What has been the difference from last and this year?
The biggest change is in attitude and maturation from a year ago. Last season there was a divided locker room after Ryan Katz was jumped by Sean Mannion as the starting quarterback, there were the "Katz guys" and the "Mannion guys" and it made morale difficult.
Most importantly however is the growth and maturity of the team, many of whom last season were freshmen and sophomores. Obviously guys like Mannion and Cooks have made huge strides on the field and have become leaders on offense, but the same is true of the defense as well.
The defense last season was comprised of many first year starters and underclassmen who were 'thinking' too much and not just playing football with what they saw. With a year under their belt guys like Dylan Wynn, Scott Crichton, Michael Doctor, Donell Welch and Rashaad Reynolds have all taken huge leaps and we are seeing that translated as faster, more aggressive play on the field.
What should CougarNation know about Oregon State?
The Beavers are a close knit group who have worked hard over the off-season trying to better the 3-9 season a year ago. Seniors Markus Wheaton and Jordan Poyer stepped up and began working out immediately after the season ended in November and their work ethic was contagious.
This group has bonded over the loss of freshman defensive tackle, Fred Thompson who passed away in December while playing a pick-up game of basketball with teammates at the rec center. It was later determined that Thompson suffered from an enlarged heart, but he has been an inspiration for the 2012 Beavers ever since.
Defense has been been the big focal point of the Beavers resurgence, but there is plenty of offensive firepower to score points.
How are Beaver fans feeling about being a top 10 team?
Beaver fans are excited about the recent success of the team and many feel that the true potential of this team has not been reached. Each week one of the units has been stronger than the other, but the offense and defense have yet to come out and play strong games together.
There really is excitement in the air. Students have been camping out for tickets and last Saturday's game against Washington State was the largest crowd ever at Reser Stadium.
Has the feeling changed with the news of Sean Mannion?
Honestly I expected more "doom and gloom" from the fans, but most simply got behind Cody Vaz and look forward to the game being played on Saturday. BYU fans have to know the feeling of hearing about quarterback injury, so I'm not trying to downplay that, but the fans, players and coaches have all been very public in their support of Vaz, even taking out a large ad in the student newspaper on Thursday cheering on the new quarterback.
If Oregon State wins will they go to In N Out here in Utah?
I've had no confirmation of an In N Out stop if the Beavers are able to escape Lavell Edwards Stadium with a win, but my guess is that the busses will make a detour on their way to the airport if that indeed is the case.
Predictions to the game?
I see big defensive dual on the horizon. This team has shown mental toughness to win the hard fought games on the road and with the injury to Mannion, they have rallied around Vaz and have truly embraced the 'us against the world' mentality. They've had great practices all week and I see the Beavers winning a close one 10-6.