#4 (FCS) Eastern Washington (11-3, 7-1 in the Big Sky) at #25 Oregon St. (9-4, 6-3 in the Pac-12) / Reser Stadium / 3 PM PDT / Pac-12 Channel / KEJO 1240 AM / KEX 1190 AM
Oregon St. opens the season against Eastern Washington, and both teams are hoping to exceed what were very good campaigns last year.
The Beavers went to the Alamo Bowl after getting off to their best start since 1907, and went on to the biggest turnaround season in the FBS, and the best in Oregon St. history.
The Eagles tied for the Big Sky Championship, and advanced to the FCS semi-finals.
Both teams can legitimately hope for even more this season.
But there are always questions as the season opens, and surprises are always a possibility.
Eastern Washington has 7 returning starters on offense, and 5 on defense, among 48 letter winners who are back, and have 9 motivated Oregonians on the roster. The Eagles also have 8 players who were on Pac-12 rosters at some point, most notably a pair Beaver Nation got a good look at last year. Safety Tevin McDonald, who had 135 tackles in 27 career games, 24 of which were starts, for UCLA over the last 2 years, and offensive tackle Jake Rodgers, who started all 12 games for Washington St. last season, have transferred in, and into starting roles.
Oregon St. is still a 27 point favorite, and based on recent Eastern Washington forays into the Pac-12, which though both losses, were by only 3 points in 2011 at Washington, and 4 points at Washington St. last year, that seems like a tall order for a Beaver squad with injuries on the offensive line and at linebacker, and questions at WR beyond Brandin Cooks. Taking the Eagles to cover seems like a good investment, even if you are an orange enthusiast.
That said, Mike Riley is 11-1 in home openers as coach of the Beavers, though that 1 was against a Big Sky opponent most will recall (unless they have successfully ex-sponged 2 years ago from memory).
Today is also the on-field debut of new-look uniforms, and in today's case, the salute to the Giant Killers black helmets over the black uniforms.
The Beavers have a healthy Sean Mannion at quarterback again though, and a 1-2 punch of Storm Woods and Terron Ward to provide a running game to balance a passing game that will feature Cooks, but also a deep squad of TEs that give Oregon St. unique options.
Eastern Washington's defense is a 4-3, but plays more like a 3-4, with one DT typically over the opposition center, and a rush end in the mode of an outside linebacker. Evan Day had 8 tackles for a loss and 5 sacks last season.
The Eagles also routinely flip corners side to side, keeping Ronald Baines, who had 57 tackles last year, in position to cover maximum territory.
Nevertheless, Mannion should be able to lead the Beavers to a healthy number of points. How well the defense does at finding the team chemistry that Poyer was central too, and last year's squad that pulled out multiple home wins early on, against Wisconsin and Washington St. when the offense wasn't exactly dominant, had, will likely be the key to the game. Eastern Washington set a school record for passing yards, amassing a total of 4,469, last year, and sophomore Vernon Adams, who threw for nearly half of those, and 20 touchdowns as a freshman, in a split qb system, is the full-time guy now for the Eagles.
Buildingthedam will be at the game, and back afterwards with complete coverage and analysis of the Beavers, as we begin what could be a special season in Orange and Black.