No. 15 Oregon State looks to continue its rise up the rankings when the Beavers travel to Cal for a Pac-12 game on Saturday night.
Oregon State (4-1, 1-1 Pac-12) climbed four spots after defeating then-No. 10 Utah last Friday, causing the Utes to plunge to No. 18 in this week’s rankings.
This marks the first time in program history that Oregon State has been ranked the first six weeks of a season.
The Beavers’ 21-7 win against the Utes followed a three-point loss at Washington State on Sept. 23, so they aren’t taking anything for granted on the road against the Golden Bears (3-2, 1-1).
“We’ve got a big-time challenge this weekend,” Oregon State coach Jonathan Smith said. “That program down at Cal has played us tough when you look at the battles the last three or four years. … Always plays stout defense, they’ve got a good running back that’s carrying the ball and that’ll be a challenge down there and we’re looking forward to it.”
Oregon State quarterback DJ Uiagalelei and wide receiver Silas Bolden remain a dangerous combination.
Uiagalelei, a junior transfer from Clemson, surpassed the 1,000-yard mark on the season against Utah, while Bolden caught six passes for a career-high 100 yards and a touchdown.
Bolden also had two carries for 52 yards, including a 45-yard touchdown on fourth-and-1 early in the fourth quarter that stretched the lead to 21-0. The Beavers earned just one first down over their final four drives, however.
“On the offensive end, we want to be able to finish better,” Smith said.
Defensively, linebacker Easton Mascarenas-Arnold has led the Beavers in tackles the past four games. He was named Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week after totaling nine tackles, a sack and an interception against Utah.
“Easton is playing at a high level,” Smith said. “That showed up a ton on tape.”
Oregon State’s run defense is ranked fourth nationally, but the Beavers will be without linebacker Calvin Hart Jr. and defensive lineman James Rawls for the first half on Saturday. Both were ejected for targeting against Utah.
Cal held off visiting Arizona State to win 24-21 last Saturday. The Golden Bears were coming off a 59-32 loss at Washington in their conference opener the week before.
“We will never minimize winning in this conference,” Cal coach Justin Wilcox said. “It’s tough.”
Wilcox has not settled on a No. 1 quarterback after TCU transfer Sam Jackson V started last week and NC State transfer Ben Finley started the week before in the loss to the Huskies.
Wilcox spoke of the need to eliminate the mistakes that have made things more difficult on both sides of the ball.
“We have to learn how to eliminate some of these things that are giving us so much trouble,” he said. “Offensive penalties. Defensively, it’s like we’re playing good, playing good, and then we have a bust.”
Cal holds a 39-36 edge in the all-time series. Oregon State has won three of the past four.