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ASU Football: The battle of the backs in Corvallis

Two great running games and inconsistent teams

Zac BonDurant

In recent years, the Oregon State Beavers haven’t resembled a threat in the Pac-12 football landscape. While they still have a long way to go before earning championship contender designation, the 6-4 Beavers are Bowl eligible for the first time since 2013.

In an odd scheduling twist, Arizona State travels to Corvallis for the third straight season to take on OSU. Much like the Sun Devils, Oregon State’s 2021 campaign has been defined by extreme ups and downs. Wins against USC, Utah and Washington cemented their status as a contender in the North, while a puzzling two-score loss at Cal and an overtime loss at Colorado kept expectations in check.

ASU will be one of the most talented rosters the Beavers have faced this season, but they have to be confident given the game is taking place on their home field. Oregon State hasn’t lost at home this season, and as the calendar has turned to November, harsh elements and bone chilling temperatures will play to the home team’s advantage.

The Arizona State front seven will be tested in the run game. BJ Baylor has been the bell cow of the offense, racking up 1,063 yards on 176 attempts. Behind a formidable OSU offensive line, Baylor will have a favorable matchup against the depleted Arizona State defensive line.

The Sun Devils have an advantage in the secondary defending against an average at best Oregon State aerial attack. Jack Jones, DeAndre Pierce, Chase Lucas and company will be tasked with shutting down OSU quarterback Chance Nolan’s connection with a talented stable of receivers. ASU’s advantage could be nullified, however, if the game time forecast of cold weather and rain holds up. There’s a solid chance this contest could be decided on the ground, and with two feature backs like Baylor and ASU’s Rachaad White, these two teams wouldn’t want it any other way.

The Beaver defense has been clutch at times this season, but has ultimately proved to be an unreliable unit. ASU’s plan of attack on offense will be no secret: feed Rachaad White and feed him often. Oregon State is prone to allowing big plays in the run game, and ASU’s best player will be given every chance to make it hurt. White is riding a nearly unprecedented hot streak, rushing for almost 400 yards and finding the end zone five times over the last two games.

2019’s trip to Corvallis was a loss that punctuated the end of a streak ensuring mediocrity. 2020’s was a win that did little more than boost morale in a consolation prize of a season. A win in 2021 ensures four straight victories to close a regular season that was deemed an epic failure three weeks ago. There’s a lot on the line Saturday night, it just depends on which Arizona State team will show up.