Don’t let the 2-3 record fool you; Oregon State is a dangerous team. While their defense leaves much to be desired, the Beavers offense has been clicking all season long under second year head coach Jonathan Smith, though with teams like Hawaii, Cal Poly and shockingly bad defenses from Stanford and UCLA on the schedule, that offensive might will likely be tested more so this weekend when the Utes roll into Corvallis.
Through five weeks, the Beavers offense is averaging 37 points per game, a clear uptick from their 30.4 point average during this same span last season when the Beavers were 1-4. Much of this success can be attributed to improved play from senior quarterback, Jake Luton, who was named to the Maxwell Award watchlist earlier this week.
Luton has been nothing short of dynamic, throwing for 14 touchdowns so far this season along with 166 consecutive passes without an interception, the second longest such active streak in the nation. Boasting a QBR of 158.5, the Beavers quarterback is the sixth highest rated passer in the conference, behind more well-known commodities such as Justin Herbet, Khalil Tate, Anthony Gordon and Utah’s own (and conference leader) Tyler Huntley.
All of Luton’s success wouldn’t be possible if it weren’t for his receivers, and as fate would have it, the Beavers have one of the best in the nation in junior wide receiver, Isaiah Hodgins. The 6’4”, 209 speedster has NFL scouts drooling this season as he leads the conference with 632 yards on just 43 receptions and nine touchdowns. Unfortunately for OSU, there’s a sever drop-off between Hodgins and everyone else, with their second leading receiver, 5’5”, 141 lb sophomore, Champ Flemings, who has reeled in 13 passes for 227 yards and two touchdowns. If Utah’s secondary is able to shut down Hodgins, the passing attack quickly diminishes.
On the ground game, the Utes will face a duo of talented backs in senior Artavis Pierce and sophomore Jermar Jefferson. Pierce has carried the bulk of the load so far, but only marginally, racking up 64 carries and 482 yards on the season, with Jefferson trailing with 296 yards on 56 carries. Pierce in particular has demonstrated amazing field vision and an ability to hit the smallest of holes for big gains, similar to Utah’s Zack Moss.
The Beavers have all the right pieces to be better than their record indicates, and their status as the PAC-12 punching bag over the last few seasons certainly doesn’t help that perception. Coach Smith undoubtedly has this program trending in the right direction, and with a little more depth at key positions, it won’t be long before the Beavers claw their way out of the basement.