THERE'S NORMALLY a "Christmas Eve" aura surrounding the first Saturday in September for any Oregon State fan worth his/her salt. There's the crisp fall scent in the air, tailgates unfolding, the sounds of GameDay echoing through the parking lot from the HDTVs and motorhomes. But this year, there's a different feeling as OSU prepares to host Sacramento State.

It seems like Alan Alda's face pops up on the screen every time a new practice report is read, and instead of the fight song it's the theme from M.A.S.H. Heck, Corporal Klinger has been seen aroudn town wearing a cheerleader uniform.


If ever there was a perfect year for the Beavers to start out with a cupcake before running into their now-annual buzzsaw against a top 10 opponent on the road (argh), this is the year.

But make no mistake, Sac State is an opponent to be taken seriously.

The Hornets are a good Big Sky team and without a doubt every player to a man is thinking that they can be the 2011 version of Appalachian State. Or Jacksonville State. Or James Madison.

The Beavers are likely to be starting as many as 14 first time starters. If there ever was a classic trap game, this is the one.

The Keys:
1 - Take Sac State seriously.
The Hornets are coming in confident, and with the Beavers crippled by injury, there is a growing feeling among Sac State and their fans that they have a chance to be much more than a tune-up for Oregon State.

2 - Secure the football.
If ever there was a time to stress ball security, it's this game. Untimely turnovers would be just about the worst thing imaginable, it kills momentum and the Beavers need to build *some* kind of momentum after a horrific close to 2010 and a tumultuous offseason.

3 - Find an identity.
With neither James or Jacquizz taking the field, the Beavers need a chance to find a new identity, because the Rodgers brothers have BEEN the identity for the last three years at Oregon State. Quizz is now in the NFL and James is on an indefinite timeline to rehab from the serious knee injury suffered at Arizona last season, and the usual stout Oregon State D has been MIA for a couple seasons now. This is a team without an identity, and they need to discover it -- be it run, pass, 11-hats on D to the football or what have you.

Final Thoughts:
It seems as if the years Oregon State has the lowest expectations surrounding them, they find something special. This could be a really tough season for Beaver fans. Or it could also be something very special. Sometimes the best things are the ones you just didn't see coming. For all the horrendous numbers of injuries, and all the bumps in the road during the offseason including a staff shakeup, the plotline for 2011 sets up well for an incredible underdog story. Wear orange, be loud.

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