What: Portland State at Oregon State
When: 1 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 30
Where: Reser Stadium, Corvallis, Oregon
TV/Radio: Pac-12 Network; Beaver Sports Radio Network
Series Record: 3-0, OSU. The Beavers won the last meeting, 34-7, in 2009. Jacquizz Rodgers led the way for the Beavers, rushing for 103 yards and 3 TDs on 16 carries. James Rodgers had 95 yards receiving and TD as well.
Notes: Portland State finished 6-6 in 2013, including 3-5 in Big Sky Conference play. It’s most impressive game of the season might have been a 37-30 loss to Pac-12 California at Berkley. The Vikings set six school records on offense last year, including rushing yards and total TDs. Their returning Big Sky first-team selection is former OSU punter Kyle Loomis, who also received FCS All-America honors. Head coach Nigel Burton is a former OSU assistant coach (defensive backs)
5 Keys to Victory
1. Jump Out To Early Lead: One of the reasons the Beavers’ running game struggled last season was because it didn’t have a chance to get going in several games — due to the Beavers falling behind early. The Beavers should have their way against Portland State, give the running backs a chance to get carries and find their rhythm. The more momentum they can get in the early going will pay off big for them later in the season. Anything less than 150 yards rushing in this game would be a disappointment.
2. Defense Forces 4+ Turnovers: On paper, the OSU defense appears to be stacked — a blend of experience, talent, and athleticism. Plus, Dylan Wynn, Michael Doctor, and Ryan Murphy should provide tremendous leadership. But again, that on paper. So the Beaver defense needs to set the tone early in the game, whether it’s with a jarring sack or an interception. It’s been awhile since the Beavers had a defense that was fierce… Forcing a bunch of PSU turnovers would be a big statement for the defense, and serve notice about this season.
3. An Early Day For Mannion: If all goes well, Sean Mannion’s should exit the game no later than the end of the third quarter (I’d love it if didn’t play in the second half at all). It would mean that the Beavers took charge early on, built a big lead, and show no signs of letting up. And of course, Mannion will have played a huge role in that, by running play action to perfection, taking advantage of mismatches, and using his tight ends often. If he has to play into the 4th quarter, the game is way closer than it should be.
4. Offensive Line Holds Strong: The offensive line was one of the Beavers’ big question marks going into this season, having lost three starters from last year, and star Isaac Seumalo recovering from offseason surgery. Seumalo is missing this game, so it becomes even more of a good challenge for the linemen who will play. They should have their way with PSU’s front 7, but this game is important for developing chemistry and working out kinks. If the running game gets 150+ yards and Mannion is sacked two or fewer times, it’s a good performance for this unit.
5. Owens Converts FGs: With the uncertainty of Trevor Romaine’s status, what was expected to be an area of strength for the Beavers, is now in a flux. But if redshirt freshman kicker Garrett Owens is called on to kick and converts, it would go a long ways in easing peoples’ fears. Owens is a highly-regarded kicker and did well during spring ball, enough that there was on open competition at the beginning of fall camp between him and Romaine. If Romaine doesn’t return, it’s Owens turn to shine.
Game Prediction: OSU 41, PSU 10. Beavers strike quick and don’t look back. Mannion throws for 3 TDs, Beavers rush for 150+ yards, and the OSU defense holds Portland State to under 250 total yards.
What are your keys to victory, and predictions for the game?