Portland St. (6-6, 3-5 in the Big Sky last year) at Oregon St. (7-6, 4-5 in the Pac-12 last year) / Reser Stadium / 1 PM / Pac-12 Oregon & Pac-12 Washington / KEJO 1240 AM / KEX 1190 AM
Oregon St. kicks off the season against their neighbors, the Portland St. Vikings of the FCS Big Sky Conference.
It's just the 4th time the Beavers and Vikings have met, with Oregon St. winning all 3 previous contests, and all in romps.
The first meeting came in 1983, and remarkably, was played in Portland, in a year that Oregon St. only played 3 home games in an 11 game schedule. (If you think scheduling is quirky now, think about that if you need insight into why Oregon St. ran a mostly inept program for a couple of decades.)
At the time, the Vikings were another division down, and the Beavers rolled to a 51-14 win, in what would be a 2-8-1 season, capped by a 0-0 Civil War.
Portland St.'s first ever visit to Corvallis came in the 2005 season opener, for the first game ever in Reser Stadium in its current configuration, and Oregon St. rolled to a 41-14 win.
4 years ago, the Vikings visited Reser for the season opener again, for the earliest start time ever, an 11 AM game. And in a rare phenomenon for so early in the season, Sept. 3, the morning saw a downpour so severe that Beaver Walk was cancelled.
The deluge abated early in the game, and Oregon St. rolled to a 34-7 win, as Jacquizz Rodgers ran for 103 yards, and 3 touchdowns, and James Rodgers added 95 receiving yards and another touchdown.
Last season, the Vikings were the only team to lose to California, but fell by just a touchdown, and went on to a .500 record, which was a disappointment, after the season ended with back to back heartbreaking 1 point losses, to Sacramento St., and then at Eastern Washington.
Beaver fans will recall both of those teams; they are the FCS Big Sky teams that have beat Oregon St. in 2 of their last 3 season openers, the Hornets in overtime in 2011, and then the Eagles by 3 points in last year's 49-46 shootout.
So Portland St. actually came a little closer to beating Eastern Wasnington than Oregon St. did.
Both teams bring back substantial portions of their roster, and both are expected to have similar, or possibly slightly better seasons this year.
The Vikings primary weapon will be junior quarterback Kieran McDonagh from Vancouver, WA, throwing to returning receivers Kasey Closs, from Lake Oswego, OR, and Alex Toureen, from Cottage Grove, OR, out of their version of the "pistol" offense.
Portland St. also has 3 transfers from Oregon St., DT Joe Lopez, WR Stevie Coury, and Punter Kyle Loomis, last year's Big Sky All-Conference punter and an FCS All-American, on their squad, among 9 transfers from FBS schools on the roster, 8 of them Pac-12 programs. 44 of the Vikings are Oregonians, and most were not recruited by the Beavers, providing plenty of motivation.
And the Vikings head coach is former Oregon St. assistant Nigel Burton.
The Beavers of course have the nation's leading returning passer in Sean Mannion, but don't have Brandin Cooks anymore, so Mannion will be targeting Victor Bolden in Cook's spot, as well as Richard Mullaney, and TEs Connor Hamlett and Caleb Smith.
The difference could be on the defensive side of the ball, where the Beavers have 6 returning seniors in their back 7, plus DT/DE/chainsaw operator Dylan Wynn, whereas the Vikings will only start 2 seniors on defense.
Offensively, FB Tyler Anderson is out, still suffering the effects of a hamstring injury suffered the second week of summer camp. Ricky Ortiz will get the snaps when Oregon St. uses a fullback, but expect the Beavers to run fewer formations with a fullback than they otherwise would have.
Coach Mike Riley said Storm Woods would probably be on the field for the first play at tailback, but Terron Ward is listed first on the depth chart. In all likelihood, Ward will rotate with Woods.
But Portland St. was last in the Big Sky against the pass last year, and that's a bad, bad place to be going against Mannion, so in reality, expect Oregon St. to pass early and often, to set up the run, and then work on the run and the offensive line, hopefully after getting a good measure of control of the game.
As a reflection of the the amount of uncertainty about numerous issues, there is no line on the game, though the Beavers are favored.
Today will be the debut of new Oregon St. offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach John Garrett, and it will be the first time in a long time that both the offensive coordinator and head coach will be coaching from the sideline, instead of having the OC in the booth. Riley will call the plays.
It's a crucial season opener for head coach Mike Riley, as a 3rd loss to an FCS opponent in 4 years, which would be unprecedented, could lead to, well, a scenario that we don't even want to think about.
A win on the other hand, especially one where the Beavers have the game well in control, could jump start a final season under Mannion that should see Oregon St. favored in at least 5 of their first 6 games.
Buildingthedam will be there, and back afterwards with complete coverage and analysis.