PRIMER: Season opener vs. Sacramento State

OREGON STATE'S OPENER with Sacramento State is now but two months away. Many fans might not give it a second thought, preferring to focus more on Week 2 opponent Wisconsin. But taking an FCS team lightly in 2010 proved disastrous for teams like Virginia Tech, Ole Miss and Kansas.

Yes, Oregon State will be a huge favorite against Sacramento State on Sep. 3.

Yes, the Beavs should win easily, although maybe not as handily as Stanford did last year against the Hornets; a 52-17 beatdown in the season opener for both teams.

But games aren't played on paper. And you only have to look as far as Virginia Tech last year to see that.

VT was ranked No. 13 and installed as a 32.5-point favorite against James Madison last September. VT proceeded to lose 21-16. providing last year's best cautionary tale of playing an FCS team.

They weren't the only ones left stunned by an FCS team last year. Ole Miss lost to Jacksonville State, Kansas lost to North Dakota State and Minnesota got beat by South Dakota, too.

Eight starters return on offense for Sacramento State in 2011, including QB Jeff Fleming and senior RB Bryan Hilliard.

But it's the receiver position that is seen as the deepest on the team -- and four of five offensive linemen also return.

The Sac State offense this offseason did produce some uneven play at times during spring ball, however.

Seven starters return on the defense, including three of four on the d-line.

Lots of new coaching faces are on the Sacramento State sidelines, too, with the TEs, OL, LBs and DL all featuring new assistants.

Sacramento State went 6-5 last year, but four of those losses came by 4 points or less.

Headed into 2011, Sacramento State is being billed as dark horse candidate to win the Big Sky. And they're a pick of many to be nationally ranked in the FCS poll this season.

Oregon State would do well to remove any doubt early, and pile up the yardage and time of possession stats against what is expected to be a fleet Sac State 4-2-5 defense.

Sac State likes to run the ball if they can, with 468 rushing attempts last year out of 759 plays in 2010. Defensively, OSU would love to force the issue up front and give the Hornets' punter a workout in the first half and beyond.

Most important, though, will be that the Beavs won't be looking ahead to Wisconsin in Week 2. That could be a critical mistake.

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