A look into the 2021 football season for Oregon State

In this file photo from Nov. 7, 2020, Oregon State plays against Washington State while an empty Reser Stadium looms over them. During the 2021 football season, Oregon State will have 5 home games. 

Thomas Salgado do Almedia Leme, Sports Contributor

The 2021 college football season is right around the corner, meaning that it’s time for Oregon State fans to start looking ahead to who the Beavers will compete against this season.

 

The season will begin with a premier out of conference matchup against the Purdue Boilermakers in West Lafayette, Indiana on September 4. The Beavers have only faced the Boilermakers once before, which Oregon State won by a score of 22-14 all the way back in 1967. Both finished their shortened 2020 seasons with only two wins. However, the Beavers had five losses compared to only four losses for Purdue. 

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The main difference between the teams is the returning production. According to ESPN, Purdue is ranked 20th in the nation with 70% of both their offensive and defensive production returning whereas Oregon State is ranked at 84th, with only 35% of their offensive production staying on the team, although the Beavers situation is helped by 82% of the defense returning. 

 

The Beavers will then return to Corvallis to face the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors on September 11. Hawaii is not an uncommon opponent for Oregon State. Last time the two teams faced off in 2019, Hawaii came away with a close win in Honolulu, winning the game 31-28. And in the 2020 season, they made it to the New Mexico Bowl game with a 4-4 record, and where they would beat their opponent, Houston, to finish with 5-4 record. 

 

Despite this though, Hawaii ranks 103rd in the country in returning production and will be hard pressed to repeat their success from last year. They do have 60% of their defense returning though, which was their strong point last year, ranking 54th in the country. 

 

The team will stay in Corvallis for the next week, as on September 18 the Beavers will face the Idaho Vandals at Reser Stadium. Idaho finished their last season with a record of 2-4 in the FCS division. It will be their 43rd meeting with the Vandals, with the last game ending in a score of 38-0 in favor of the Beavers back in 2006. 

 

With that, the Beavers will conclude the out of conference part of the schedule and begin their conference slate with a game in Los Angeles against the USC Trojans on September 25, one of the rotating opponents from the PAC-12 South the Beavers will play against this season

 

Historically, the Trojans have dominated the Beavers, having an overall record of 63-11 against them. Currently, the Trojans have a four game win streak against the Beavers, with the last game being a 38-21 Trojan win in 2018. 

 

USC is coming off of a PAC-12 championship game appearance and returns their star junior quarterback Kedon Slovis, a Heisman candidate. The Trojans ended the 2020 season with a two game losing streak in the conference championship game and then the subsequent bowl game.

 

The Beavers will have a tough task ahead of them when facing USC, but there is a chance for a David vs Goliath story to repeat itself again similarly to 2006 and 2008. The weakness to exploit will be to shut down USC’s run game, which ranked in the bottom 10 in the country, and force mistakes from Slovis, who ranked in the top 25 in terms of interceptions thrown per game. 

 

The following week, on October 2, the Beavers will begin their home conference slate, with the Washington Huskies being the first opponent. The Beavers have faced their PAC-12 rivals Huskies every year since WW2. Currently, the Beavers are on a nine game losing streak against Washington. In 2020, the game was a tight 27-21 affair where the Beavers were just a couple inches away from a win.

 

The Huskies had a short but successful season last year, picking up a 3-1 record and technically winning the PAC-12 North, before their season was cut short due to COVID-19 issues, stopping them from playing the Apple Cup and the PAC-12 championship game. 

 

A point of hope for the Beavers, though, is that Washington ranks 104th in the nation in returning production, with only 30% of its production returning. If the Beavers are able to shut down the inexperienced Huskies offense ,and if Coach Jonathan Smith can come up with a good rushing offense to avoid the Washington secondary, the Beavers might be able to come out with a win. 

 

Then, on October 9, the Beavers will travel north to Pullman to face the Washington State Cougars. Just like their in-state rivals, the Cougars had a rough time with COVID-19 and only played four games in 2020. Washington State, however, had a 1-3 record under their new coach Greg Rolovich. Their one win, however, came against the Beavers. 

 

The Beavers have also struggled against the Cougars,as they are currently on a seven game losing streak against them. They have struggled to defend against the air raid passing attack used by the Cougars, giving up 35+ points in all seven of the losses. 

 

Rankings wise, the Beavers have the upperhand. The Cougars offense ranked 41st in the nation. Their defense remained ranked in the bottom 10 in the country overall. Additionally, the Cougars rank just below the Beavers in returning production at 85th in the nation, with only 36% of its production returning. 

 

The Beavers will look to end their losing streak against their division rival Cougars by capitalizing on their weak defense and hoping that the growing pains continue for the Washington State offense under their new coach. 

 

After that, the Beavers will get a week of rest before hosting the Utah Utes at Reser Stadium on October 23. The Utes are another team that Oregon State has struggled against, as they have been beaten by Utah five straight times. 

 

In 2020, the Beavers lost by just one score in a tight 30-24 game in Salt Lake City. Despite the loss, one thing to note is that Utah is  last in the nation in terms of returning production. Utah has only 37% of its 2020 production returning, with the next closest team having a whole four percent more at 41%.

 

Although the returning production may be low, it is worth noting that the Utes had one of the strongest rushing defenses in the country, coming in at 11th in the nation last year. On the flip side, their secondary was not too strong with their passing game, ranking 99th in the nation. The Beavers will hope to take advantage of Utah’s lack of experience and focus on targeting Utah’s secondary. 

 

Next, Oregon State will travel to Berkeley to face the Cal Golden Bears on October 30. The Beavers have beat Cal two years in a row. In the past 10 years, the series is tied at 5-5 and its been historically close in general, with Cal holding a slight edge of three wins over the Beavers, with a 38-35 record overall. 

 

Last year, Cal struggled with COVID-19 related issues and finished with a 1-3 record in a shortened season. Their offense was ranked 111th in the nation. Despite this, the Golden Bears return 93% of their offensive production, which is number one in the nation. The defense only returns 50% of its production, but it was the strong point of their 2020 season with the secondary ranking in the top 25 in the nation in stopping the pass game. Cal looks likely to rebound well from a difficult season.

The Beavers will then stay on the road and travel to Boulder for their next game, facing the Colorado Buffaloes on November 6. They have faced off six times since the last conference realignment, and the two have split those games 3-3. Their last game was in 2018, where the Beavers had a 28 point comeback win to snap Oregon State’s 22 game road losing streak. 

 

Last season, new head coach Karl Dorrell led the Buffaloes to a 4-3 record and bowl berth.This was done on the backs of an impressive rushing attack that ranked in the top 25 in the country led by the then-freshman running back Jarek Broussard ,who had nearly 1000 yards from scrimmage on the season. He is part of an offense that brings back 76% of its production. 

 

Despite the strong offense, Colorado’s defense was below-average last year, ranking 77th in the nation overall. In fact, the Buffaloes actually gave up more points than they scored last year. This is something that the Beavers will look to capitalize on. 

 

The Beavers then travel back to Corvallis to face the Stanford Cardinal on November 13. Stanford currently has an 11-game winning streak against Oregon State. The last two matchups have been heartbreaking three point losses for the Beavers. Standing in the way of that hope, however, is the fact that the Cardinal went 4-2 last season and return 73% of that production, good for top 30 in the nation. 

 

However, the Cardinal were actually outscored overall on the season despite their winning record, just like the Buffaloes. Weak spots include a rushing defense that ranked 112th in the country and a rushing offense that ranked 95th. Their passing offense was strong, ranking in the top 25 in the country.

 

The Beavers get to stay in Corvallis for the whole week after that, as their next matchup against the Arizona State Sun Devils on November 20. The Beavers have faced the Sun Devils for the last four years, winning a nailbiter in 2019 and losing the other three games, including the one last year. 

 

Arizona State’s 2020 season was odd, as COVID-19 limited the team to only four games. They went 2-2, yet had the 12th best offense in the nation and the 32nd best defense in terms of points per game. This was largely due to the historic 70-7 beatdown of their instate rivals, the Arizona Wildcats. Their two losses, meanwhile, were close one score affairs which could have easily gone the other way. 

 

Arizona State is also strengthened by the fact that they return 76% of the production on their defense and junior quarterback Jayden Daniels on offense. Their biggest strength is their rushing offense, which was top 10 in the country. 

 

A reason for hope, however, comes from the fact that despite the fact that Arizona State ranked 32nd in points given up per game, it was actually a bottom 40 defense in terms of yards given up, signaling a defense that overachieved. If the Beavers can break through in the red zone consistently against the Sun Devils, they should stand a chance. Regardless, the Sun Devils may well be the toughest opponent on the schedule for the Beavers up to this point. 

 

However, Oregon State’s next opponent poses a challenge to that title. The final game of the season comes against in-state rival, the Oregon Ducks in Eugene on November 27. The Ducks are reigning conference champions and played in a New Year’s Six bowl, losing to Iowa State. 

Oregon’s record was only 4-3 last year and the team returns only 57% of its production, good for 89th in the nation. However, this is still a program that has pulled in the top recruiting class in the PAC-12 for the past three years, meaning the team is stacked with top recruits. This includes sophomore defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux, a favorite for PAC-12 defensive player of the year. 

 

Talent like that can be overwhelming in college football, although Oregon didn’t quite show it last year, with middling rankings in almost all the important statistics. They ranked no higher than 47th in the country in terms of total yards on rushing or passing offense or defense. 

 

One statistic in which they did stand out though, is turnover margin. Here, they ranked in the bottom five of the country for turnover margin per game. This is a worrisome statistic for the Ducks, but something that the Beavers could capitalize on. 

 

Oregon will be a favorite for this game. However, the Beavers could take advantage and dominate the turnover battle against a team without a definitive difference maker on offense and pull off a second straight upset in the rivalry game to finish the season strong. 

 

In the end, the Beavers will look to make a bowl game, their first since 2013. Oregon State fans will finally be able to cheer their team on in person, and watch the team grow throughout the season.