A trip to the Bay Area to visit California could help the Oregon State football right now.
The Beavers need an opportunity to put together a complete game, and the Golden Bears appear to be the right opponent.
OSU has a four-game winning streak over Cal and has won 10 of the last 12 meetings, including the last five on the road.
They clash in a Pacific-12 Conference game at 3:30 p.m. Saturday in San Francisco’s AT&T Park.
“We’ve played some good football down there, but I don’t put much stock in the series histories,” coach Mike Riley said. “We’ll look at our past games, but it always comes down to that game that year.”
What’s different this year is the game is played at a Major League Baseball ballpark. Work is being done on Cal’s Memorial Coliseum so its home games have been at the home of the San Francisco Giants.
The Beavers (2-7, 2-4) have played there before, defeating Maryland in the 2007 Emerald Bowl.
“We have a new venue so it will be different,” Riley said of this meeting with Cal.
During the Emerald Bowl both teams were on the same sideline to fit everything in the smaller field area.
Cal (5-4, 2-4) figured out a way to change that, but it’s still tight. Utah coach Kyle Whittingham told Riley that the side for the visiting team is noticeably squeezed.
“I liked the closeness when we were at the Emerald Bowl,” Riley said. “It felt kind of good.”
Another twist to the game is that it’s on natural grass. The Beavers have played the first nine games this season on synthetic turf, and will play their last two — home against Washington and at Oregon — on turf.
Riley plans to conduct the early part of practices this week on the grass practice fields before it gets too dark so players can get used to the footing again.
Riley also coached the 2005 East-West Shrine game in AT&T Park. Before both games, it rained and the field was slick.
Rain is in the forecast in San Francisco on Thursday and Friday.
As for the Golden Bears, the Beavers must contend with the top passing defense in the conference as Cal allows only 194.3 yards a game.
The Bears get after the ball carrier and quarterback. They have the third-most sacks in the conference (26) and are first in tackles for a loss with 7.8 a game.
“We realize their talent,” Riley said. “I’ve seen a lot of film on them watching the other teams we’ve prepared for. We understand we have a big job.”
Quarterback Sean Mannion will face another tough task. The offensive line has allowed 18 sacks and Mannion has thrown 13 interceptions.
The Beavers are tied for last in the conference with Arizona in turnover margin at minus-5.
“We have to play a complete game,” Mannion said. “We are going to keep working on execution and get better. We’ll have to execute better to move the ball better.”
OSU’s woeful running offense of 94.6 yards a game must help the passing game so the offense is not one-dimensional again.
The defense should be able to handle Cal’s offense. Quarterback Zach Maynard has had his struggles with a 122.2 passing rating, which is 10th in the Pac-12. He has thrown 13 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
Primary ball carrier Isi Sofele runs for only 93.2 yards a game, but the Beavers gain 153.1 as a team.
Cal is coming off a big 30-7 victory over Washington State, a team OSU dominated, too.
After three nonconference wins to start the season, the Bears haven’t won consecutive Pac-12 games.
The only other conference win was a 34-10 victory over Utah, and the Utes pounded the Beavers 27-8 two weeks ago.
“We’ll watch film this week and try get a win next week,” tight end Joe Halahuni said. “That’s all we can do at this point.”