Thursday primer: Rose Bowl on the line

In Week 14 of our Thursday night primer, the National Football Post highlights some of the keys to tonight’s Oregon-Oregon State game, including top players and matchups that NFL scouts will be watching. For the first time in 112 meetings between the schools, the winner advances to the Rose Bowl.

What to watch for:

The quarterback play

Oregon State signal caller Sean Canfield might be the best senior college quarterback no one is talking about. Canfield has quietly put together a very impressive season and now is considered one of the draft’s top QB prospects. He’s on pace to throw for over 3,000 yards and 20 touchdowns with only seven interceptions and has improved dramatically under the tutelage of head coach Mike Riley. He’s done a great job taking care of the football all season, completing over 70 percent of his passes, and has been extremely effective converting on third downs. But what makes Canfield such an attractive quarterback in this matchup is his ability to handle the crowd nose, remain composed and be efficient with the ball. Autzen Stadium in Eugene is going to be one of the loudest environments the Beavers have played in all year, and it’s the veteran leadership and poise of a senior like Canfield that will give them a chance to move the ball.

Oregon, however, certainly has some talent of its own at QB in Jeremiah Masoli, who might be the best dual run/pass threat in college football. Masoli has rushed for over 50 yards and thrown for over 100 in each of his past six games and does as good a job as anyone hiding the ball until the last second on the Ducks’ option reads, forcing defenses to really struggle finding it. But where Masoli has improved significantly over the course of the year is his ability to beat opponents through the air and keep defenses from crowding the line of scrimmage in order to stop the run. Masoli has averaged 240 passing yards over his last four games and is making it though for defenses to win the numbers game vs. both the run and pass. And his threat of throwing the football should really be a factor, as the Beavers are undersized up front and can be expected to try to crowd the box with their linebackers, which in turn should give Masoli and the Oregon receivers a lot of one-on-one looks down the field.

The Beavers X-factor

If Oregon State is going to have a legitimate shot at slowing down the Oregon spread attack, it’s going to start up front with the play of defensive tackle Stephen Paea. Paea is an explosive, undersized interior lineman who has improved his technique and awareness tremendously since last season and possesses the type of burst to penetrate gaps inside and disrupt plays before they start. He’s currently has 5

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