Analyzing OSU opener against Portland State

TWO OF THE past three years at Oregon State has seen the worst to start the season – the Beavs dropping their opener to an FCS team at home. Oregon State opens the 2014 campaign against, you guessed it, another FCS opponent. So should Beaver fans be nervous about Portland State?

Two painful losses to Eastern and Sac State would seem to answer that in the affirmative before even taking a closer look at Portland State.

Oregon State has a lot of firepower coming back on both offense and defense in 2014. But they looked similarly stacked last year and still came out sleepwalking against Eastern. More so, there's been a pattern. Mike Riley's teams have started slow – painfully slow -- in a number of recent years.

Meanwhile, Portland State on paper presents enough reasons for worry all on their own.

TRUE, THEY WERE 6-6 last year. But they could have been 9-3 with a few different bounces and grabbed their first playoff berth in forever, (2000). They nearly (and should have) beat Cal.

Portland State lost three games by one, one and four points.

In losses to Southern Utah and Cal, the Vikings were right there in the fourth quarter, trailing by only a score. And they set a number of offensive marks in several program categories.

If Portland State was spending this past season learning how to win, and if OSU comes out a step slow, it could feel like deja vu all over again. Arguing against an upset is what PSU has lost.

IT'S NOT THE volume -- only 15 seniors depart from last year's Portland State squad – it's the quality. Senior D.J. Adams led the Big Sky with 1,600 rushing yards. He's gone, as are OL Mitchell Van Dyk who was all-conference, record-setting quarterback Collin Ramirez, ball-hawking safety David Edgerson and another all-conference pick, punter Kyle Loomis.

Still, PSU will return eight starters on offense and five on defense. They could return as many as 54 letter-winners.

The offense, if the Vikes can replace Ramirez at QB, could be potent indeed. Defensively, it's another story.

The Vikings defense was mostly decent against the run in 2013. But they allowed the most passing yards in the entire Big Sky.

The kicking game was also a disaster, as PSU went 3-for-16 on field goals and an extra point cost them in their upset bid against EWU.

FROM THE intangibles side of things, Portland State is feeling pressure to take the next step. Head coach Nigel Burton has said he knows 6-6 won't cut it in 2014.

And after the way they played at Cal and in close losses last year, PSU won't tentatively come into Reser just hoping they can hang around, they'll come in believing they can win.

As Oregon State found out against Eastern and Sac State, that can prove dangerous.

What's really key here is that Oregon State needs to come up with a way to be better prepared at the start of the season – and Mike Riley has said as much this offseason. What form they may take, if any, is yet to be seen.

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