Oregon State doesn't seem to really like starting a football season. They've had some great sparks to finish seasons sure, but starting one? That's not their style. They would rather eat the early losses and take them as learning bumps to absorb for experience for the rest of the season. It's just how they roll. Better to get to the Rose Bowl rather than reaching beyond the team's current capacity.
However, Mike Riley might not be quite so ready to do that here against Wisconsin, because the Beavers frankly might not be very good and Riley can't afford the losses as much as before. There's a lot more to lose for Riley, who isn't in danger of losing his job but could very well see the signs of things beginning to spice up just a little in Corvallis. He's going to have to start treating every win seriously if he expects to keep on coming back, and the win process has to start here.
Oregon State starts their season with a returning signal-caller in Sean Mannion. Mannion is exceptionally talented and has all the framework to become one of the best quarterbacks in the conference with his NFL-frame and his jaw-dropping measureables, but he has a lot to learn as a quarterback before he's ready to even share the same breath with the pros. He struggled in his first season with the interceptions, although he did prove he could move the football and solid completion rate.
The bigger question for Oregon State is can their defense stop anyone, particularly the road-grading Badger offensive line? Last year they got run over at Camp Randall in one of the more futile defeats in recent memory, but the Beavers should be a bit better this time around. Not oodles better, but definitely better. They have more experience up front and the run defense shouldn't be the sieve it once was, and Wisconsin's QB is new. Unfortunately, the Beavers will still have to deal with Montee Ball, which means Oregon State is probably looking up in their pathway to victory.
SB Nation Snippets
Building the Dam talked about the changes in the offense this year for Oregon State in an interview with the Wisconsin site Bucky's 5th Quarter.
B5Q: What kind of offense will Oregon State run this year, and is it any different than last year's? Is Mannion the undisputed starter? Badgers fans saw what seemed like an odd rotation between himself and Ryan Katz in Madison last year. Katz has since transferred to San Diego State.
BTD: It will be the same offense, scheme wise. Coach Mike Riley doesn't change things much. But Riley has taken over play calling, so the mix of those play could be better. And the offense will know who is playing quarterback.
At the time we met last year, no one, Mannion and the rest of the offense included, except Riley knew he was about to become "the guy". Riley became fascinated with Mannion in camp, but totally botched the switch, something even he later admitted.
You guys saw the last of Katz, as neither he nor anyone else but Mannion took a snap the rest of the season. So he did opt to transfer to San Diego St., where he's now the Aztec's starter.
Mannion is now firmly established as the starter, or at least we believe so (Everyone in the Pac-12 thought Katz was at this time last year, though, so who really knows?, and Storm Woods is the starting running back, a position which was also completely up in the air in Madison.
Badger fans have to be pretty pleased with new quarterback Danny O'Brien, who completed 19 of 23 passes, for 219 yards and 2 scores, and with no interceptions. That 83% accuracy especially stood out. Did you expect that good of a performance? Can he sustain it?
Badger fans were indeed thrilled by O'Brien, who reminded many of Scott Tolzien, the quarterback of the 2011 Rose Bowl team. That means he was accurate, efficient and generally mistake-free. There was no reason to expect anything different from O'Brien, and also no reason to expect anything different moving forward. O'Brien connected with seven different receivers -- including Ball and fullback Derek Watt -- to show a comforting rapport with his new pass catchers.
It is worth noting, though, that Badger fans did taste post-Russell Wilson life, and it may not be what they expected. After all, Wilson's quick ascension to the top of the Seattle Seahawks' depth chart should show how exceptional of a quarterback he is. Wilson hit the ground running in his own Week 1 performance last season, completing 10 of 13 passes for 255 yards and two touchdowns, as well as rushing twice for 62 yards and another score against UNLV. Wilson might've very well been a one-time exception of truly dynamic scoring potential for Wisconsin's offense, but as long as O'Brien follows a similar mold to Tolzien's senior season, he should be fine. Of course, actually winning the Rose Bowl would make things even better.