Can you feel the excitement in the air? No, I’m not talking about spring. What you are feeling is anticipation for the next Oregon State football season. Sure, the Beavs just started spring practice last week, and the official season doesn’t start until September 2nd, but that’s not the point. What matters is that Coach Andersen has his team in the building early so they can prepare for a run that no analysts expect. Basically, the early Beaver wins the PAC-12. Take that, ya lousy bird!
Of course, the excitement of a new season means that it’s time to check out the upcoming schedule and pick out some of the more intriguing games. While games against Portland State and Minnesota start the season, they actually fall behind four conference match-ups in regard to potential entertainment value.
Washington State Cougars (Saturday, September 16th)
Last season’s 35-31 loss to the Cougars was a downright heartbreaker. Oregon State jumped out to a 21-point lead in the first half thanks to two Ryan Nall touchdowns and a Seth Collins trick play. The Beavs appeared to have this game well in hand until Luke Falk and Gabe Marks went wild in the third quarter. Despite battling back in the fourth to take a late lead, Oregon State couldn’t hold on as Washington State eventually scored the final touchdown. What started as brilliance ended in misery, especially considering that both Hunter Jarmon (injury) and Bright Ugwoegbu (ejection) left at the worst possible times.
2017’s version of this PAC-12 battle should be quite different now that Marks is heading to the NFL. On the offensive side, this game should be quite exciting now that Ryan Nall and Artavis Pierce will both be healthy. Sure, Nall still went off for three touchdowns in the last meeting, including an 89-yard dash, but how much better could he have done at full health? The possibilities boggle the mind. Plus, I think that Jake Luton will be starting at this point in the season, and he has the chance to light up WSU’s secondary.
PAC-12 games are always entertaining, especially now that WSU isn’t a constant one-win team anymore. The competition is fierce, and the games keep you glued to the couch way past your bedtime.
USC Trojans (Saturday, October 7th)
The battle against USC may seem like an odd choice for this list, but first you need some background. The Trojans only face off with the Beavs every couple years and generally do so when they are ranked in the top 25. The teams met in Corvallis back in 2010 when 20th-ranked USC was the heavy favorite. The Beavs rose to the challenge and annihilated USC 36-7 behind big plays by Jordan Poyer, Ryan Katz, and Joe Halahuni.
Of course, this victory was nothing compared to the upset victory back in 2008 when USC was ranked number one in the nation. Mark Sanchez appeared to have the Trojans marching toward a National Championship berth, but a key Greg Laybourn interception in the fourth set up Quizz’s second touchdown of the day and kickstarted a celebration of epic proportions.
The Beavs will look to recapture some of that upset magic when they travel to Los Angeles this October. Think about it for a second. The Trojans have a stellar quarterback in youngster Sam Darnold who tossed a record five touchdowns against Penn State during last year’s Rose Bowl victory. While playing in 13 games (10 starts), Darnold completed more than 60% of his passes for 3,086 yards, 31 touchdowns, and nine interceptions. Despite only starting 10 games, Darnold is already being compared to Vince Young and Andrew Luck. He has title hopes at an all-time high for fans of the Crimson and Gold.
The upstart Beavs, on the other hand, are in the midst of another quarterback competition while simultaneously looking to rebuild the secondary and receiving corps. They will head into this game massive underdogs. It’s the perfect recipe for another Beavers shocker!
California Golden Bears (Saturday, November 4th)
Last season’s overtime victory over Cal was one of the most exciting games on the Beavs’ schedule. First off, this was Oregon State’s first conference victory of the Gary Andersen era. What seemed impossible finally became reality for the second-year head coach. Second, the victory over Cal was a confidence builder for the Oregon State secondary. Davis Webb was one of the most dangerous quarterbacks in college football, but the Beavs held him to 113 passing yards and one interception. Third, the 16-yard touchdown run in overtime was a confidence builder for Darell Garretson, who had an abysmal passing game. His two interceptions kept Cal in the game for far too long. Finally, this victory was just another stellar performance for Ryan Nall, who once again rushed for more than 200 yards and scored three times. It’s gotten to the point where anything fewer than 220 yards is just a “ho-hum” performance for the Wrecking Nall.
What makes this upcoming battle so exciting is that both teams are going through quarterback competitions. Webb is heading to the NFL Draft, opening up the competition to three different prospects. The Beavs competition is in full swing with both Marcus McMaryion and Jake Luton leading the way. Either option should upgrade the passing attack and help keep the defense off the field. The game may not go to overtime or reach 91 combined points, but it should be one of the most entertaining games of the season. Besides, this could be a signature game for newcomer Isaiah Hodgins. Something along the lines of eight catches for 217 yards and two touchdowns. Just a hunch.
Civil War (Friday, November 24th)
What’s not to love about this match-up? The Beavs bulldozed the Ducks last season behind yet another dominating performance by Ryan Nall (189 total yards and four touchdowns), and the defense rose up to make the final stand. It was a glorious victory that put an end to the eight years of trash talking. Wonderful days, indeed.
Now, the Beavs will head off to Autzen to face their rival Ducks and new head coach Willie Taggart. Oregon will field a vastly different team now that Mark Helfrich is out of the building, and at this point, we don’t know what to expect from the current roster. The Ducks have a new quarterback recruit in Braxton Burmeister that could see some action later in the season. Granted, he will have to take the starting job from Justin Herbert, who ran the Ducks offense for eight games last season. During the Civil War, Herbert passed for 180 yards and one touchdown. It was one of his lowest-rated games of the year.
The Ducks quarterback competition, although intriguing, is yet to be decided. What we do know, however, is that Taggart will be preparing to stop Nall from running wild for the third year in a row. He had 174 rushing yards and one touchdown in 2015. If he is successful, the Beavs will need to rely on another option for victory. This could be a big game for the talented tight end Noah Togiai, provided he remains healthy all season.
The Beavers will close out their spring campaign on March 18th for the annual Spring Game in Corvallis, Oregon. The game starts at 1:00 p.m. and is open to the public.