It's crunch time for Ed Reynolds and the Stanford defense. With Oregon State coming to town in the biggest game of the season (so far), points are expected to be at a premium as the league's top two defenses square off.
So far this year, Reynolds has taken a preseason question mark and turned it into one of Stanford's greatest assets. How would the Cardinal replace Michael Thomas and Delano Howell at safety? Reynolds has answered the question with a league-high five interceptions (tied with OSU's Jordan Poyer), including three that he returned for touchdowns.
There is plenty on the line Saturday. Both teams are still in contention for the Pac-12 North and both still have a showdown with Oregon looming. And to make things more interesting, neither team is using its Week 1 starting quarterback.
So with marginally-experienced backup Cody Vaz and newly-minted starter Kevin Hogan calling the shots for their teams, it's expected that the defenses will feast. One big wrinkle, however, is that Vaz is 3-0 as a starter, has won on the road, and has the league's top wide receiver duo at his disposal.
The speed that Markus Wheaton and Brandin Cooks possess puts a huge strain on secondaries. Vaz has shown that he has the arm to go over the top, so keeping everything in front and swarming to the ball in the secondary will be a top priority.
Stanford's front seven should take care of an OSU rushing attack that is improving, but not yet stellar. But a complete defensive effort will be needed against the Beavers, because they find creative ways to use their receivers. Be it misdirection, fly sweeps, wide receiver screens are just a good old fashioned slant pass, Vaz will look to get his guys involved early and often.
Reynolds and Co. shouldn't be lulled by the fact that Vaz is the starter, because with the talent he has around him, damage can be done. Big, big test for the Reynolds and the Cardinal's defensive backfield.