Saturday night’s edition of #PAC12AfterDark features the top teams from the North and South divisions in what could end up being a preview of the PAC-12 Championship on December 3rd when Utah heads to Corvallis to take on the Beavers. An early loss to the usually lowly Purdue is looking better and better since the Boilermakers took down #2 Iowa last week, and Oregon State now has a chance cement themselves as an overlooked contender,
Lead by sophomore quarterback Chance Nolan (6’3”, 203 lbs), the 4-2 Beavers pride themselves on a top-tier offense, but their defense leaves something to be desired. Ranked 69th nationally, just below UCLA, and barely ahead of USC, the Beavers’ defense has allowed 17 total touchdowns to date, while allowing an average of 381.2 yards per game.
While Utah’s offensive line play has improved week to week and Cam Rising’s mobility makes him even more difficult to take down, sixth year senior outside linebacker Andrzej Hughes-Murray (6’2”, 246 lbs) is as explosive as it gets, notching four sacks on the season, a half sack behind PAC-12 leader Mika Tafua. Hughes-Murray’s 2021 season is already ranking among his best statistically after redshirtting in 2019, however injuries have limited his time on the field most seasons.
Junior inside linebacker Avery Roberts (6’1”, 234 lbs) leads the Beavers in total tackles with 62, 34 of which are solo efforts. Sophomore Omar Speights (6’1”, 237 lbs), who plays alongside Roberts is a distant second with 39 total tackles, and 17 solo. Roberts is everything you want to see in a linebacker, who wraps the opposition at the hips and hits with the brute force of a jacked up Bobby Boucher in the Bourbon Bowl.
While the Beavers have become a popular darkhorse candidate to win the North in recent weeks, Utah’s offense has moved the ball with relative ease against much better defensive units. If Oregon State hopes to keep the hype alive, they’ll need to do so on the backs of their talented offense while their defense plays at a level far beyond what they’ve shown to be capable of.