Colorado's defense might have caught a break when its game against Fresno State was canceled last week.

Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr is torching the opposition and the school has since launched a web site to promote their star as a Heisman Trophy candidate.

Of course, CU doesn't exactly have an easy task this week, either. On Saturday, the Buffs (2-0) open Pac-12 play with a visit to Oregon State (3-1, 1-0 Pac-12).

Beavers quarterback Sean Mannion may not have the résumé or reputation that Carr has, but he's been one of the country's best quarterbacks so far this season. In fact, his numbers are better than those of Carr.

Oregon State quarterback Sean Mannion has thrown for 15 touchdowns and just one interception in four games this season.
Oregon State quarterback Sean Mannion has thrown for 15 touchdowns and just one interception in four games this season. ( Alex Gallardo )

Mannion leads the nation in both passing yards (1,604) and passing touchdowns (15). He has completed 71.5 percent of his throws (133 of 186), tossed just one interception and his 169.5 efficiency rating ranks 12th in the country.

"Sean makes a lot of great plays and (receivers Brandin Cooks and Richard Mullaney) are really, really good football players that make big, big-time plays," CU head coach Mike MacIntyre said. "We've got to keep them at bay and hopefully disrupt their passing game."

The 6-foot-5 Mannion has been the engineer of the passing game. His numbers are staggering for a player who wasn't announced as the starter until a few days before the season opener. Mannion battled with senior Cody Vaz for the starting job throughout the offseason, and even for most of last year.

"At the time, obviously (battling for the job) was tough," Mannion said last week on The Fan 1080-AM in Portland, Ore., "but I think in the end it's made me a better player. I think I've learned to take care of what I can control and not worry about everything else."

Mannion had a nice season in 2011, but a combination of ineffectiveness and injury forced him to split time with Vaz a year ago. Mannion threw 15 touchdown passes last year, but also 13 interceptions.

So far this year, Mannion has looked like a much different player, leading an offense that averages 41.0 points per game.

"He's confident, he's seeing things real well, been making good decisions," OSU head coach Mike Riley told ESPN.com. "He's been very accurate with the ball."

For the Beavers, that's been a welcomed change. While Mannion came into the year with 18 starts under his belt, he also had 31 career interceptions to go with his 31 touchdown passes. He had also been prone to throwing those interceptions in bunches, including four against Washington and four against Oregon last year.

Through four games this season, Mannion has avoided mistakes and been more accurate than ever before.

"That's something I spent a lot of time working on in the offseason," he said on Portland's 1080-AM. "I'm trying to use my check-downs well, knowing when to take a shot, when to check it down. That's always going to help us is if we can get a positive gain, even if the play isn't looking great."

To this point, Mannion has led the Beavers to a lot of great plays. Colorado might have been able to avoid Carr and Fresno State, but with Mannion leading OSU, the Buffaloes certainly expect to get a tough test through the air this week.

"Every game they've played they've scored a ton of points, so we'd better score some," MacIntyre said. "Hopefully we can slow them down enough that it's not a 50-55 game or something like that. I'd rather it be a lot less scoring than that, for sure, but they have the firepower to do it."

 

Contact staff writer Brian Howell at howellb@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/BrianHowell33.

 

CU at Oregon State

When/where: Saturday, 1 p.m. at Reser Stadium in Corvallis, Ore.

TV/Radio: Pac-12 Network/KOA (850 AM)

The Beavers at a glance

2013 record: 3-1, 1-0 in Pac-12

2012 record: 9-4, lost in Alamo Bowl

Last week: Defeated San Diego State, 34-30

Head coach: Mike Riley, 13th season (84-68)

Key players: WR Brandin Cooks, 5-10, Jr.; DE Scott Crichton, 6-3, Jr.; LB Jabral Johnson, 6-1, Jr.; QB Sean Mannion, 6-5, Jr.; WR Richard Mullaney, 6-3, So.; CB Steven Nelson, 5-11, Jr.; RB Storm Woods, 6-0, So.; S Tyrequek Zimmerman, 6-0, Jr.

Notable: Cooks has 43 catches for 639 yards and seven touchdowns already. He has at least seven catches and 92 yards in each game. ... Oregon State has scored at least 33 points in each game so far this season. ... In 2011, the Beavers went 3-9. They are 12-5 since then. ... OSU averaged 124.4 rushing yards last season. This year, the Beavers are averaging 55.0 yards per game and 2.1 yards per carry. They have totaled just 110 yards on the ground in the past three weeks, including 10 last week against San Diego State. Woods missed last week with a concussion. ... OSU opened the season with a loss to Eastern Washington, ranked No. 3 in FCS.