Oregon State game could go down to the wire
Colorado State has some advantages heading into Saturday's matchup with Oregon State, the season opener for both programs.
The Rams have 14 starters back from the team that finished 7-6 a year ago. The list includes senior quarterback Nick Stevens, one of the nation's premier receivers in Michael Gallup and the program's top three running backs.
The Rams will be playing at home, christening their spiffy new $220-million stadium, capacity 36,500, plus standing room. Colorado State moved up the date of this game — originally scheduled for Sept. 23 — in order to feature a Power Five Conference opponent in the first-ever game there. Everybody in the place will be stoked, and it will be a hostile environment for the Beavers.,
The Rams return seven starters on defense, but their calling card is an offense that lit it up through the second half of last season, averaging 52 points in the final four games.
It will be a good challenge for Oregon State's defense, which needs to be improved this season if the Beavers are to achieve their goal of making it to a bowl game.
It's the debut for junior Jake Luton, the 6-7, 235-pound JC transfer who will start his first game at quarterback for Oregon State. The Beavers will try to establish the run first, hoping to unleash Ryan Nall on the Rams' defense, along with a few others from their stockpile of top-notch running backs.
OSU's offensive line will be a key in this one, with new starters Sumner Houston and Trent Moore joining holdovers Fred Lauina, Gus Lavaka and Blake Brandel. O-line coach T.J. Woods has switched Moore and Lauina, moving Lauina from guard to right tackle and inserting Moore at guard. They need to protect for Luton in the pocket and open some holes for the Beavers' bevy of ball carriers.
With Seth Collins (finger) missing, senior Jordan Villamin and true freshman Isaiah Hodgins must step up and make some plays in the receiving department.
OSU's defense must put some pressure on Stevens, who is not a runner and won't attempt it much in Colorado State's pro-style offense. The Rams will also attempt to get its ground game going first, which means the Beavers' front seven must be up to the task.
If the Beavers lose, it drops the odds considerably of getting to six wins this season.
Lindy's preseason magazine picks Oregon State as the 62nd best team in the country, Colorado State as No. 68. The disparity sounds about right. This one should be close. It could go down to the final minute. And I don't believe it will be a defensive struggle.
OSU coach Gary Andersen's road record through his two seasons is 0-11. That goose egg will be wiped away on Saturday.
THE PICK: Oregon State 35, Colorado State 31.