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Oregon State vs. Arizona: Q & A with Building the Dam

We talked to Building the Dam's Andy Wooldridge to figure out what to expect from this week's game against Oregon State.

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Every week, we talk to someone who covers our upcoming opponent to get an insider's perspective on the upcoming match-up. To get a better idea of how this game between the Arizona Wildcats and the Oregon State Beavers will shake out, we talked to Building the Dam's Andy Wooldridge to get the inside scoop on whether Oregon State is better than people give them credit for, how they'll look to attack Arizona, and how he sees this game turning out.

1. Most of the fan sites in the Pac-12 rank Oregon State as one of the worst teams in the conference, but your two losses are to teams that might actually be really good (Michigan and Stanford) and you beat San Jose State by the same margin as Auburn did. Is Oregon State better than people are giving them credit for? What are your expectations for the rest of the year?

Andy Wooldridge: I think Oregon State is better, at least in some areas, than a lot of people are giving them credit for, but I also agree with the perspective that the Beavers are at or near the bottom of the conference. Until they play a complete game, and they didn’t do that in any of their first 4, its going to be hard to pull wins out of good efforts in this conference.

There’s still a lot of inexperience on the field, and there’s been too many stretches of the offense going dark, leaving the defense, which actually is much better than expected under Kalani Sitake, out on the field for far too long.

As the year goes along, we should continue to see individual and collective improvement though, just as we have seen in each game so far. At a minimum, a couple of wins, and at least one that’s a big surprise, should be forthcoming if the pattern of development we have seen so far continues.

This game is one of the pivotal ones for Oregon State; a win here would go a long ways to keep postseason possibilities alive.

2. Last year, Mike Riley surprisingly left Oregon State to take the Nebraska job, and Gary Andersen then left Wisconsin to take the Oregon State job. How would you compare Gary Andersen’s performance this season to Mike Riley’s performance in recent years?

Andy Wooldridge: The W-L record hasn’t improved over what Riley likely would have accomplished, though there haven’t been any blown wins, at least yet. But this season is early to evaluate that with what is a very young team that was going to be up and down no matter who was coaching.

But the look of the team is better, as there seems to be less confusion, and defensively, the Beavers have been more sound.

The real difference we have seen has already shown itself on the recruiting trail, which won’t become apparent on the field for another year or two. Andersen has landed some recruits Oregon State hadn’t been able to land the like of in recent years.

3. How do you think Oregon State’s offense will look to attack Arizona’s defense? What players do you expect to have big performances in this game?

Andy Wooldridge: Storm Woods stormed to a 200+ yard total offense game against the Arizona 3-3-5 3 years ago, and something along those lines would not only go a long ways toward another win in Tucson, it would set the table for other things that actually could win the game, including keeping the defense from melting.

Seth Collins should be able to be productive running from his quarterback spot at times, but the key will be how well he can pass. WR Jordan Villamin should have a big day, but the key to the game is likely to be how well Victor Bolden does in the mid-range passing game, behind the linebackers and in front of the Arizona back line. If Bolden also has a good game, Oregon State likely wins. If Arizona shuts that down, the ‘Cats will also have extra offensive opportunities of their own, and that will win it for them.

4. What is your prediction for this game?

Andy Wooldridge: A hot day! I’m glad Fox rescued us from the Pac-12 Network, but how come no one clued them in that you don’t play day games in Arizona until after Halloween!

Also, I’d expect at least a couple of tortillas to come sailing out of the ‘Zona Zoo, at least based on past experiences.

More seriously, if Oregon State is to pull the upset (Arizona is an 8 ½ point favorite, which seems appropriate), the coaching staff is going to have to do a very good job of rotating personnel because the combination of daytime heat and a game style that will feature a lot of up and down the field action will otherwise wear the Beavers out. The coaches have actually done a pretty good job of that so far, but at the same time, Oregon State lacks quality depth of playmakers, making this problematical.

Anu Solomon’s return to good health, while great news in the humanitarian sense, significantly impacts my expectations for the outcome. If he’s close to 100% and turned loose, he makes the ‘Cats probably a couple scores better. This was one of Oregon State’s best bets for an upset.

It’s also our first chance to see what Coach Andersen and staff can do with extra prep time (its been 15 days since Oregon State played), and I think that will help.

The Beavers have owned the ‘Cats for a generation, especially in Tucson, but I think this might be when the streak ends. We don’t pick scores much at BTD, as there is so much that can happen, but I’m seeing something along the lines of a 34-27 game, and unless Oregon State can win the turnover battle (not outside the realm of possibility), flipping that score in the process, it will be Arizona coming out on top.

Thanks to Andy Wooldridge for answering our questions this week! You can follow Building the Dam on Twitter @BuildingTheDam or check out their site at BuildingTheDam.com to learn everything there is to know about Oregon State football.