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A quick look: Oregon State

2006 Record
10-4 (6-3 Pac-10, Third)
Season in review
Oregon State wasn't picked to do much in 2006, however they had their best season since Dennis Erickson left Corvallis and Mike Riley, once on the hot seat, has bought himself a few more years.

Yet it seemed like the Beavers flew under the radar all last year, getting off to a slow start (which included a blowout loss to Boise State). It wasn't until the end of the year, and their come from behind victory over Missouri in the Sun Bowl, that people started taking them more seriously. For a team often ignored, what they did in '06 was pretty impressive. Not only did they win 10 games, they finished in the top-half of the Pacific Ten and stunned #1 USC 33-31. That win will go down as one of the biggest in school history.

Though with all their success, the Beavers still lost 4-games, and in hindsight could have at least won 3 of them. Their losses to Washington State, Cal and UCLA cost them the conference championship, and only Cal turned out to be the decent team. Wazzu failed to finish above .500 for another year and UCLA bombed, limping to a 7-6 season after a 4-1 start.

The season has definitely reinvigorated a Beavers program that had been reeling since Erickson's final days. They're quickly climbing the ladder of success and are poised to do great things in 2007, but they won't be overlooked nearly as much this year.

Bowl Recap
After a surprising season, Oregon State played in the Sun Bowl, which turned out to be one of the best games of the bowl season. There they faced Missouri and put forth an impressive comeback victory that was capped off by an amazing two-point conversion to give the Beavers a 39-38 victory.
Oregon State seems poised for big things in 2007 and that has the Beaver nation pumped for the upcoming season. Though I've got to wonder if there are doubts about whether Mike Riley can build on last year's near-improbable 10-4 season. For all the success they had last year, it will definitely make for a tough encore this season and that might ultimately hurt Riley and the Beavers, as programs won't be overlooking them like they may have in years past.

Luckily for the Beavers, they do have a lot to build on. They return nearly everyone from last year's team, with eight starters coming back on defense and seven on offense. Yet there are some key losses as well, especially on the offensive end as they will have to replace Matt Moore. It appears Sean Canfield is the leading candidate to replace Moore, but there might be growing pains since he'll be making his first collegiate start against the Utes.

What will help Canfield find his game and make the transition from backup to starter is going to be the Beavers offensive line. The good news is that four starters return, however the bad news is that their offensive line didn't perform all too great at times last year. If they continue to struggle this season, Canfield might be on his back more times than Paris Hilton.

The Beavers also have a possible potent running attack with Yvenson Bernard, who was an All-America candidate last year. Clinton Polk will also offer the Beavers a solid ground option as well. However with these two talented backs, the Beavers running game really never lived up to the potential last year. Oregon State only averaged 119.5 rushing yards per game last season, which ranked 8th in the Pac-10.

With Canfield probably taking time to adjust, Oregon State will need to rely on their running game. If they struggle running the ball like last season, finding offensive movement early on in the season, especially in the first game against Utah, could be a mighty task. However if Polk and Bernard live up to their potential, they should be able to take the pressure off Canfield, which will make it far easier for him to develop into a solid quarterback as the season progresses.

On defense, the Beavers should be improved, just because of the sheer amount of players returning. But as we've learned in the past, experience does not always mean success. They have three starters returning in the secondary, yet lose safety Sabby Piscitelli. Piscitelli, like Weddle to Utah, was a big part of the Beavers defense and his loss will be hard to replace. What's worse for Oregon State is the fact their secondary gave up 2,773 yards through the air last year. Which means they were only slightly worse than the Utes in that regard. If Brian Johnson can return to his 2005 form, he might carve up the Beaver defense.

For how poor it appears the secondary may be, Oregon State's defensive line should be solid. Last year they only gave up 1,172 yards rushing, which ranked 3rd in the Pac-10. That might not bode well for Utah, as they've still not yet settled who will start at running back next year, though it seems like Darryl Poston is the favorite. Matt Asiata, a junior college transfer from Snow College, might give Poston a battle, but that won't be decided until fall, since Asiata can't play this spring.

Oregon State should put in another solid season, but they're not unbeatable. This team still has some weaknesses and Utah can exploit them fairly well if they plan the game accordingly. Of course that's easier said than done and since it's the first game of the season, you really don't know what to expect, as things can vary from season to season.

I think Utah will play Oregon State tough and it will come down to Johnson's ability to work their secondary. It could turn into a battle, as both Utah and Oregon State seem to have the same number of questions (defensive play, o-line, running game and quarterback uncertainty). Since this is the first game and it's being played in Corvallis, you've got to give the edge to the Beavers. Yet I can't help but think Oregon State will see a drop-off from last year and it's very possible that Utah pulls out the win.

Quick Look
Head Coach: Mike Riley (38-34)
Last Bowl: 2006 Sun Bowl (39-38 win over Missouri)
Returning Starters: 8 on defense, 7 on offense
2007 Schedule:
UTAH
@ Cincinnati
Idaho State
@ Arizona State
UCLA
Arizona
@ Cal
Stanford
@ USC
Washington
@ Washington State
@ Oregon