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Cal Football: Bears' Defense Set to Face Potent Oregon State Running Game

The Beavers rank seventh in the nation in rushing at 245 yards per game.

Cal’s defense finds out Saturday against Oregon State whether what it achieved last week against Colorado was real.

One week after the Bears squelched one of the nation’s worst offenses — holding the Buffaloes to 35 rushing yards in a 26-3 victory — they find themselves matched against one of the most surprisingly dominant offenses in FBS.

Yes, it’s Oregon State that leads the Pac-12 in scoring (35.1 points per game), not its neighbor Oregon (33.9).

“It is a different challenge. Our guys understand that,” Cal coach Justin Wilcox said. “It’ll take a real good week of preparation because they’re a talented outfit.”

The strength of the Beavers’ offense is its running game, which ranks seventh nationally at 245 yards per game. Actually, they’re better than that. The top two teams on the list — Air Force and Army — almost don’t count because running the ball is all they do.

The three service academies, also including Navy, average fewer than 10 pass attempts per game.

Subtract them from the equation, and the Beavers are No. 5 in rushing offense against teams that run and throw the ball.

Asked to explain Oregon State’s success running the ball, Wilcox said it’s a complete package. “Offensive line play. Running back. They do a great job schematically. Different personnel groupings. They utilize the tight ends. They have skill at receiver — they’ll fly-sweep you. The quarterback gets in on it with some of the RPO,” he said.

“It all starts up front with the O-line. They’re a talented group, all the starters are back, they’re big and physical. The line of scrimmage generally goes forward for them. It’ll be a really, really big challenge for us defensively.”

Aside from their opening game, when they rushed for just 78 yards in a loss at Purdue, the Beavers’ ground game has had its way with opposing defenses.

In five other games, the OSU running game has produced at least 109 more yards than its opponent has surrendered, on average, over the rest of its schedule.

Against USC, for instance, the Beavers ran for 322 yards. That's 199 more than the average the Trojans have allowed in their other six games.

Cal linebacker Trey Paster, in the video above, offers his evaluation of the Oregon State running attack.

B.J. Baylor, a 5-foot-11, 205-pound junior from Wharton, Texas, runs behind a veteran OSU line. Baylor is 10th nationally with 830 rushing yards and has topped 100 yards five times this season, including in each of the Beavers’ past four games.

Wilcox sounds impressed by Baylor, who is coming off a 152-yard performance against Utah.

“He’s a very talented guy. Runs downhill, one cut. He can run through arm tackles and if he gets out in the open field he can go.”

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Three members of Oregon State’s O-line earned spots on the 2020 All-Pac-12 teams, led by senior center Nathan Eldridge, who was a first-team selection.

Here’s the Beavers' game-by-game breakdown, starting with their rushing performance against each of their opponents, then how well those teams defended the run in their other games:

at PURDUE: 25 rush, 78 yards, 3.1 yards per attempt, 3 TDs

(Purdue allowing 151.7 yards, 4.0 per attempt in other games)

vs. HAWAII: 42 rush, 256 yards, 6.1 yards per attempt, 4 TDs

(Hawaii allowing 136.3 yards, 4.0 per attempt in other games)

vs. IDAHO: 39 rush, 248 yards, 6.4 yards per attempt, 3 TDs

(Idaho allowing 139.2 yards, 3.3 per attempt in other games)

at USC: 51 rush, 322 yards, 6.3 yards per attempt, 2 TDs

(USC allowing 123.0 yards, 3.8 yards per attempt in other games)

vs. WASHINGTON: 50 rush, 242 yards, 4.8 yards per attempt, 3 TDs

(Washington allowing 186.5 yards, 4.9 yards per attempt in other games)

at WASHINGTON ST: 45 rush, 309 yards, 6.9 yards per attempt, 3 TDs

(WSU allowing 144.9 yards, 4.1 yards per attempt in other games)

vs. UTAH: 41 rush, 260 yards, 6.3 yards per attempt, 3 TDs

(Utah allowing 128.3 yards, 3.5 yards per attempt in other games)

Cover photo of Oregon State running back B.J. Baylor by Soobum, Im, USA Today

Follow Jeff Faraudo of Cal Sports Report on Twitter: @jefffaraudo