College Football 2011: Previewing the Oregon State Beavers
I'm a Duck. I also like the Oregon State Beavers.
It pains me that months have gone by without a single article on B/R featuring the Beavers. So, my faithful Beaver brethren, if you'll have me, this is as unbiased account of your 2011 season as I can create.
If I miss or forget a key player, give me a break. This isn't my first team. Just inform me, and I'll do my best to correct the omission.
Most of us Ducks are quietly rooting for you guys, and some of us are rather vocal about it. Oregon first, you know? So with that said, go Beavs!
*The author only refers to Beavers as "little brother" when provoked, and the jerk deserves it.
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The Beavers, like many teams, have strengths and weaknesses. Some areas of the team are strong with great returning starters, while others have been hit hard by the graduation of the 2010 class.
The Beavers are actually set next year when it comes to the offensive line. They only lost one of their five starters, and the center position is being filled with the very capable Grant Johnson, a senior with a lot of experience.
OSU's most talented lineman, Burke Ellis, will be back, along with experienced players such as Colin Kelly, Michael Lamb, Mike Remmers and Michael Philipp.
The Beavers will be in very good shape next year in terms of experience and skill in their offensive line.
Jaquizz Rodgers is gone. Everyone in the Beaver nation knows that.
They also know star quarterback Ryan Katz will be back.
Replacing Jaquizz won't prove to be easy, but with the experience of the offensive line to help growing pains, Ryan McCants and Jovan Stevenson should put up good numbers next year. If they can find holes early, it should relieve some pressure from Katz, who will probably have to carry the team through parts of the season.
If the unthinkable happens next year and Katz is injured, Cody Vaz is relatively untested as Katz's best prospective backup.
Oh Stephen Paea, you were a beast to be sure. Being voted the Pac-10's best defensive lineman two years in a row is quite an honor. Unfortunately for Beaver Nation, Paea is gone.
In fact, three of four starting defensive linemen are gone. This is the most glaring weakness on the team, and players are going to have to step up to make the Beavers' defense respectable.
Kevin Frahm, Dominic Glover and Andrew Seumalo all have experience and will be in leadership positions next year. Defensive end duties will fall to Taylor Henry, along with JUCO transfer students Blake Harrah and Rusty Fernando.
The Beavers have lost two of their three starting linebackers. Starter Reuben Robinson (great name, by the way) returns, though. Cameron Collins is a senior and team captain, and the team will lean heavily on him, along with Tony Wilson, who will also be a probable starter.
The cornerback position is in good shape. Brandon Hardin has the second-most experience of anyone on the defense. Jordan Poyer and Keynan Parker were also starters last year. Parker is probably the fastest athlete on the team.
The safety position is also secure, as the most experienced defensive player on the team, Lance Mitchell, returns. Anthony Watkins should also do good things next year.
You could say the Beavers' receivers (ha!) are in good shape.You could also say they're in trouble, it's up in the air.
Markus Wheaton is a sure thing and was the savior of last year's passing game after James Rodgers was injured. Darrell Catchings will also be important and hopefully reliable.
Rodgers is returning for his redshirt senior year, and Jordan Bishop will be a junior. Both Rodgers' and Bishop's statuses are uncertain though; it's not even certain if they'll participate in fall practice.
If they are healthy, Andy Katz's numbers will be inflated all year. If they're unhealthy, the Beavers' offense might be rather one-dimensional.
Most areas are in good shape. Rashaad Reynolds and Brandin Hardin tied for the most special teams tackles last season, and both will return in 2011. Jordan Poyer was the Pac-10's second-best punt/kickoff returner last year, and he also returns.
The Beavers have one of the nation's best punters returning in Johnny Hekker. No one ever mentions long snappers, so here's a shout out to Marcus Perry, who has a lot of experience as well.
The weakness of the Beavers' special teams is in their place kicker. That job will fall to either Max Johnson or Trevor Romaine—both of whom are completely unproven.
The Beavers could be really good on offense. They could also struggle.
They'll likely be mediocre on run-defense and good on pass-defense.
I realize these are vague predictions, but there are, in fact, a lot of uncertainties surrounding this team.
Will the running backs produce early? Will Ryan Katz return to his previous flashes of brilliance, or will he continue to struggle like he did periodically last season? Will the defensive line be able to put significant pressure on bigger, more experienced offensive lines? Will the Beavers be able to make field goals? We'll learn a lot in the first couple weeks next season. I am optimistic, though.
How optimistic? Let's examine the Beavers' 2011 schedule.
Week 1: Sacramento State Hornets
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I didn't know what Sacramento State's mascot was. That's usually a good sign you'll destroy the team. Another good sign is if the second letter in the team's division is a "C" instead of a "B."
The Beavers should destroy the the FCS Sacramento State Hornets, and if their starters aren't pulled by halftime, it could be an ill omen for the Beavers indeed.
The Beavers are actually very fortunate to be able to play a weaker opponent in Week 1 to iron out any wrinkles and see what needs to be improved. People in the industry refer to it as a "tune-up game," and I find myself half-wishing Oregon had one as well.
Prediction: Beavers win 50-9.
Week 2: At Wisconsin Badgers
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I hope the Beavers tune up fast.
Historically speaking, they're perpetual slow starters that come on strong toward the end of the season, so that bodes well for Wisconsin.
I feel like the Big Ten is overrated. Washington beats Nebraska. Michigan State gets blown out by Alabama. Michigan gets dominated by Mississippi State. Our good team (Arizona) beat their good team (Iowa). Wisconsin almost lost to Arizona State at home last year. The big, bad Badgers then lost to the smaller, inferior Horned Frogs.
I'm ignoring Ohio State on purpose.
I'm just not impressed with the conference. I like the conference and root for them next to ours (they are our sister conference, after all). I just don't have a lot of faith in them.
I don't see the Beavers winning this one. I want them to, but if I were a betting man, I'd have to bet on the Badgers. And it's not because of the student section's fearsome "Jump Around" tradition. (Am I the only one who is tired of hearing how cool and great that tradition is? It's lame, and it's not even old.) It's not even because I'm that confident in the Badgers' team.
Russell Wilson. That's the reason.
Wisconsin took their biggest weakness in quarterback uncertainty and turned it into a strength by recruiting Wilson. Without him, I'd say the Beavers have a good shot at the upset, but with him, I just don't see it.
Prediction: Beavers lose 32-42.
Week 4: UCLA Bruins
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I think UCLA will be improved this year. I think they'll surprise a lot of people and beat Texas. I realize I'm one of the few people outside California who feel that way.
I think Rick Neuheisel will save his job. And it's not because I necessarily like the guy, although I've been reading recently that he's actually a stand-up guy (who knew?).
I think this game will be incredibly close. If the game were in Los Angeles, I'd say the Bruins take it. The fact that it's at Reser Stadium and the Beavers will be looking for revenge after last year's loss at the Bruins' hands, I give the win to the Beavers in a squeaker.
Prediction: Beavers win 30-27 in OT.
Week 5: At Arizona State Sun Devils
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Is Dennis Erickson the picture of incompetence and nepotism at its worse? I don't know.
I do know that I've bought into the hype surrounding Arizona State for the first time this year.
They were easily the nation's best bowl-less team last year. I like Vontaze Burfict, and I think the Sun Devils are better and more experienced than the Beavers in most areas. If I had to bet, I'd say that those things—combined with a home-field advantage—spell doom for the Beavers.
Prediction: Beavers lose 24-35.
Week 6: Arizona Wildcats
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I have a lot of respect for Arizona.
Mike Stoops is hilarious to watch on the sidelines with his infantile meltdowns. He was the only coach in the offensively-prolific Pac-10 from a defensive background. Nick Foles is terrific and a credit to the conference. I predict Arizona will also surprise a lot of people this year, and their passing game will be tremendous.
One of their blemishes, though, will be a loss to the Beavers. The Beavers seem to have the Wildcats' number lately, and Arizona is too unproven in too many areas. The Wildcats were hit even harder than Oregon State in terms of graduating seniors. Add a Reser home game to that, and I say the Beavers take it.
Prediction: Beavers win in a shootout, 45-37.
Week 7: BYU Cougars
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A lot of people like the Cougars next year—I don't.
I think they're going to be rudely welcomed to this whole independence thing. They may squeak by Ole Miss, but I see Texas, Utah and maybe even UCF as losses.
The game with the Beavers reeks of a trap game. BYU will be in the middle of their season with TCU looming around the corner. BYU is a decent team, but I think the more difficult 2011 schedule will catch them off-guard, and the Beavers will take advantage. It won't even be that close.
Prediction: Beavers win 35-17.
Week 8: At Washington State Cougars
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Let's just call the Beavers cougar-slayers. They'll take down the BYU Cougars, and the next week they'll take down the WSU Cougars.
It will be close, though.
The Cougars are still probably the worst team in the Pac-12, but I think they've made big strides forward. They'll give the Beavers all they can handle, but in the end, the Beavers are a better team. And they'll want blood after being humiliated by Washington State last season.
Prediction: Beavers de-claw the Cougs, 28-25.
Week 9: At Utah Utes
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Utah, like BYU, is in for a rude awakening.
By the time they play the Beavers, they will have learned it's easier to get up and get pumped for those one or two big games each year than to stay consistent all year against superior competition.
Welcome to the Pac-12, Utes! You're about to get slammed.
By the time Utah makes it to this game, I predict them to be a three-loss team (USC, Cal, Arizona State). They'll be demoralized, and the Beavers will capitalize. It will do the non-AQ teams' future arguments for equality considerable damage, but it will still happen.
Prediction: Beavers win 25-17.
Week 10: Stanford Cardinal
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Remember last year?
Stanford spanked the Beavers to the tune of 38-0. Beaver Nation doesn't want to remember that, and I don't blame them. It seems like every year Oregon State loses one and loses it big.
This is going to be that game again this year, and again to the Stanford Cardinal. I really do believe Andrew Luck is that good. The Beavers will fight back a bit unlike last year, but Stanford will win and win big.
It could be worse; it could be to the Ducks.
Prediction: Beavers lose 17-41.
Week 11: At California Golden Bears
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This is where it gets tough.
I see the Beavers and Bears as pretty comparable, and I think they're both going to have pretty good years. It's a toss-up to me, but if I had to predict who wins, I pick the Beavers because:
- They always play better toward the end of the year.
- The game isn't a true home game for the Golden Bears.
While we're making predictions, let's say the game is so intense that they break Arkansas' record of seven overtimes.
Prediction: Beavers win in a historic matchup that will be talked about for years to come, 82-79 (8 OT)
...that would be awesome.
Week 12: Washington Huskies
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I know the Huskies have a very promising team this year.
Maybe it's wishful thinking, but I think the dogs will be one of the few Pac-12 teams to disappoint next year (along with Utah).
Keith Price is a good quarterback, and I think he'll perform terrifically in a lot of games. I see him being streaky though, and the Beavers catch him on one of his bad days.
Prediction: Beavers steal three pick-sixes for a 42-30 win.
Week 13: At Oregon Ducks
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Okay, it's here. Rivalry week. Civil War.
Ducks win. There's no better way to say it.
I'm a Duck and am of course biased, but many of you in your right minds must secretly be very concerned with a game at Autzen against a team as talented as Oregon.
It may be a small consolation, but I'll pick the Ducks and not the point spread.
Prediction: Beavers lose 44-43.
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Final Record: 8-4, third in Pac-12 North
The Beavers will avenge their initial loss from last year by walloping the TCU Horned Frogs in the Maaco Bowl in Las Vegas. What a great end to a good year.
Prediction: Beavers win an emotional battle, 17-10.
How did I do?