Oregon St. (2-1, 1-0) at San Diego St. (0-2) / Qualcomm Stadium / 4:30 PM PDT / CBS Sports Channel / KEJO 1240 AM / KEX 1190 AM
Oregon St. and San Diego St. kick off a home and home series that they will conclude next year, when the Aztecs visit the Beavers on Sept.20.
Both teams posted 9-4 seasons last year, and both ended with bowl game losses. Both teams returned a large number of starters (in San Diego St.'s case, 9 on defense, and 17 overall), and both had hopes of another strong season this year.
And then both teams saw their plans get initially de-railed by opening day losses to FCS opponents.
After that, things have diverged.
Oregon St. has won 2 in a row, including last week's 51-48 win in overtime at Utah that earned the Beavers an early share of the Pac-12 North Division lead, and have the leading passing offense in the country.
San Diego St. took a second convincing loss at #3 Ohio St., this one 42-7 despite the Buckeyes' losing quarterback Braxton Miller early in the game. As a result, the Aztecs have started the season 0-2 for the first time since 2008.
Both the Buckeyes and Eastern Illinois got off to 3-0 starts, but being beaten pretty badly in both games still came as a shock.
San Diego St. is coached by Rocky Long, who was the Oregon St. defensive coordinator from 1991 thru 1995, during the Jerry Pettibone era, and would love to spring the upset. An extra week to prepare for the Beavers in a bye week last weekend initially made this look like a excellent opportunity for Long and the Aztecs to do just that. Now, finding enough of a defense and offense to make it competitive has to be their first objective.
Oregon St. hasn't run the ball well or defended well much of the time so far this season though, and with Pac-12 play just around the corner, Beavers coach Mike Riley has made making progress in both areas a priority this week.
The game will be a "black-out", with the first 30,000 fans into Qualcomm Stadium receiving free t-shirts.
At least Oregon St. who will again be in their all-white look, will contrast nicely.
Coincidentally, Oregon St.'s win last week in the debut of their new white helmets was their first appearance in white helmets since the disastrous Pettibone era that Long doubtless remembers as well as anyone.
San Diego St. won the first 2 meetings between the teams, who have only met 3 times. Oregon St. took a 35-3 win in 2000, on their way to the best season in Beaver history, in the last meeting.
The game is also a homecoming of sorts for several members of the Oregon St. coaching staff. Riley of course coached the NFL's San Diego Chargers in the same stadium from 1999 through 2001, and assistants Bruce Read and Mark Banker were also with Riley those years.
OSU offensive line coach Mike Cavanaugh also spent a couple of campaigns there, though they were immediately before Riley's run.
Offensively, Aztec junior quarterback Quinn Kaehler has a pair of quality targets in Ezell Ruffin and Colin Lockett, but haven't been able to get any reliable rushing game going, though they are a little bit better than the Beavers, who are 117th in the nation on the ground.
As a result, San Diego St. enters the game 111th in the country in rushing, and 121st in scoring.
Defensively, the Aztec defense operates out of a 3-3-5 base, and blitzes in every conceivable way, reflecting Long's defensive roots. With a veteran roster, and Long's track record of decent defenses, being 118th in the country in scoring defense, at 41 points per game allowed, is a surprise.
With Oregon St.giving up an average of 37 points per game, taking the over on any total points number you can get is probably the smart money play of the day.
It should be another field day for the Sean Mannion to Brandin Cooks connection, which might be even more important than planned, given that Oregon St. will be without RB Storm Woods, who is out with the effects of a concussion suffered against Utah.
Buildingthedam.com will be back after the game with full analysis, and hopefully the Beavers will be 3-1 when they come home.