Wisconsin Coach Bret Bielema watching the Badger's Montee Ball leave the Beavers' Jordan Poyer behind is an image Oregon St. fans saw all they wanted of last year in Madison in the Badgers' 35-0 win. But can the Beavers prevent a repeat today at Reser? (AP Photo by Morry Gash)
The overriding thought as we get ready for Wisconsin has to be "Finally, A Football Game!" The indefinite postponement of the opener against Nicholls St., which may or may be possible to make up, not only caused Oregon St. to be one of the last teams in the country to play their first game, in the latest first game for the Beavers since 1989, its left both the team and their fans with an inordinate amount of pent up energy.
And with the impending bye meaning Beaver fans will have only other teams' games to watch again next week, and then 2 road games, it will be another 4 weeks before there will be another game at Reser. Interest in both how well the young team will do with a year's experience under most of their belts, as well as what the revisions to try to enhance the game day experience, is running high, and today will be when we find out a lot.
Sometimes extreme anticipation and pent up excitement produces a performance for the ages, and sometimes it backfires. There's a possibility it all could drive the Beavers to distraction, and that's something no team, much less one coming off a 3-9 season, can afford against the Badgers, the 2 time defending Big 10 Champions who have a good shot at a third straight Rose Bowl.
With the graduation of both quarterback Russell Wilson and WR Nick Toon, Oregon St. has the edge in the passing game. And that applies to the defensive secondaries too. New Wisconsin quarterback Danny O'Brien is deadly accurate, completing 19 of 23 passes in his first start for the Badgers. But he does most of his work with short and mid-range stuff. The danger of the big strike is diminished from last year.
And while Wisconsin dismissed a couple of the wheel routes as the product of correctable mis-cues (and I have no doubt the Wisconsin staff, which has a number of new faces this year, have utilized this week to make corrections), the 2 deep zones that the Badgers play offers opportunities for fast receivers to do some work given accurate passes. That's the description of Markus Wheaton and Brandin Cooks if ever there was one if Sean Mannion can consistently make the throws he's shown at times he has the arm to deliver.
But the Badgers still have Montee Ball. And the biggest offensive line, one that averages 6'6" and nearly 330 pounds, these Beavers will ever see. They also have a defensive front 7 that, if anything, appears to be better than last year.
With Oregon St.'s edge in the passing game, there's no excuse for another shutout. And unless someone in the secondary starts sneaking up to help when they see their buddies getting bulldozed (which is a real possibility), there shouldn't be any explosion plays.
But even with Storm Woods established as the starting running back, and a line that should be able to generate something of a rushing attack at times this year, I don't see the Beavers being able to run against the Badgers, who only gave up 41 yards on the ground last week.
Wisconsin's advantages outweigh, literally and figuratively, Oregon St.'s What I'm looking for out of the Beavers is an enjoyable day, and a competitive game. If they can deliver that, then there's obviously a chance for the upset, and even if that doesn't eventuate, we can all walk out happy to have been there.
It's the long term that matters, but Coach Mike Riley and his team have to do enough in the short term to give everyone a reason to stick around for the long term.
Beaver Believer Believes:
"BB12's keys to the game:
STOP THE RUN.
Wisconsin still has one of the best running attacks in the country, thanks to Ball, and his cheese curd raised linemen. This will be a real test to see how the Beavs defensive line holds up, with mostly undersized defensive tackles, with the exception of Castro Masaniai. With the Beavs struggling to stop the run last year, if there is not an improvement in this game things could be rough for the Beaver defense this year.
Establish the run. OSU also struggled to run the ball last year, and the few games that we did win the rushing component of the offense was at least adequate. The offensive line must improve from last year, with the addition of Isaac Seumalo and the return of Michael Philipp, things might improve, but I'll wait to see what happens in the game. Storm Woods is an improvement at running back, but he can't run without any blocks.
Field position. For the Beavs to be in this game they need to absolutely dominate on special teams. OSU cannot afford to give Wisconsin short fields, with their running attack there might not be enough chances to stop them. The Beavs have enough talent on special teams, and they need to make it a factor.
In the end I have trouble seeing the Beavs stop Wisconsin for four quarters, my prediction is Wisconsin 35-17."
The only thing I'm looking for in the Wisconsin matchup is improvement over last year. From a Beaver standpoint, this matchup is much more favorable this year than it was last. This season it's at home, Wisconsin's weaker, and Oregon State is more experienced, and (hopefully) therefore stronger.
However, even though the odds aren't stacked quite as highly against the Beavers, I still see Oregon State starting off the year 0-1. Even if the Beavers prove me right (which I certainly hope they don't), I'll be happy with an improvement over last year.
The first improvement would be, I don't know, scoring a point? Secondly, allowing less than 200 rushing yards would be nice.
Thirdly, I truly hope that Storm Woods can establish a run game and stay healthy, and that the O-Line plays well enough to let him do that.
The fourth item on this very basic wish list is Sean Mannion hitting the ground running with 200 yards in the air. Lastly, the D-Line not getting absolutely obliterated would be great.
To summarize, my final thoughts are that last year's Wisconsin game stunk, and I hope this year's doesn't.
So here we are and I think we will finally see some OSU football this weekend! But can't blame the weather, wait a minute...
Anyway! I have to be honest and not sure I have anything all that original to add to what we all have been saying here for the last few weeks. Yes I sure wish the Beavs had one game under their belts coming into this one, but guess there is something to be maybe said about still being a really unknown for Wisconsin (is that why the Badgers decided not to send the Beavs game film, to even the playing field there?).
Yes I don't see any reason why Wisconsin shouldn't be the easy favorites even though my Mid-West in-laws think they are a very beatable team without Wilson at QB. Specifically though here are my points of interest (and again sorry that they aren't all that original!):
1. Will the Beavs produce any type of running game this game that will lead to a continuation of what has been a very impressive list of star backs in its program history. Personally I will be uncompromising here and say I want to see a running game that can both control the clock with some good old fashioned Riley smash-mouth up-the-middle running AND explosive potential to hit the big plays.
2. What will Mannion bring? Can he roll out to take some pressure off the line? Can he stay cool and collected in the pocket and hit the solid short and mid-range routes? Will he be able to take advantage of what looks to be the main strength of the team at this point--the receivers?
3. Will the offensive line stay healthy and free of injuries, and of course will they provide the strength and depth the team will desperately need this year?
4. What will Riley's play-calling look like? Will it be an improvement this season (and just plain look more confident and dynamic)?
5. Do we have a TE?
6. And for the defense just what overall will it look like? Will new defensive backs coach Rod Perry bring any changes Wisconsin hasn't seen that make a difference? Will the defense come together quickly against a good and talented team this weekend?
That's really about it! I will say there is a part of me that holds a sliver of confidence that this might be more of an exciting football game for both set of fans coming in, but there is a part of me that is apprehensive of yet another slow start to the season. Lots and lots of possible negative unknowns and the other side of that coin is that there is an opportunity to exceed expectations, and demonstrate positive hidden potential.
In any case, at least we FINALLY have FOOTBALL!