee injury.
Cal coach Jeff Tedford says he expects to meet next week with athletic director Sandy Barbour to discuss his future after completing the worst season under his tenure. Tedford's 82 wins are the most in school history, but the Bears have a losing record over the last four years.