2007 Look Ahead: Oregon State

After opening this fall with four straight home games and five of the first six at Stanford Stadium, the Cardinal will play back-to-back road games in late October. The second of those trips takes Stanford to Corvallis, where Stanford won two years ago. The Beavers bounced back big in 2006, however, winning 10 games. Oregon State has 16 starters back this year, so why don't they get more love?

Oregon State Beavers

First Down: Quick Hitters

Stanford @ Oregon State – October 27

Last Meeting: Oregon State 30, Stanford 7

Side-by-Side Stats: (Oregon State/Stanford)
Returning Offensive Starters: 8/8
2006 Points Per Game: 27.8/10.6
2006 Rushing Yards Per Game: 118/65
2006 Yards Per Carry: 3.5/2.1
2006 Passing Yards Per Game: 242/167
2006 Pass Completion Rate: 60.9/52.8
Returning Defensive Starters: 8/8
2006 Points Allowed Per Game: 22.2/31.4
2006 Rushing Yards Allowed Per Game: 110/211
2006 Yards Per Carry Allowed: 3.5/4.9
2006 Passing Yards Allowed Per Game: 224/177
2006 Pass Completion Percentage Allowed: 54.2/60.3
2006 Record: 10-4/1-11
2007 Projected Record: (7-5, 4-5)/(3-9, 2-7)
2007 Projected Pac-10 Finish: T-5th/T-9th

Second Down: Offense

If the new man under center lives up to expectations, the supporting cast is talented and experienced enough that this offense could really gel.

UCLA transfer Matt Moore threw for over 3,000 yards on over 60 percent accuracy, with 18 touchdowns and just seven picks to his name in Corvallis.  He departs and leaves big shoes for sophomore Sean Canfield to step into.  The good news for Oregon State is that Canfield is virtually the only unknown on the offense.

What can you say about senior Yvenson Bernard at tailback?  Another 1,000 yard season would leave him second only to Ken Simonton in the Beaver record books, and his 4.4-yard average, 12 touchdowns and 1,300-plus yards last season speaks to his consistency.  Give credit too to an offensive line that enters the season with an insane combined 99 career starts.  They do lose two All Pac-10 guys up front: left tackle Adam Koets (sixth-round draft pick) and tight end Joe Newton.  Gone too is right tackle Josh Linehan, who like Koets held down his position for three years.  Still, all five of last year's starters earned All Pac-10 recognition (a feat not even USC could match), so the stars, junior left guard Jeremy Perry (First Team) and senior center Kyle DeVan (Second Team), should pave the way for Bernard to lead the Pac-10 in rushing, especially given the new quarterback.

The receiving corps is equally strong.  Its three returning senior starters, Sammie Stroughter, Brandon Powers, and Anthony Brown, were the team's top, third- and fifth-most productive receivers respectively in 2006.  Stroughter is the star as his 1293 yards led the conference last year, and his three punt returns for touchdowns were second only to DeSean Jackson's four.

Third Down: Defense

Star safety Sabby Piscitelli (First-Team All Pac-10, second-round draft pick) is gone, alone with linemen Joe Lemma and Ben Siegert.  Still, this defense should be as good as last year's unit, which allowed just 22 points per game.

Up front, Jeff Van Orsow became the most popular man in towns up and down the Left Coast, as he swatted away USC's potential game-tying two-point conversion to clinch the 33-31 shocker in Corvallis last year.  He was Honorable Mention All Pac-10 and returns alongside tackle Curtis Coker.  Two junior college transfers, seniors Gerard Lee and Dorian Smith (team-high nine sacks last year) should see additional playing time.

The ‘backers are the class of the Pac-10, featuring three returning senior starters:  Derrick Doggett (Second Team All Pac-10), Alan Darlin and junior college transfer Joey LaRocque.  They did it all last year, combining for 257 tackles, 10.5 sacks and four interceptions, and should top those numbers come fall.

An interesting factoid:  senior Coye Francies' pick of T.C. Ostrander was the only interception a Beaver corner has made in the past two years.  That is less an indictment of the talent than it is a function of the Beavers' scheme – linebackers and safeties grabbed the other 15 of the Beavers' 16 picks last year.

But with most of the key faces returning in this year's defensive backfield, do not look for the trend to continue.  Junior Keenan Lewis holds down the cornerback position with Francies, and juniors Bryan Payton and Al Afalava (the best name in the Pac-10 for my money) are the safeties.  The backfield has a combined 47 starts under their belts, so despite the loss of Piscitelli, they should be in pretty good shape.

Fourth Down: Extra Points

Maybe it is a big-town bias, but everyone is sleeping on the Beavers this year.  In my eyes, there are six clear haves (USC, UCLA, Oregon, Cal, Arizona State and Oregon State) in the Pac-10, all of whom should be bowl-eligible; then Arizona and Washington State, who could sneak into a bowl with a little luck; and Stanford and Washington bringing up the rear.  While I call for the Beavers to tie for fifth in the conference, in my eyes they are much more likely to finish second than they are eighth.

So then why put Oregon State smack in the middle of the conference off a 10-4 season?  16 returning starters makes it difficult, as does a weaker out-of-conference schedule (Utah, at Cincinnati, Idaho State).  But Oregon State faces four of those five other top Pac-10 teams (Arizona State, California, USC and Oregon, plus Washington State) on the road.  While the Beavers will pull an upset or two out of that group, they could well be underdogs in all of those games.  The Beavers also got lucky last season, benefiting from a +8 turnover ratio after posting a -14 the year before and winning four games by a touchdown or less.  Plus, recruiting counts for something: Oregon State's classes are generally toward the bottom of the heap, so despite the Beavers' returning experience, I think the other top Pac-10 schools have better athleticism up and down the roster.

Both the Beavers and the Cardinal wish they could wind the clock back to the turn of the century.  Oregon State was 11-1 and finished fourth in the country in 2000, after waxing Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl, and Stanford was 9-2 in 2001.  The Cardinal have not had a winning season since, and while Oregon State has not fallen on as tough of times, they have been ranked in just three weekly AP polls over the past five years.

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