Some Players, and a Game, to Watch
The Oregon State Beavers certainly won’t be devoid of storylines this year .
The expected In-N-Out trips after road wins, the “nicest coach in college football“, the position battles and the extremely back-loaded schedule they’re up against.
Here’s 5 stories I see developing as the season wears on:
Sean Mannion Doesn’t Look Back
The QB competition between junior Sean Mannion and senior Cody Vaz lasted until the week before the season opener against Eastern Washington, leading to questions about the security of Mannion’s starting job. But offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf has said they don’t want Mannion “looking over his shoulder” and that he won’t be on a short leash.
I fully expect Mannion to hit the ground running (mostly passing, actually) and pick up where he left off before hurting his knee in week . I don’t think there’s a leash in the world short enough to warrant inserting Cody Vaz for a healthy Sean Mannion in 2013.
There was no question about the starting job before Mannion’s knee injury, and I expect there to be no question about the starting job now that we’re completely removed from the injury.
Terron Ward Bursts Onto the Scene
One aspect of this Oregon State team that’s often overlooked is the talent in their backfield. WR Brandin Cooks will be an elite receiver this season, which combined with the quarterback controversy and issues with both the offensive and defensive lines took everybody’s attention away from the Beaver backfield.
Storm Woods won the tailback job as a redshirt freshman last year, but his inability to stay healthy, which has continued into fall camp, gave the guys lower on the depth chart many opportunities.
Junior Terron Ward took advantage of that opportunity, and proved his worth in short-yardage situations. I expect that over the course of the season, his role in the offense steadily grows, especially if Woods goes down with an injury that lets Ward show what he can do as an every down back.
Victor Bolden Scores 5 TD’s
True freshman receiver/returner Victor Bolden opened eyes at fall camp and reminded many of Brandin Cooks with his speed and elusiveness. Bolden will return kicks and see some time as a receiver.
By mid-season, defensive coordinators around the conference could be staying up late trying to figure out how to deal with the speed the Beavs have on the outside. We all know how much head coach Mike Riley loves to give his receivers carries, and Bolden is the perfect candidate to take over the departed Markus Wheaton‘s share of the 3-4 fly sweeps per game.
The fact that Riley isn’t redshirting Bolden lets us know he’ll get minutes, and as long as he’s on the field, there’s no way he won’t find his way into the end zone a handful of times over the year.
Sean Martin gets 5 INTs
Senior cornerback Sean Martin has had a successful career at Oregon State. He’s racked up a couple interceptions, gotten plenty of tackles and forced a fumble. But I see him truly making a name for himself in 2013.
We won’t know whether it was Martin or Dashon Hunt who won the left corner job until week 1, but the “loser” of that battle will get to play the nickel, where Poyer excelled last year. Rashaad Reynolds is the true to Poyer, and will cover opponent’s No. 1 receiver. Teams were scared of Poyer, which left them with the option to pick on Reynolds — and Reynolds made them pay.
I predict a similar scenario this year, with Reynolds playing the role of Poyer, and Martin having a breakout year similar to Reynolds’ 2012.
Oregon State beats Stanford
No “fearless prediction” piece is good without an upset pick! The Beavers’ five toughest opponents come in their last five games, starting with Stanford in Corvallis.
This pick isn’t as much about Oregon State as it is about Stanford. The Beavers will have been preparing for that last stretch of games the entire year. Stanford’s schedule is less forgiving.
Their matchup with Oregon State is sandwiched between games against UCLA and Oregon, AKA many people’s picks to be the winners of the Pac-12 South and North, respectively.
If the Beavers are 7-0 by this point, they will certainly be tired of hearing the “strength of schedule” argument that would be holding them back in the polls and in the mind of the public. They will be hungry to prove they can hang with the big boys.
That, combined with Stanford looking past them — even just a little — could lead to the Beavers taking down the Cardinal.