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Saturday Showdown: Previewing the Oregon State Defense

In an environment that Cal historically has experienced very little success in, the Bears must expose an inexperienced Beaver defense to win Saturday night.

Oregon State v Colorado Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

One week after the Cal defense handed the Bears their second victory over a ranked opponent this year, the Cal offense hopes to put the team on their theoretical back once more. Standing between them and that potential accomplishment is a Kevin Clune defense eager to prove themselves and make their mark in a wide open Pac-12.

The numbers against Oregon State this year are not pretty. They stand just behind Wyoming in points per game allowed at 30.5 a contest. The Beavers rank no better than 101st in the country in passing yards allowed as well as rushing yards allowed per game. With one of the Pac-12’s most dynamic offenses coming to town, it doesn’t bode well for the Beavers. For the Bears, this is the definition of a trap game. Cal is a win away from a 4-2 overall record and 2-1 record in the Pac-12 North going into their bye week. The Bears have yet to prove themselves powerful enough to overlook an opponent, particularly a Pac-12 team on the road and in a place that Cal historically has struggled.

The Beavers have at least been competitive so far this season in most of their games outside of a lopsided loss to Pac-12 darling Colorado. They played a tight game against Boise State, one of the better teams in the Mountain West and narrowly missed a season opening victory at Minnesota. In the Boise State game, the Beavers gave up a huge lead to the Broncos but rallied and held the Boise State offense nearly scoreless for the final two quarters. This is a team that cannot be underestimated but Cal should not have a problem imposing their will on offense.

Defensive Line

This matchup is an absolute nightmare for the Beavers. Oregon State had one of the worst defensive line units in the country last year and squaring off against Cal’s experienced offensive line isn’t going to help them improve. The statistics from last year are fairly awful, 125th in the country in power success rate, 123rd in the country in stuff rate and 85th in the country in adjusted sack rate. The big guys upfront struggle equally with disrupting quarterbacks as they do containing running backs. Some of you may remember the Tre Watson breakout party that took place last year at Memorial and for those of you who want to relive it, check out the tape below:

Gary Andersen has taken a similar approach as Sonny Dykes did when in the same situation back in 2013, relying on a few JUCO transfers to add to their size. Early results still show this team has a lot to work on when containing the run and creating havoc in the trenches.


Oregon State has played a relatively unexciting brand of football on the defense, rarely creating turnovers or hurting opponents with tackles behind the line of scrimmage. The Beavers rely on their linebackers to make a tremendous amount of plays but without the defensive line getting any type of pressure, those plays generally come after significant yards have been surrendered. Take a look at the total number of tackles Oregon State linebackers racked up last year:

SB Nation

The high volume of tackles by the linebackers puts a tremendous amount of pressure on those players to play mistake free football. Without a tremendous amount of depth or in game experience, playing mistake free football has been a consistent challenge for this particular unit.


The Beaver secondary has a very familiar name amongst their playmakers, Treston Decoud. Treston is the cousin of former Cal star safety Thomas Decoud who had an illustrious college career and played six years in the NFL. The Oregon State cornerbacks might not have a tremendous amount of depth but they do have more talent than either the defensive line or linebacker unit. They also have a decent amount of young talent coming up the ranks and it isn’t hard to imagine this unit improving significantly over the course of the season.

The Beavers have a couple of seniors, Kendall Hill and Brandon Arnold who can provide some veteran leadership for a very young group of core players. However, the secondary has a daunting task in front of them if they intend to slow down Chad Hansen and Demetris Robertson. The Bears have a clear matchup advantage once again and should find a tremendous amount of success through the air come Saturday night.

Final Take

Outside of Oregon, who are miraculously performing worse than the Beavers on defense this season, this is the Bears best in conference statistical matchup this year. The Cal offense should find plenty of success, both on the ground and through the air, against an inexperienced defense that is still one year away from being truly competitive. Colorado put up 563 total yards of offense last week and Cal has proven themselves more than capable of accomplishing a similar feat this season. The Bears have an extremely favorable matchup in the trenches and look for Khalfani, Vic or Tre to have a massive day come Saturday.