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August 3, 2012
A year ago, Oregon State entered the second half of the 12-game schedule with a disappointing 1-5 mark after opening the season with four straight losses until beating Arizona in Corvallis. This year, the Beavers hope to get out to a stronger start and enter the second half of the 2012 campaign with more momentum than they had last season.?? ?
GAME 7: v. Utah (Oct. 20)
The Beavers host the Utes at Reser Stadium in the second of back-to-back contests against schools from the Beehive State. Last year, Utah posted a 27-8 victory over OSU in Salt Lake City, so the Beaver will be looking for a measure of revenge in Utah's first visit to Corvallis as a member of the Pac-12 conference.
Somehow, Utah won eight games last season despite an offense that ranked 109th in the country in total offense and 99th in passing offense. How did the Utes do it? With a defense that played solidly for most of the year, allowing 21 or fewer points in seven of 13 games and finished 38th nationally in total defense. The defense is the principal reason the Utes came within a missed field goal of reaching the inaugural Pac-12 championship game.
Naturally, offensive coordinator Norm Chow accepted the head coaching job at Hawaii (hey, who wouldn't) despite the mediocre showing from Utah's offense last season. One of the first acts of new 25-year old offensive coordinator Brian Johnson was demoting former starting quarterback Jon Hays to fourth string. Whoever plays quarterback (likely Jordan Wynn, injured in 2011) will spend a lot of time handing off to John White, a junior college transfer that racked up a school record 1,519 yards and 15 touchdowns.
GAME 8: at Washington (Oct. 27)
Baylor just scored again. OK, maybe not. But the embarrassing 67-56 loss to Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffith III and the prolific Bears in a wild Alamo Bowl convinced Huskies head coach Steve Sarkisian to quickly fire defensive coordinator Nick Holt when he realized they weren't playing basketball. The new defensive play-caller is Justin Wilcox, who came over from Tennessee. Beaver fans saw first-hand the shortcomings of the Washington defense in a 38-21 victory last November in Corvallis.
Will the UW defense show improvement in 2012? Probably. But it might not matter because the Huskies offense led by quarterback Keith Price, who threw for 3,063 yards and 33 touchdowns in 2011 - and sophomore wide receiver and Kasen Williams possesses plenty of weapons and is expected to light up scoreboards. The Beavers could find themselves in a high-scoring shootout at CenturyLink Field in downtown Seattle if they're not careful. They limited Washington to three touchdowns a year ago. It could take another stellar defensive effort to vanquish the Huskies again.??? ??????
GAME 9: Arizona State (Nov. 3)
The Beavers face their fourth, and final, first year head coach when the historically underachieving Sun Devils invade Corvallis for an early November clash at Reser Stadium. Former Beavers coach Dennis Erickson fell into a second-rate rut in Tempe following a 10-3 season in 2007 with 5-7, 4-8, 6-6 and 6-7 records. The new coach is former Pitt boss Todd Graham, who infamously exited the Steel City by texting his former players rather than telling them face-to-face that he was headed to the desert.
Soon after Graham was named coach, quarterback Brock Osweiler stunned the Arizona State loyalists by opting to declare for the NFL Draft. Who's the next signal-caller for the Sun Devils? Graham's system seems to squarely fit the skills of redshirt freshman Michael Eubank, who hasn't started a college game. But he just might this season under Graham. Because the quarterback will be inexperienced and the wide receivers are pedestrian at best, Arizona State will probably lean on running back Cameron Marshall, who rushed for 1,050 yards and 18 touchdowns last season.
Unless Arizona State shows a pulse throwing the football, the game could boil down to the Beaver's ability to stop the Sun Devils' rushing attack. Offensively, OSU will face a defense that lost most of its best players from a year ago. Graham clearly faces a major rebuilding project in his first year, and it's up to the Beavers to take advantage.?? ??
GAME 10: at Stanford (Nov. 10)
Has the Luck run out in Palo Alto? In a way, yes. One of the most often asked questions in all of college football for the past seven months is who would replace Andrew Luck, the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft in late April. Who gets the honor of being Luck's successor? Good question. It will likely be sophomore Brett Nottingham or junior Josh Nunes. Either way, Luck's departure means head coach Davis Shaw can finally take form control of the Stanford offense.
The Cardinal came to Corvallis last season and dealt the Beavers a convincing 38-13 loss behind Luck and a heavy-duty running game led by Stephan Taylor, who returns after consecutive 1,000-yard seasons (his presence means Stanford could redshirt prized running back recruit Barry Sanders Jr.). Taylor averaged 7.3 yards per carry and had 95 of the Cardinal's 300 total rushing yards at Reser Stadium. With a new quarterback directing the offense, the Beavers' top objective is clear - stop Stanford's ground game. If they can't, beating the Cardinal on their home turf will be extremely difficult. ?????????????
GAME 11: California (Nov. 17)
The good news for Beaver fans in the second of back-to-back games against the Bay Area divisional rivals is several of the principal components of the California defense that held OSU to 31 yards rushing in the 23-6 setback last November at AT&T Park are gone, including Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year Mychal Kendricks and D.J. Holt, both linebackers. Who will replace them? That question hasn't been answered yet. Some of the new starters have little experience, so the Golden Bears defense is a bit of a question mark.
Head coach Jeff Tedford has coaches some great quarterback in his 11 seasons in Berkeley, including Super Bowl winning QB Aaron Rodgers and Kyle Boller, both first round draft picks. The latest project is Zach Maynard, who played better in the second half of last season. But Cal fans are already clamoring for highly-regarded prospect Zach Kline, the No. 2 rated QB in the country by Rivals.com for the 2012 signing class. Whoever plays quarterback will spend a lot of time handing the ball off to Isi Sofele (1,322 yards in 2011) and throwing it as often as possible to wide receiver Keenan Allen. ????????????????
GAME 12: Oregon (Nov. 24)
Welcome to the 116th edition of the Civil War, one of the nastiest and most played rivalries in the country. Lately, the Ducks have had the better of the series and will carry a four-game winning streak over the Beavers into Corvallis on Thanksgiving weekend. Oregon enters the season as the overwhelming favorite to win the Pac-12 North again, so if the season plays out as expected the Beavers could be the spoiler for the Ducks in their quest for a third consecutive Pac-12 crown.
What hath Phil Knight wrought? Well, first and foremost, a team built mainly on speed. Obviously, the Beavers had a difficult time containing the Ducks' fast-paced offense in last year's 49-21 loss in Eugene, surrendering 670 total yards in the one-sided defeat. But enough for bad memories. It goes without saying that significant improvement in that statistical category is absolutely mandatory if the Beavers want to post their first Civil War win since 2007.
The Beavers will face a new Ducks quarterback (Bryan Bennett or Marcus Mariota) and running back combination (Kenjon Barner and De'Anthony Thomas), but the Oregon offense isn't expected to miss a beat, so OSU will have their work cut out for them in front of the home fans. ?
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