Oregon State and Stanford: two top 20 ranked Pac-12 teams, two starting quarterbacks not originally tabbed for the job. That’s the news emanating from the greater Palo Alto area, as Cardinal head coach David Shaw announced redshirt freshman Kevin Hogan is set to start Saturday against the Beavers.
Hogan is a deviation from the offensive scheme that powered Stanford to two straight BCS bowls, operation primarily in single wing and option formations. NFL scouts were in love with the Cardinal’s use of a traditional style offense under Andrew Luck’s guidance, but it never quite clicked with Josh Nunes behind center. Nunes beat out Brett Nottingham weeks before Stanford opened against San Jose State. One of the nation’s most prolific scoring offenses a season ago, the Cardinal have cracked 30 just three times thus far in 2012.
Hogan threw two touchdowns passes in relief of Nunes last week against Colorado. Despite his abilities differing from those of a traditional Pro Set quarterback, he looked like a seasoned veteran against the Buffaloes. Then again, CU is among the most hapless teams in all college football, let alone the Pac-12. In Oregon State, Hogan sees a defense ranked No. 19 in scoring defense and No. 30 in yards surrendered.
Also opposite Hogan on Saturday is quarterback Cody Vaz, who regained the reins as the Beavers’ starter from Sean Mannion. Vaz relieved Mannion more than capably while the latter rehabilitated from a knee injury. Mannion struggled mightily in his return, Oct. 27 against Washington, throwing four interceptions. Vaz regained the starting job last week and threw for three touchdowns in a win over Arizona State.
Saturday’s showdown on The Farm in Stanford begins a crucial round robin stretch for the Pac-12 North. Both Oregon State and Stanford harbor attainable Rose Bowl goals. Each also has a match-up with undefeated Oregon remaining, thus controls its own destiny in the division. The winner of the North will almost assuredly host the Pac-12 championship.