It’s getting harder and harder to keep the 0-0 mantra going.
The Oregon State football team has lived in the moment this year, taking each game as a season unto itself.
As the Beavers enter their final third of the schedule, the stakes get higher and looking ahead becomes common.
No. 13 OSU faces No. 16 Stanford in a Pacific-12 Conference road game at noon Saturday as a 51/2-point underdog.
Both OSU and Stanford are in contention for the North Division title and a BCS bowl berth, but must win their final conference games. They are tied for second place this week.
“We have Stanford this week, and I don’t know our schedule after that,” defensive end Dylan Wynn said. “We go week-to-week with a 0-0 record.”
After Stanford the Beavers (7-1, 5-1) have California and first-place Oregon at home. Stanford (7-2, 5-1) has road trips to Oregon and South Division leader UCLA.
“The better you do, the bigger the games get,” OSU coach Mike Riley said. “And this is another team that’s a winning, good football team we have to face.”
OSU settled on a quarterback for now with Cody Vaz in charge. He continues to execute well and has a 3-0 record as a starter.
Stanford, however, has its own quarterback controversy. Starter Josh Nunes has struggled and was relieved by redshirt freshman Kevin Hogan against Colorado on Saturday.
Granted, Colorado has the worst scoring defense in the country but Hogan tore apart the Buffaloes with 184 passing yards and 48 rushing.
“This is going to be a hard game,” Riley said. “They are physical and a great running team. They know how to run it. They do it with a purpose and a will. The passing game comes off it, and they do that well.”
After the Colorado game, Stanford coach David Shaw said Hogan will play more but wouldn’t commit to a starter. He estimated that Hogan knows only 80 percent of the playbook.
OSU’s defense historically matches up well with Stanford, compared to the spread offenses that have emerged in the conference.
However, the Beavers evolved this year with better speed and have been able to contain the fast-pace spread offenses more. The lone loss was to Washington and the defense looked sluggish against Utah.
Both of those teams run a slower, conventional pace like Stanford.
“They do such a good job and you have to sound against this team, just like a spread team,” Riley said of Stanford’s offense. “They are adept with formation changes so you have to prepare for anything.”
OSU’s offense will be challenged by the best running defense in the country and best scoring defense in the Pac-12. Stanford pressures the quarterback with the most sacks, 40, and tackles-for-loss, 82, in the country.
The Beavers had some practice with that aggressive approach last weekend against Arizona State. The Sun Devils are second to Stanford in both areas.
“On defense they are good,” Riley said. “It’s a rugged 3-4 philosophy with lots of deception and lots of pressure. I was amazed with the pressure they got on USC when I watched that game.”
The running game finally came together against Arizona State with third-string back Terron Ward running for 146 yards. Riley used him due injury and his blocking ability, but Ward might be important again in this next game.
OSU likes to pass the ball and that’s Stanford’s defensive weakness. If Vaz has enough time, he’ll be able to exploit the 10th-ranked pass defense in the conference that allows 268.3 yards a game.
“We have a tough one this week,” Vaz said. “We just have to come back to practice and prepare hard for Saturday, and we’ll be ready.”