Stanford eyes bowl bid with Pac-12 crown likely out of reach
STANFORD, Calif. (AP) Fighting to become bowl eligible this late in the season isn't something that Stanford coach David Shaw is accustomed to, which might explain his reluctance to talk about the subject.
The Cardinal have won three of the last four Pac-12 championships and entered the season heavily favored to keep the trend going. Instead, Stanford (3-3, 5-3) has been a middle-of-the-pack team slowed by injuries and an inconsistent offense.
A win Saturday against Oregon State (1-4, 2-6) would ease some of the sting and make Stanford bowl eligible for the sixth time since Shaw replaced Jim Harbaugh in 2011, though Shaw prefers that not be the focus.
''That's for everybody outside of our small world to think about, which bowl game to think about, where you might finish,'' Shaw said. ''All we can do is try to play our best football. To look any further past the horizon is unnecessary.''
Stanford won the Pac-12 title in 2012, 2013 and 2015, playing in the Rose Bowl each time. The Cardinal also played in the Fiesta Bowl in Shaw's first season and in the Foster Farms Bowl last year.
The Rose Bowl is no longer a possibility this year, so Stanford will have to settle for playing elsewhere in the postseason.
The Cardinal have history on their side against Oregon State, having won the last six games between the two conference rivals.
The Beavers have lost three straight and five of six overall. They are coming off a 35-31 loss to Washington State, which is tied for the North Division lead.
''We'll have to answer the toughness bell in this week,'' Oregon State coach Gary Andersen said. ''I think we've done a good job with that this year when we've matched up against people that want to stand up and throw some heavy, big-boy punches.''
Here are a few other things to look for when Stanford hosts Oregon State on Saturday afternoon:
DUAL THREAT: Stanford's backfield is no longer the sole territory of 2015 Heisman Trophy candidate Christian McCaffrey. Bryce Love, who filled in when McCaffrey sat out the Oct. 22 loss to Colorado with an undisclosed injury, has continued to be a key part of the Cardinal's running game now that McCaffrey is healthy. The duo combined for 247 rushing yards during last week's win at Arizona and Shaw said he intends to continue to use both backs moving forward.
UGWOEGBU BENCHED: Oregon State outside linebacker Bright Ugwoegbu will spend the first half on the bench after being flagged for targeting following a hit on Washington State quarterback Luke Falk last week. Ugwoegbu has 5 + sacks and is tied for second in the Pac-12 with 11 tackles for loss.
CHRYST'S SECOND START: Junior quarterback Keller Chryst will make his second straight start after replacing inconsistent Ryan Burns against the Wildcats. Chryst, whose father Geep served as offensive coordinator for the San Francisco 49ers in 2015, passed for 104 yards and one touchdown in his debut.
NALL OR NOTHING: Sophomore running back Ryan Nall has had two big games for the Beavers this season, including last week's loss to Washington State when he ran for 131 yards and two touchdowns. Nall rushed for a career-high 221 yards and three touchdowns against California on Oct. 8 but has only 243 yards total in his other five games this season.