1. What was most improved between this week and last for Oregon State?
Hawaii's offense is not anything to write home about, of course, but the Beaver defense definitely improved in week two. There were not nearly as many missed tackles, and the guys actually looked like they were in football shape. There was only one drive in which the Rainbow Warriors got anything going, and the team quickly got focused after looking at the scoreboard and realized a game they dominated most of was all of the sudden tied. If anything, the performance will give them a boost of confidence heading into Salt Lake City, especially knowing they performed better than USC did against the same team.
2. Where would you rank Sean Mannion among Pac-12 quarterbacks?
I would say Sean Mannion is in the top three, behind Marcus Mariota and Brett Hundley. He certainly does not have the dual-threat ability of Oregon's and UCLA's signal callers, but his ability to find receivers for big gains and touchdowns makes up for it. His decision-making has also been better so far in 2013, with only one ball he would want to have back, the momentum turning pick-six against Hawaii in the second quarter. Mannion is in firm control of the offense and is spreading his passes out nicely, not only hitting top wideout Brandin Cooks, but a nice combination of other receivers and tight ends as well. He is also flying a bit under the radar, likely a by-product of the loss to Eastern Washington, and that should help his numbers as the season progresses.
3. If there's one thing that frustrates you the most about the Beavers, it's ________ because _______.
The most bothersome is a little off the radar, but I hate when Mannion throws short of the sticks on third and long. I did not mention it above because I do not know if it is a quarterbacking fault, or should be pinned on Mike Riley or offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf (in actuality, probably all three of them), but it happens at least three times a game. If your first two downfield options are covered, Sean cannot be scared into throwing a four yard dropoff that is covered like a blanket, and has no chance of getting the remaining three or so yards to move the chains. Tucking in and trying to make a play with his feet, which would surprise the defense, would be a much better option. Actually, calling a play to send every eligible receiver/tight end/running back past the marker would be the best decision.
4. If there's one thing that excites you the most about the Beavers, it's ________ because _______.
A tie between two entities, the first of which is a no-brainer; the play of Mannion and Cooks. The duo is the best thing this team has going for it, and as proved on Saturday, even double coverage on #7 cannot hold him down for a significant length of time. Contrary to what Oregonian columnist John Canzano thinks, it would be pretty boneheaded NOT to have two of the best players in the conference touch the ball consistently. Secondly, the inner Big Ten fan in me loves our kicking game so far. Trevor Romaine's kickoffs have either been inside the five yardline or into the end zone, and Keith Kostol's punts have been tremendous, both in height and length.
5. Do you like Oregon State's chances on the road against Utah? What most concerns you?
I am not. What concerns me the most? Oh, just the fact Utah is averaging 50 PPG. Or that the OSU defense is unproven against a solid team. Michael Doctor is out. Roman Sapolu is out. Grant Enger is out. Isaac Seumalo is changing positions. Grant Bays is making his first collegiate start at right guard. The Beavers are 0-2 at Rice-Eccles since 2008. With that said, Oregon State has still yet to show its maximum potential, and if everyone fires on all cylinders, they should be in it late and have a chance to win on a late drive or recovered onside kick. But at this point, it would just be silly to pick a Beaver win. I'll say 28-24 Utes.