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Oregon State Beavers 2015 preview: Can Cal take advantage of rebuilding OSU?

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With Mike Riley and Sean Mannion gone, how will the Beavers start over? Last year was disappointing for OSU fans, but this year may be worse as new HC Gary Andersen searches for a new QB, a true RB, a defensive line, and the list goes on. November 14th at home will be fun for our Golden Bears!

Susan Ragan-USA TODAY Sports

2014 Season Overview

In 2014, the Oregon State Beavers football team pretty comfortably contributed to the Pac-12's bottom feeders.  They finished with a 5-7 overall record, 2-7 in Pac-12 matchups, and last place in our North division.  The Beavers started off well in their non-conference match-ups, including definitive wins over Portland State (who seems to get all sorts of paydays from Pac-12 schools every year), Hawaii, and San Diego State.  Then, after a thrashing by U$C (L 10-35), OSU only pulled-off two more wins - at Colorado and a home upset against then 12th-ranked Arizona State late in the season.

OSU pretty consistently was not able to generate enough scoring to keep-up with their opponents, scoring an average of 25.7 points per game (compared to opponents' 31.6 points per game scored against them).  Across a whole host of offensive categories, the Beavers just didn't have the firepower needed to pull-off more wins:

Offensive Statistic

Oregon State Beavers

Opponents vs. OSU

First Downs

249 total

264 total

Rushing (Yards/Attempt)

3.77 ypa

4.61 ypa

Total Offense (Yards/Play)

5.57 ypp

5.76 ypp

3rd Down Conversions

31.74%

39.53%

4th Down Conversions

42.11%

62.50%

On the defensive side of the ball, OSU had 11 INTs last season - all by senior LBs and DBs (which is not good for this season with all those guys gone).  Senior DB Tyrequek Zimmerman had the most tackles (91), followed by a whole host of other since-departed seniors.  On the defensive line, injuries had a major impact.  Junior DL Jalen Grimble hurt his knee early on against the Trojans and was never the same.  Junior DLs Jaswha James and Lavonte Barnett both had minor injuries most of the season, forcing others to play out of position.  Senior DL Obum Gwacham was fantastic early on, but then largely disappeared as a significant contributor after conference play began.  Even QBs not traditionally known as runners (like Jared Goff) was able to consistently run all over this defense last season.

Key Personnel Losses

Sean Mannion (QB):  Where OSU did shine, however, was in their passing.  With no standout back running the ball, the QB position was crucial if OSU was going to have any kind of success last season.  Senior QB Sean Mannion (local guy from Pleasanton, CA) was stellar in his last year up at Corvallis.  He threw the rock 453 times, and completed 282 of them (62.3 completion %age) - all for 3,164 yards!  He averaged 7.0 yards per attempt (and 11.2 yards per completion).  Mannion threw for 15 TDs and 8 INTs last season, finishing with a 128.3 overall QB rating.

Over each game in 2014, Mannion accounted for an average of 238.2 offensive yards.  This kind of production - which was fairly consistent across his four-year career at OSU (he missed five starts as a sophomore but even came back twice from that) - will be sorely missed by Beaver fans.  Along with Connor Halliday (WSU), Brett Hundley (UCLA), and Marcus Mariota (Oregon), Mannion will be part of the mass exodus of top-shelf QB talent from the Pac-12 conference.  [Just in time for our very own Jared Goff to shine!]

Mike Riley (HC):  For as long as many Pac-12 fans can remember, Mike Riley roamed the sidelines at OSU and exemplified success and achievement with meager resources and major recruiting challenges.  Well, now he's gone and that's a sad thing for our conference.  Riley bolted to Nebraska in the offseason in a move that's still shocking to many of us.  OSU was never going to match the endless wads of cash that other programs could throw at him, his coaches, facilities, recruiting, and the list goes on.  But, like Chris Peterson at Boise State, we always had the feeling that Riley reveled in that underdog role leading the Beavers.

Other than their baseball program and Gary Payton, who's heard of OSU succeeding in major college sports?  Riley provided that hope for Beavers fans for a long time.

Gary Andersen (hot shot at Utah State from 2009-2012, leveraged it to win the Wisconsin Badgers head gig for two years, but then ran away when he realized that no one escapes the very large shadow of Barry Alvarez) will be an intriguing new head honcho this season.  He's got to figure-out who will be his QB (Luke Del Rio has transferred and Brent VanderVeen was moved to tight end), find a true ball carrier, shore-up a flaky defensive line, and the list goes on and on.  OSU is not in a good place right now (especially with the rival Ducks consistently winning and bringing in headlines).  Beavers fans will soon experience what it means to not have their main man for the past 12 years....

Offensive Changes

New offensive coordinator Dave Baldwin is changing things up at OSU.  In line with the trend in college football these days, Baldwin is installing an up-tempo offense.  The problem with that is a team essentially needs a triple-threat QB to run that kind of offense - one who can run, pass, and have lots of football smarts/instincts.  Well, OSU has no experience to choose from to find all that.  Three guys are competing for the starting QB job - redshirt freshmen Nick Mitchell and Marcus McMaryion, as well as true freshman Seth Collins.  Who OSU goes with will largely dictate how Beaver fans determine if Andersen and Baldwin are successful this coming season.

For whoever is chosen to lead the Beavers, he will have lots of help.  Senior RB Storm Woods could potentially tear it up next season as the main man.  Junior WR Victor Bolden should continue blazing past defenses with his amazing straight-line speed, and sophomore WR Jordan Villamin will contribute heavily as the #2 wideout opposite Bolden.  And, the O-line brings back lots of experience with every linemen working together towards the end of last season.  Isaac Seumalo was out in 2014 with foot injuries, but the star should be back and anchoring the protection needed by any fresh QB.

Defensive Changes

Like the offense, OSU's defense will get a shake-up this season as defensive coordinator Kalani Sitake implements a 3-4 defense.  This will allow the big guys up front (Kyle Peko, James, and Grimble) to clog things up and let their many linebackers to stretch the field and make plays.  This is going to be important because the Beavers lost a lot of secondary depth after last season.  By increasing the number of LBs to support the cornerbacks and safeties, Sitake will try to hide his side's deficiencies out wide and in the back by stacking the middle.

2015 Season Schedule

Oregon State is predicted to finish last in the Pac-12 North division (according to Athlon Sports).  The Beavers have a pretty intense 2015 schedule:

Date

Opponent

Location

Fri, Sep 04

Weber State

Corvallis, OR

Sat, Sep 12

Michigan

at Ann Arbor, MI

Sat, Sep 19

San Jose State

Corvallis, OR

Sat, Sep 25

Stanford

Corvallis, OR

Sat, Oct 10

Arizona

at Tucson, AZ

Sat, Oct 17

Washington State

at Pullman, WA

Sat, Oct 24

Colorado

Corvallis, OR

Sat, Oct 31

Utah

at Salt Lake City, UT

Sat, Nov 07

UCLA

Corvallis, OR

Sat, Nov 14

California

at Berkeley, CA

Sat, Nov 21

Washington

Corvallis, OR

Fri, Nov 27

Oregon

at Eugene, OR

The Michigan match-up during the second week will be a fantastic barometer for Andersen and his boys.  He will most likely get throttled by Jim Harbaugh's much bigger and better boys, but any moral positives that come from getting blown away at the Big House will be useful for Andersen later on in the season and beyond.  It's not very often that teams like OSU get to play the Wolverines (this match-up was surely scheduled with the intention that Riley would be coaching the Beavers).

Once OSU enters the conference games, it's honestly pretty difficult to predict many (if any) wins at this point.  Lowly Wazzu, Colorado, and Utah will still be dogfights for the Beavers, but they could certainly pull those out.  Another 5-7 season may be in store for OSU, if not a 4-8 or 3-9 season.  Looking ahead to 2016 may not be a bad idea for Beaver fans....

Cal vs. OSU Matchup

Our Golden Bears play the Beavers in Berkeley on Saturday, November 14th.  This will be our 10th game, sandwiched in between Oregon and Stanfurd.  Cal will most likely suffer a loss up at Eugene the week before. Sonny and Co. will have to protect against our guys looking ahead to Furd and potentially getting caught sleeping by the Beavers.

If we keep our heads on right, we can fully expect to see Jared Goff working his magic all over and within OSU's inexperienced and transitioning defense.  Given that our defense may be just as putrid as OSU's, things will get ugly when their offense takes the field.  This game may end up being a shootout, one where we see Goff creating Heisman highlights and OSU's offense laboriously working down the field against our disappointing defense.  Nevertheless, the difference is that we have Goff and a whole platoon of wideouts, and they don't.  Go Bears, down with the Beavers!