The Oregon State Beavers don’t get a lot of national love. In fact, they are overshadowed in their own state by the Ducks. But OSU has been as consistent as any team in the Pac-10 the past few years.
Coach Mike Riley has led the Beavers to four consecutive winning seasons, which doesn’t sound like much but it’s the best run the school has been on since 1966-70. The Beavers haven’t finished lower than third in the conference during this current four-year run.
However, 2009 didn’t exactly end on a bright note. Oregon State lost 37-33 at Oregon with a chance to go to its first Rose Bowl since 1964. And clearly that took the wind out of the Beavers’ sails as they were pummeled by BYU, 44-20, in the Las Vegas Bowl to finish 8-5 (6-3 in Pac-10). That ended Oregon State’s five-game postseason winning streak. Oregon State was just 1-4 against ranked teams last season, beating only Cal.
Oregon State did lock up Riley with a long-term extension after the season, so that’s a huge thing for the school. Riley is 64-47 in nine total seasons (this is his second stint) and is just 10 wins short of Lon Stiner's (1933-48) school record for victories.
The Beavers welcome back 15 starters (eight offense, seven defense) and both kickers. By far the star is Heisman candidate RB Jacquizz Rodgers, who ran for 1,440 yards, caught 78 passes and accounted for 23 touchdowns last season. He and brother and receiver James form one of the best tandems in the nation.
The main question on offense is finding QB Sean Canfield’s replacement. It looks to be inexperienced sophomore Ryan Katz. As the backup last season, he made brief appearances in four games and was 14-for-27 for 232 yards and a touchdown.
The OSU defense is a question mark after it forced just 16 takeaways last year. Over the last six seasons, Oregon State is 30-5 when it commits fewer turnovers than the other team. Defensive tackle Stephen Pea is a tremendous player, however. And if this team has a lead at the end of three quarters, it is money: 40-3 since 2004. Oregon State is also 15-5 since the start of the 2006 season in games decided by seven points or less.
Here is Oregon State’s 2010 schedule:
Sept. 4 vs. TCU (Dallas)
Sept. 18 vs. Louisville
Sept. 25 at Boise State
Oct. 2 vs. Arizona State
Oct. 9 at Arizona
Oct. 16 at Washington
Oct. 30 vs. California
Nov. 6 at UCLA
Nov. 13 vs. Washington State
Nov. 20 vs. USC
Nov. 27 at Stanford
Dec. 4 vs. Oregon
Two things stand out in this schedule: Two very tough non-conference games against TCU and Boise State but also getting Pac-10 contenders California, USC and Oregon all in Corvallis.
Just can’t see the Beavers winning in Dallas or at Boise, especially with Katz still learning the ropes. But they should handle a rebuilding Louisville team with little trouble. Those back-to-back road games at Arizona and Washington likely will determine whether the Beavers will be in the Rose Bowl hunt with most of their home games coming in the second half of the schedule.
I just don’t see contention happening. This looks a lot like a 7-5 team to me. I’d guess OSU’s wins total will be around 7.5 when released at the various books. Maybe the Beavers can at least end Oregon’s Rose Bowl hopes in the Civil War considering the Ducks have done it to them in the past two seasons.
But enjoy the last season of the Rodgers brothers. James is a senior and Jacquizz seems likely to head to the NFL after his junior year.