Oregon State comes into the 2020 season trying to improve on its 4-5 conference record from 2019. To do that, they’ll need some improvement in key areas. But what they do have on their side, is that many of the PAC-12 teams lost key members over this past offseason.
The conference just announced its 2020 fall football schedule on Saturday, so we know now who they’ll be playing, and depending on how they do in the opening weeks, they could be able to make a run.
They’ll play a 6-game conference only schedule, with a title game at the end of the season. Washington State, Oregon a,d California will be played in Corvallis, while Washington, Utah, and Stanford will be their road games.
Of those teams mentioned above, they were able to beat Cal last year and had a close loss to Stanford. So they’ll need to improve defensively to get past the Oregons and Washingtons of the CFB world.
Every team has lost some key players, but the question is, can the next man up fill that spot or excel? The Beavers lost their QB, their leading rusher, and their top pass-catcher on offense.
OREGON STATE OFFENSE
The new starter at QB, Tristan Gebbia did get some playing time last year and has gone into this season knowing the job was his. That build some confidence that will be needed, because of the way COVID-19 has muddled the offseason process.
RB Jermar Jefferson returns and seems to be ready to contribute at a high level. The 5’10” 214lbs back had 685 yards an 8 TDs last year, so I would expect a heavy load of this guy in the run game.
WR Isaiah Hodgins is gone, and the drop-off in production was steep to the next guy down. Can Champ Flemings be the guy they need on the outside to keep defenses honest? We shall soon see. Gebbia and Flemings have kinda grown up in the program together, so there should be some chemistry there.
Oregon State lost 3 key starters on the offensive line from last year. Blake Brandal, Clay Cordasco, and Gus Lavaka are no longer there and must be replaced or upgraded. Redshirt Freshman Joshua Gray looks like he’ll be a solid replacement for LT Brandal, and can slide over to the right side if needed.
Onesimus Clarke will be the guys tasked with the LG spot, replacing Lavaka. The fact the Clarke has played the position plenty heading into this season is good for the Beavers interior line. There won’t be much changed on the right side, and center positions, which is good, your offensive line needs to have continuity.
OREGON STATE DEFENSE
ILB Omar Speights is the youngest starter on the defensive side of the ball, as a sophomore, but he was 2nd in tackles last year, so, although he’s young, he will be an experienced force in the middle.
Senior pass-rusher Hamicla Rashed returns from an outstanding year, recording 14 sacks for this defense. If there are issues on defense, the linebackers shouldn’t be it.
All four members of the secondary will return as well for the Beavers. These guys accounted for 6 interceptions, and over 15 passes defended. CB Isaiah Dunn is the only senior for this unit, but the rest are juniors. So experience is key here, and as I said with the offensive line, continuity leads to success.
The defensive line is relatively new. They have game experience, and from the sound of it, spend a lot of time in the opposing backfield. A year under their belt, they should be a fine unit for this defense. But if there’s a spot on the defense I’d worry about, it’s there. They’re not young, but they haven’t played a lot together.
The Beavers will be opening up against Washington State at home on November 7th. The Cougars are missing a lot of the talent they had last year, and with a new coaching staff, the Beavers could come away with a win in the home opener.
Week 2 shows some of the same. They play at Washington, for a team that lost Jacob Eason, and changed their coaches. Less likely to get a win here, but they can play them tough. They have to make the most out of the matchups defensively and get pressure. The Huskies may not have Eason, but their offensive line is still pretty much there.
The rest of the schedule is just as tough as these two games are, but Oregon State can be more competitive this year than they have in the past. They have a lot of returning starters, and the guys that are in new spots have playing time.
Winning the North is still a tall order, Oregon is still the favorite. But it might not be as easy for the rest of the conference to get past the Beavers this year.