With the 2013 college football season about to get underway for the Oregon State Beavers, the biggest questions appear to be where they will end up. What record will this team attain? Will it be a season of 2011 when the Beavers finished a dismal 3-9 or similar to 2012 when OSU closed out the year with a 9-4 record? All indicators point to the latter, but as they say, that is why they play the game.
Beating a dead horse, OSU should have ran and ran over the Texas Longhorns in the Alamo Bowl, yet Beaver Nation knows how that turned out. Hence, there is no such thing as a sure thing. While media and internet fodder has OSU looking at 7-0 to begin the season, that will be a stretch. Coach Mike Riley has named Sean Mannion the starting quarterback. Now is Mannion’s time to show everyone he is the guy. As one of the team’s captains, expectations won’t necessarily reach the stratosphere but they will be high. Last year, Mannion had 15 touchdowns to 13 interceptions, a plus two ratio. Should he stay healthy, finishing with a plus 8-10 in this category will spell success for OSU. Furthermore, ANY number better than the minus 85 rushing yards for the season would spell positive results for the Beavers.
The schedule certainly favors OSU, early and middle. In addition, they have two bye weeks (first one coming after Game 5/Colorado and second after Game 9/USC). Winning their first seven remains a tall order. Two home games to begin (Eastern Washington and Hawaii) are followed by two road contests (Utah and San Diego State). After Colorado in Corvallis, OSU will travel to Washington State and California. The Cougars seem to give OSU fits, as evidenced by last year when OSU won 19-6 at home in what should not have been as close as the score indicated (WSU beat the Beavers in 2010, 31-14). The Cal game surely will depend on how the season is rolling at the time. If, and that is as big as it gets, OSU has won their first six to this point, it will show the parts are in sync. However, any stumble could show weaknesses, and playing on the road will be difficult to put the pieces together.
Game 8 against Stanford is where we will see the real mettle of this year’s squad. Preseason polls have the Cardinal ranked fourth in the nation, behind Alabama, Ohio State and Oregon. As of now, this will be the first ranked team Oregon State will face. Therefore, the preseason visions of grandeur are somewhat understandable. If Stanford is undefeated heading to Corvallis and OSU is the same, or with one loss, this game will be colossal. The outcome will surely determine which bowl path the Beavers will be heading towards. After the Trojans at home, OSU finishes at Arizona State, home tilt with Washington and Civil War in Eugene.
In Riley’s last ten years, OSU has gone 6-4 in Game 1’s. Not spectacular, but noteworthy. Of those four first game losses, twice the team did not reach a bowl game in that corresponding season. Eastern Washington is a game the Beavers should come out victorious. The score (unless it comes in losing fashion) won’t be the definition of this team. Mannion’s protection, Storm Woods and Terron Ward’s run production and turnovers should tell the tale. These will be the underlying intangibles in every outing. All things considered, realistically Oregon State should finish the season no worse than an 8-4 mark.