Hmpf. Well, 2010 wasn’t exactly what the Oregon State Beavers expected, was it? Fewer than eight wins for the first time since 2005? No bowl game?
What’s In Store For Oregon State in 2011?
What went wrong for Mike Riley’s team? And can Oregon State stop the bleeding with stud tailback Jacquizz Rodgers off to the Atlanta Falcons in the NFL?
It’s hard to say. There are some reasons for optimism and some reasons to be very afraid for the Beavers in 2011. On the plus side, despite losing Rodgers, the Beavers return most of their offensive starters this season.
Jacquizz’s brother, James, is still in town, as are pass-catchers Jordan Bishop and Joe Halahuni. Four of five starting offensive linemen will return.
Quarterback Ryan Katz stands to improve this season, too. He petered out as last season progressed but totalled 18 touchdown passes versus 11 interceptions and has a strong arm. With so many veterans surrounding him, I have to think he gets better.
The Beavers have to hope he will, as they ranked 95th in the nation in total offense last year and remove their best playmaker from the equation.
On one hand, Oregon State’s defense has to be nervous after Gabe Miller and Steven Paea left for the NFL. On the other, the secondary has solid experience and Michael Doctor projects to be a rock-solid starter at linebacker.
With some improvements and some regressions, the Beavers look like they’ll more or less match their offensive and defensive output of a year ago. But there’s another obstacle in the way of success this season: the schedule.
It ain’t pretty. A trip to Wisconsin in Week 2: gulp.
BYU? Sort of gulp.
Stanford, even at home? Gulp.
Trips to Arizona State and Oregon: Double gulp.
I can’t help but worry that the deck is stacked against Oregon State this season. Its schedule is loaded with tough opponents and it won’t have the same game-breaking offensive ability without Rodgers.
However, all hope is not lost.
Riley has almost always gotten the most out of his group. If he can coax a major improvement out of Katz, the Beavers will still be a tough out in the Pac-12. It’s unrealistic to expect Oregon State to challenge Oregon, Stanford or Arizona State for the Pac-12 title.
But the Beavers might still return to a bowl game this season.