A look into OSU’s 2021 football season. Part 1: The Out of Conference Slate

Thomas Salgado de Almeida Leme, Sports Contributor

The 2021 college football season is right around the corner, so it’s time for Oregon State fans to start looking ahead to what the Beavers will be up against in their quest to go bowling this year. 

First up, are the three out of conference games for Oregon State, the appetizers which will set the scene for what’s to come for the main course, the PAC-12 conference slate. 

The season will begin with the premier out of conference matchup against another Power 5 conference team, the Purdue Boilermakers in West Lafayette, Indiana on Sept. 4. The Beavers have only faced the Boilermakers once before in their history, an Oregon State win in Indiana all the way back in 1967. 

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The Beavers will thus look to repeat that matchup to start their season strong by beating a fellow power conference team. The two teams look evenly matched on paper. Both finished their shortened 2020 seasons with only two wins, albeit the Beavers had five losses compared to only four for Purdue. 

Further statistics do little to pick apart the teams, as Purdue scored 27.2 points per game last year while giving up 29.8. These ranked 73rd and 67th in the nation respectively. Oregon State had similar numbers, being slightly better on defense but slightly worse on offense, scoring 28.9 points per game while giving up 33.3, good for 60th and 93rd in the country respectively. 

The strengths and weaknesses seem to match up well as well. Oregon State was primarily a rushing offense, and Purdue was better at stopping the run than the pass. On the other hand, Purdue ran most of its offense through the air, and stopping a pass attack was Oregon State’s strength last season.

Where there’s finally a difference between the teams is in terms of returning production. According to ESPN’s formula to measure how much production returns from a team from year to year, Purdue ranked 20th in the nation with 70% of both their offensive and defensive production returning whereas Oregon State is all the way down in 84th place with only 35% of their offensive production staying on the team, although the Beavers situation is helped by 82% of the defense returning. 

Thus, fans can probably expect a tight affair between two similarly skilled teams to open the season, although home field advantage and more experience may give Purdue a slight edge. 

The Beavers will then return to Corvallis to face the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors on Sept. 11. Hawaii is not a power conference opponent, which would usually mean an advantage for the Beavers. However, the Rainbow Warriors are not to be overlooked. 

Last time the two teams faced off, Hawaii came away with a close win in Honolulu in 2019, the first game of this home and home series. Since then though, Hawaii lost its coach from that game, Nick Rolovich. Despite that, they had a successful year under new Coach Todd Graham in 2020. They made it to the New Mexico Bowl game with a 4-4 record, and then beat their opponent Houston to finish with a winning record on the season. 

This was done with a completely different approach than they had with Rolovich, going from an explosive air raid team to a more balanced team under Graham who focused on both passing and rushing and an improved defense. 

Despite this though, Hawaii ranks 103rd in the country in returning production and thus 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. 

Thus, Beavers fans should expect a tough matchup from Hawaii despite the fact that they are a completely different team from the one Oregon State lost to in 2019. 

The team will stay in Corvallis for the next week, as on Sept. 18 the Beavers will face the Idaho Vandals in Reser Stadium. The Vandals play a division below the Beavers, in the Football Championship Subdivision  level of college football. 

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the last FCS season was played in the spring of 2021 instead of the fall of 2020 like Football Bowl Subdivision teams such as the Beavers did. Thus, it was just in the middle of April that Idaho finished their last season, where they accumulated a record of 2-4. 

The talent gap between FCS and FBS is wide, with upsets rarely happening. 

For example, last time Oregon State played Idaho, in 2006, the game ended in a score of 38-0 in favor of the Beavers. Pair that with the fact that Idaho was a below average team at their level just a couple months ago, and Beavers fans should reasonably expect a comfortable game against the Vandals. 

With that, the Beavers will conclude the out of conference part of the schedule, giving the nation a look at what to expect from the team before the PAC-12 schedule commences.