Sacramento State (0-0) at Oregon State (0-0)
The Oregon State Beavers were a straight-up disappointment in 2010. They returned 17 starters yet went 5-7, seeing their offense regress significantly.
But Mike Riley’s boys turn over a new leaf in 2011 and are highly motivated to become relevant in the Pac-12 again.
They open their season with what is sure to be a confidence-builder against Sacramento State at home on Saturday…or will it?
Sacramento State Hornets at Oregon state Beavers
Saturday, September 3, 4:00 p.m. ET
Reser Stadium, Corvallis, Oregon
Favorite: Oregon State -27.5
Did I just jinx this game by calling it a confidence-builder? Maybe. The truth is that, for a supposed shoo-in winner this week, Oregon State has a few question marks. It looks like the Beavers will be missing as many as five starters this Saturday.
With brother Jacquizz off to the NFL, James Rodgers will be depended upon as one of the team’s top playmakers this season, but Oregon State won’t have his services in Week 1 because of a knee injury. The team’s leading receiver from last season and other key big-play threat, Marcus Wheaton, missed a few practices with a hip flexor this week and may not play.
Tight end Joe Halahuni, cornerback Brandon Hardin and defensive tackle Kevin Frahm won’t suit up, either.
That means that the Beavers could have as many as 14 first-time starters taking the field against Sacramento State on Saturday. Suddenly, the Sacramento State game doesn’t seem like quite as much of an open-and-shut case, does it?
Oregon State will at least have quarterback Ryan Katz under center; he’ll be the “wily vet” of the offense with his top two receivers out and true freshman running back Malcolm Agnew getting his first start. Katz knows what he’s getting into.
When asked if he was excited or scared about having so many newbies on the field Saturday, he said: “a little bit of both.”
That said, this is still a major school facing a pipsqueak. Sacramento State is 0-10 versus Division 1-A schools and 0-3 against Pac-10/12 opponents all-time. When these two teams met in 2003, Oregon State won 40-7.
Even though they’re banged up, even though they’ll start true freshmen at tailback and flanker in their opening game for the first time in their 115-year history, the Beavers shouldn’t panic too much.
The way I see it, only the betting sharks should be worried about that 27.5-point spread.
Oregon State fans only really care about the victory, and the Beavers should still get it.
Katz’s presence will help and perhaps the fire of all the first-time starters will help OSU play better than it would if it had its full-strength roster playing a powder-puff opponent.
The Beavers may be more focused this way.