The Oregon State football program has gone through a rough stretch the last few seasons.
Last year the Beavers won two games and the defensive statistics were not pretty.
There is reason for some optimism. Several key defensive transfers will be available and should get significant playing time.
The offense is primed to make significant strides and the improvement on both sides of the ball should lead to a few more wins.
Here are my preseason picks for each game on the Oregon State football schedule:
August 30: Oklahoma State at Oregon State
The Cowboys have a few parts to replace on an offense that averaged 500.2 yards a game and ranked 10th nationally in 2018. The big one is at quarterback, where Taylor Cornelius and his 3,978 passing yards (fourth in the country) are gone.
They do return one of the nation’s top wideouts in Tylan Wallace, who had 86 catches for 1,491 yards. Wallace was a first team All-American.
The Cowboys aren’t so intimidating on defense. They gave up a lot of ground through the air and 452.5 total yards. Oregon State should be able to move the ball and put up points.
This game could very well become a shootout and that just might favor the Beavers. PICK: Oregon State
September 7: Oregon State at Hawaii
OSU fans know any game at Hawaii could prove to be difficult. The Rainbow Warriors typically get up for these games and it’s no easy task to make the trip out to Honolulu and stay sharp.
Hawaii was a bowl team last year and returns quite a bit on offense, including quarterback Cole McDonald, whose 3,875 yards ranked him eighth nationally. McDonald tossed 36 touchdown passes with 10 interceptions.
OSU should be able to move the ball against a defense that gave up 439.7 yards a game, but Hawaii takes this one at home. PICK: Hawaii
September 14: Cal Poly at Oregon State
OSU has had its share of tough outings against FCS programs and even lost a few.
The Beavers have played eight FCS opponents since 2010 and won six, including a 48-25 defeat of Southern Utah in 2018. The Beavers edged Portland State 35-32 in 2017, lost 49-46 to perennial power Eastern Washington in 2013 and had a horrific 29-28 loss to a middle of the Big Sky pack Sacramento State team in 2011.
The Beavers need to be careful that they don’t get mired in another Sacramento State-type situation here, but they should win and win decisively. PICK: Oregon State
Sept. 28: Stanford at Oregon State
The Pac-12 opener for the Beavers might seem like a breather to the Cardinal. Stanford starts the season with Northwestern, then has away games at USC and Central Florida and a home game against Oregon before making a trip to Corvallis. The next week? Stanford hosts Washington.
This is a tough one. The Beavers typically play Stanford tough and could catch the Cardinal in the midst of some struggles. That could go against OSU if Stanford is desperate to get into the win column.
QB KJ Costello is back, but most of the skill players from last season have moved on. The offensive line and tight ends should be strong and the defense will be solid. The Beavers will be coming off a bye week, but the Cardinal will bring a little too much to the table. PICK: Stanford
Oct. 5: Oregon State at UCLA
The Bruins boast one of the Pac-12’s top tailbacks in Joshua Kelley and return QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson, but the offense did not remind anyone of coach Chip Kelly’s Oregon teams.
The Bruins should continue to improve on defense, where they were barely better than the Beavers last season.
While many people are targeting Stanford as ripe for OSU’s picking, I think it will be UCLA that falters at home against the Beavers. PICK: Oregon State
Oct. 12: Utah at Oregon State
The Utes are targeting the Rose Bowl this season after a strong showing in 2018.
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The good news for the Beavers is that they get the Utes at home. The bad news is they don’t match up very well against Utah.
The Utes will once again be extremely tough against the run and that could negate a lot of the damage the Beavers want to do with Jermar Jefferson and Artavis Pierce.
On offense, Utah’s Tyler Huntley is an elusive runner from the quarterback spot and has a strong group of skill position players around him. PICK: Utah
Oct. 19: Oregon State at California
The Golden Bears struggled to score last year and played great defense.
One of the exceptions on offense was against Oregon State. Cal stuck to the ground game, rolled up over 300 yards rushing and wound up with a 49-7 win in Reser.
If the Beavers can keep Cal from running up and down the field in this one, they’ll have a chance.
A big key will be finding a way to move the ball on offense. PICK: Oregon State
Nov. 2: Oregon State at Arizona
The Wildcats had a disappointing outing in 2018 and lost quite a bit from that 5-7 season.
Arizona does have multiple threat quarterback Khalil Tate back along with a top flight running back in J.J. Taylor.
The defense can be shaky, but the Wildcats are solid at linebacker. If the Beavers falter at Cal, this could be another good chance to take a road win. But back-to-back roads seem unlikely. PICK: Arizona
Nov. 8: Washington at Oregon State
Gone is quarterback Jake Browning but the Huskies are simply plugging in Georgia transfer Jacob Eason, who played significant minutes in 2016 as a true freshman and passed for 2,430 yards and 16 touchdowns with eight interceptions. An injury sidelined Eason the next year and Jake Frome stepped in to take the Bulldogs to the national title game.
Eason adds experience and a big arm to an offense that is always loaded with receivers and running backs.
The defense might be suspect, but the Huskies should be in the mix for the Pac-12 title late in the season and will not get tripped up in Corvallis. PICK: Washington
Nov. 16: Arizona State at Oregon State
No doubt the Sun Devils will try to get Eno Benjamin rolling early on in this one. Benjamin returns as one of the top running backs in the Pac-12 after piling up 1,642 yards and 16 touchdowns last year.
But ASU no longer has QB Manny Wilkins and WR N’Keal Harry has moved on to the NFL with the New England Patriots. By the time this game rolls around we’ll all know how well the Sun Devils have managed on offense with new key personnel.
Even if ASU is playing fairly well, this could be a trap game. The weather could be wet and cold, not exactly what the Sun Devils are used to in Tempe. PICK: Oregon State
Nov. 23: Oregon State at Washington State
The Cougars have to reload a bit after a 10-win season, but coach Mike Leach should be able to keep them in the red this season.
QB Gardner Minshew is gone and Leach has named redshirt senior Anthony Gordon as the starter with Eastern Washington transfer Gage Gubrud in the wings. Either QB will have a strong complement of receivers to throw to and a solid offensive line providing pass protection.
It will be a tough task for the Beavers to come away from Pullman with a win. PICK: Washington State
Nov. 30: Oregon State at Oregon
It remains to be seen if the Ducks will have enough to meet the very lofty expectations built up during the offseason.
Either way, Oregon should be pretty good with the return of QB Justin Herbert and the influx of a load of top recruits.
Expect a competitive game here. The Beavers could be playing for a bowl and there’s always the heightened emotions that playing in the Civil War can bring out of a team. Nevertheless, OSU will have to wait another year. PICK: Oregon