The early opener, the earliest ever in Oregon State football history, is finally almost here. And its a momentous occasion, not only helping Colorado State open their brand new on-campus stadium, but also, with the Rams, kicking off the college football season.
Portland State and BYU go a half hour later in Provo, but it is the Beavers and Rams who have the opening day honor of getting it all started. And in a completely brand new stadium. I couldn’t readily figure out when the last time that’s happened. (The opening of Parker stadium?) Can’t ask for more from game day.
Well, except maybe a win. Or at least a close game.
That’s not something that’s happened much in the Gary Andersen era, during which Oregon State not only has never won away from Reser, the Beavers have only even come close once, in last year’s season opening 7 point loss at Minnesota. Every other road trip has ended in a double digit blowout, many by large double digits.
It’s not just an Andersen problem though; Mike Riley’s last 3 road trips were also double digit losses that runs the road losing streak to 14 games, since the win at Colorado that is the only bright spot in a run of 16 road games that have included 15 losses, 14 in blowout fashion.
A glaring talent gap had a lot to do with it all, but still, the Beavers have consistently performed notably worse on the road than at home for some time now.
Andersen now not only now has the best stable of running backs Oregon State has fielded since there were Rogers brothers on hand, the quarterback situation is the best its been since his arrival. Andersen also has had 3 recruiting classes in Corvallis, so its finally realistic to thing the Beavers can take their show on the road. But then, by their 3rd year, any FBS Power 5 coach should be able to deliver a bowl team.
These positives, and back to back wins to close out last season (the first time that’s happened at Oregon State since 2007), have been turned into rosy expectations, or at least sunny ones, around Corvallis. The Las Vegas odds makers seem to agree, making Colorado State just 3 1/2 point favorites at home in front of a sell-out crowd, and at altitude against a low-land team. This despite the fact that the Rams are coming off of 4 consecutive bowl trips.
Either that or they need to get some money on Oregon State.
In any event, it’s a critical opportunity for Andersen to take an actual next step, and get a quality win. It’s one of Oregon State’s biggest games of the year, without even being a Pac-12 game. This because, in addition to being one with relatively speaking more eyes on it than most games the Beavers will play, it’s also a swing game, one that’s winnable by both teams. And against an actual good opponent.
Keep in mind the momentum built at the end of last season came not only entirely at Reser, it came against teams that were in a state of collapse, and in bad weather conditions that had far more to do with the opponent’s inability to generate enough offense than the Oregon State defense did.
Of Andersen’s 4 wins at Oregon State against FBS opponents, 3 have come against teams who have since fired their entire coaching staff for on-field failures, and the 4th is the coach on the hottest seat in the west, and not just because its located in Tucson.
This trip is a huge opportunity for Andersen to start a new narrative, and comes at a very good time to do so, even given it will be harder than it would be were the Beavers not without slot receiver Seth Collins, who is out with a finger injury. Investors have put up with a lot of worse than mediocre football in recent years, more than most programs would (or should) tolerate in an era when ~ 2/3 of all FBS teams go to a bowl in any given year, and the percentage is much higher in Power 5 conferences. That patience probably won’t last much longer.
On the other hand, over the last 50 matchups, the Pac-12 is 41-9 against the Mt. West, and that includes the losses to Boise State, which is a whole different animal than the rest of their conference. Colorado State is the more typical Mt. West team, one that mostly has equivalent starters with most Pac-12 teams, but not everywhere, especially on defense, and more importantly, does not have the depth of quality athlete. That translates to most of those losses, when rotation players and special teams players play into things. As such, Oregon State should find a favorable matchup at some point or position they can exploit.
Given Colorado State’s recent history of struggling against the run, 98th in the country last year, almost as bad as Oregon State (102nd), that’s probably give the ball to Ryan Nall, above, and get out of the way. Then give it to Thomas Tyner, below, and get out of his way.
It won’t be easy, given the same athletic department that either doesn’t take road games seriously (this is a program that often doesn’t bother to send cheerleaders, never mind Benny or even a travel band to a significant number of road games), or at least doesn’t think taking them seriously will do any good, is primarily preoccupied with selling tickets to home games. The way Oregon State approaches road games is stunningly stark, and it sends a clear message to those on the field.
Becoming a winning program that contends in this conference, and for quality post-season appearances in quantity, will require road wins as well as beating more than just bottom of the barrel opponents at Reser.
This is an opportunity for Andersen, and Andersen’s staff, to turn a corner, on and off the field. He’s had the time to assemble some weapons to do so with. And in a brand new stadium, against what has become a regular participant in bowl games, doing so would make it a memorable day in Oregon State history.
Wouldn’t that be fun?