The Return of Pac-12 Roundup! Preseason Preview: North #6: Oregon State


The SEC may have produced the best team in the nation for the last half-dozen seasons, but no conference is as consistently interesting top-to-bottom as the Pac-12. From the Multi-TE jumbo sets of Stanford to Washington State’s Air-Raid, from the hills of the Palouse to the Sonoran Desert. The diversity in tactics, cultures and campus settings in the Pac-12 is unmatched. Be it the Flat-Iron Mountains or Rodeo Drive, Every campus features its own unique beauty. And from the ultra speed and flash of Chip Kelly’s offense, to the physicality of Utah’s offense, every team features a distinct brand. Pac-12 teams play in the only Summer Olympic and only Winter Olympic stadium in college football, the Grandaddy of them all, and the incomparable Autzen Zoo.

The Pac had the best QB in the nation last year, and will have a different best QB this year. 4 of the nation’s best 5 receivers are in the Pac, and we’ve got more than our share of the best tailbacks too. Hell, even our worst team in recent years (Washington State) is more interesting than all but a handful of teams in any other league.

So to celebrate the all-around greatness of  football in the West, we’re going to take a look at each team in the Pac. This week, we’ll do the Pac-12 North beginning with…

North #6: Oregon State

State of the Program:  Oregon State’s most successful era began in 2002 when it, made 7 of its 15 all-time bowl appearances in a span of 8 seasons, and finished in the top 25 three consecutive years (’06-’08) for the only time in program history.

Things fell off for the Beavers in 2010 with a 5-7 season but rather than bouncing back in ’11, OSU suffered a rash of injuries, began a brutal schedule with a loss to its only gimmie opponent (FCS foe Sacramento State), and the program fell to it’s lowest level since the pre-Dennis Erickson era.

It wasn’t all horrible news for the Beavers as all three of their wins last season were convincing victories against conference opponents. They out-duled Arizona, drilled Washingtong State, and even beat Washington 38-21 in the “What the hell???” Pac-12 box score of the year.

Star Watch:

When you think of Corvallis and Mike Riley, you don’t think glitz or superstars, but Oregon State has had its share of flashy skill position guys over the years. Chad Ochocinco and Stephen Jackson might be familiar names. Jaquizz Rodgers will also ring some bells for USC fans.

This year OSU’s only projected Pac-12 1st teamer is CB Jordan Poyer who looks to be one of the 5 or 6 best corners in college football this year. OSU Also has an electric playmaker in WR Markus Wheaton who had just a shade under 1000 yards receiving last season. Wheaton will benefit from more experienced quarterback play this season and should go well over 1,000. The OSU coaching staff also loves giving him the ball on reverses and other running plays where Wheaton averages better than 7.5 yards per carry.

Roster Changes:  The Beavers won’t look significantly different this year than they did last year. They return quarterback Sean Mannion, their top 4 rushers, and three of their top 4 receivers (including leader Wheaton).  The defense returns eight starters including 7 of the top 8 tacklers.

If we see a big change in OSU this season it’s likely going to be at tailback where Mike Riley would prefer to see more consistent production from his top players. Last year was a tailback carousel with no single Beaver RB even notching 90 carries or 450 yards .

At Pac-12 Media Day Coach Mike Riley was complimentary of all three of his backs and said, “The key to our team is our ability to run the football… Whatever works out, I what I want is 1800 yards…”

In spite of his lack of committment to any one back, Coach Riley knows you can’t get where he wants to go with 4 different guys splitting carries evenly.  Expect the Beavers to try to establish sophomore tailback Malcom Agnew early and give him much, much more than the 89 carries he had last year.


The Beaver’s schedule was very unkind last year and it’s not much better in 2012. They still play Wisconsin and BYU in non-conference, but this year they get Wisconsin at home and travel to Provo. Preferable? Yes. Easy? No.

In conference OSU also makes a slight trade-up in division play trading @Oregon for @Stanford. Again, that’s better, but still not easy. The Beavers don’t have to play USC out of the South, but they don’t get Colorado either, so that’s pretty much a wash.


Oregon State returns 15 starters including their most important skill players and should be much better and healthier than they were during last season’s disaster. The Beavers also have an easier schedule and likely won’t lose to an FCS school twice in a row (I think they’ll handle Nicholls State). However, the North division is extremely competitive and it’s hard to argue that they are better than anyone but perhaps Washington State. Look for the Beavers to improve their record by a couple of games, but fall short of the post-season.