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Oregon State Football: Vastly Improved, Despite Record

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The Beavers rank as one of the most improved teams in 2019

NCAA Football: Stanford at Oregon State Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

It’s tough to be excited about Oregon State’s start to the season but it needs to be said; despite their record they have improved GREATLY from a season ago. Improvement from last season was expected of course, but the Beavers have improved even greater than almost any national pundit expected. That’s great and all but there’s only one statistic that football programs are measured in and those are wins and losses. The Beavers hold just one win to their name through a third of the season (a comfortable victory against a mediocre FCS team), but the signs are there that this is a team that will compete and not falter down the stretch.

Former SB Nation CFB expert Bill Connelly (currently at ESPN) is well-known for his use of advanced stats and overall college football knowledge and he had some nice words to say about Oregon State through the first part of the season. According to SP+ Rankings, the Beavers have improved more than any other program (compared to 2018) after five weeks of college football. Check out his entire post here.

Bill Connelly - ESPN

Of particular note from Bill Connelly, “The Beavers are just 1-3, they’re projected to finish only around 3-9, and while their offense is exciting, their defense is still a miserable 112th in defensive SP+. Make no mistake, however: They’ve improved”. Connelly’s S&P Rankings have Oregon State ranked as the 71st in college football (ahead of Stanford, Hawaii, Arkansas, BYU, Virginia Tech etc etc). Their offense is ranked as the 21st in the nation. How different would Beaver fans feel right now if they cut down on a couple mistakes leading to wins over Stanford and Hawaii? Oregon State is a razor thin margin away from being 3-1 right now!

More good news? Longtime local sportswriter, Kerry Eggers believes; he picked the Beavers to get the road victory against UCLA this weekend in his latest column here.

Oregon State leads the nation with just one turnover on the season. The starting offense has yet to throw an interception or lose a fumble! They’re converting third-downs at an exceptional rate (56%, good for 4th in the country). Isaiah Hodgins has established himself as one of the top wide receivers in the nation!

There has been some rumblings on social media for a switch at the quarterback position (Gebbia for Luton). That seems asinine to me. Yes, in both the Hawaii and Stanford game the offense has put up a bagel on the scoreboard for a half, but let’s not ignore the halves when the offense is clicking! The Beavers offense is a top-25 offense for a reason. Jake Luton beat out Gebbia for the starting job and proved it to the coaching staff. My personal take is Jake Luton has an undeniable connection with Isaiah Hodgins that helps this offense hum. Obviously they can and need to improve; consistency is the name of the game for the first-team offense.

Many Beaver fans want to see Tristian Gebbia get some in-game reps as he’ll presumably be the starter for a few seasons going forward and I get that. If scores get lopsided there might be opportunities (Washington/Utah etc) for Gebbia to get in and run the offense. But again I strongly think that Jake Luton gives Oregon State the best chance to win this season. He’s on pace to throw over 3,000 yards and 27 TDs on the season. Also, Isaiah Hodgins is on track for over 1,500 yards!

On the flip side of the ball Oregon State has played two very good offenses (Oklahoma State & Hawaii). They’ve also shown improvement basically every week of the season despite battling severe injuries to key contributors. One thing the Beavers have been much better at defensively compared to last season? Stopping the run!

Remove the Oklahoma State game where the Cowboys broke in a freshman quarterback by just pounding the rush game (52 attempts for 352 yards); also Chuba Hubbard is having a historic start to the season and it’s not just because of Oregon State’s defense (look it up!) That man should be on everyone’s short list for Heisman.

Anyways remove Oklahoma State’s aberration of an offense and Oregon State has held the other three teams to 3.25 yards per carry. That includes a power rushing Stanford team and a triple-option Cal Poly team (and of course a pass-happy Hawaii team). The biggest problem defensively for Oregon State? Their secondary, which has once again been hit hard by injuries.

Where am I going with all this? Why am I interviewing myself? Well to answer the first question Oregon State is on the road this weekend to take on a struggling UCLA team. A UCLA team that struggles to complete passes and has to rely on their rushing game to move the chains.

UCLA is currently ranked 66th in S&P Rankings, which doesn’t account for injuries. UCLA’s star QB (Dorian Thompson-Robinson) is likely out with an ankle injury against the Beavers. It’s no secret that rushing QBs have had success against Oregon State, but without the threat of Thompson-Robinson the Bruins will have to rely heavily on Joshua Kelley to get yards on the ground. Something this Oregon State defense should be up to the challenge of stopping.

I honestly think the Beavers are going to win this weekend and I am rather surprised at how much respect UCLA is getting going into this contest (line opened at UCLA -6.5). The schedule only ramps up from here but do not be surprised when Oregon State remains competitive in these Pac-12 games late into the season. This team has already shown on-field improvements. Now it’s time to convert those improvements into tangible victories. Get ready Beaver nation; there’s a good chance it’s happening this weekend. Go Beavs!