Coach Mike Riley and the men from Corvallis open their season on the road against Stanford. Yes, that means this first game for both teams begins their conference play right off the bat, too.
For Coach Jim Harbaugh, the building of a solid football program continues this season. His Cardinal surprised a lot of folks last year by winning four games, including the huge upset of USC down in Los Angeles.
Stanford has 20 players returning this season with starting experience. Where that will show the most benefit is on the defensive side of the ball.
Bo McNally is an exciting player to watch in the secondary. He knows his football. Up front, defensive end Pannel Egboh is a load. Egboh came up with 13.5 sacks last season, which is amazing when you consider that opponents usually had the luxury of playing conservative offense because they had the lead.
On offense, everyone will be quick to point out that starter Tavita Pritchard engineering the stunning upset of USC last year. But that was it. Pritchard had one decent game, which doesn't bode well for Stanford supporters.
When Pritchard has trouble moving the yard markers, look for Jason Forcier, the transfer from Michigan, to come in and try to light things up. Forcier is untested. Toby Gerhart is the most talented running back. There's good experience on the offensive line returning, giving reason for many to think that Stanford will win six or seven games this season.
With all those reasons why Stanford will be improved this year, it's still not enough, though, to catch up with Oregon State.
There's a good reason why the Beaver football program has been producing excellent results for the past few seasons. That reason is coach Riley. Riley knows his players, knows recruiting and can match up X's and O's with the best.
Once again this year, Oregon State will have an excellent defense. Sure there are some new faces on that side of the ball, but the talent and coaching will make people forget last year's starters.
On offense, Sammie Strougther is a legit All-American wide receiver/punt returner. Stroughter has you holding your breath every time he touches the football.
Lyle Moevao is back to lead the team at quarterback. Moevao is erratic and inconsistent last year. That is a redundant knock. Oh well. He's got a good spring practice and plenty of confidence going into this season.
There's more than enough talent at running back, led by Ryan McCants and Jacquizz Rodgers. Never heard of them? Trust me, you will.
Sure it's tough to win a road game in the Pac-10, but Oregon State is going to win more than one away from home this year. That will begin in Palo Alto. Once the Beavers break out on top in the first quarter, they'll be running downhill to victory.
This game helps get the NCAA season underway Thursday night at 6 p.m. PST. Count on the Stanford band to do something wacky. Count on coach Harbaugh be the poster boy for intensity. Count on coach Riley to look like a crafty fisherman on the sidelines rather than the awesome coach he truly is. And count on ESPN2 to squeeze in four replays between center snaps.
Is it Thursday yet?
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