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What to Expect from Oregon State in Week 4 and Beyond

Fresh off a week 3 bye, the smoke is beginning to clear on the Beavers' squad, but there are still many unknowns.

Steven Nelson's pick-six propelled OSU over SDSU last year. Can they repeat?
Steven Nelson's pick-six propelled OSU over SDSU last year. Can they repeat?
Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODA

The Beavers are 2-0, and though the wins weren't flawless, fans are optimistic, maybe thanks to those rose-colored glasses that bye weeks so often come with. By and large, Oregon State's experienced and deep on both sides of the ball, and if they can improve as the season wears on, like most Mike Riley teams do, the season could be more of a success than some imagined.

Yet there is very little buzz (even less than usual) around the Beavers. This can partially be blamed on playing only 2 games, and partially on simply not doing anything to garner any type of attention. They've had relatively comfortable wins against Portland State and Hawaii, as expected, while teams that are arguably inferior have done more to get headlines. Cal knocked off Northwestern, Arizona has a new shiny toy in Anu Solomon, Travis Wilson returned for Utah, and those stories, combined with the upper-level talent in the conference, led by Oregon, has squeezed out any room for the Beavs.

A win against San Diego State would probably begin to change that and turn the Beavs into a sexy upset pick against USC in week 5. The Aztecs are 1-1, their loss being a 31-27 nailbiter against UNC in Chapel Hill, which probably should've been a win for SDSU. The Aztecs blew a 10-point lead in the 4th quarter, and QB Quinn Kaehler, who'd already thrown one interception in the quarter, drove SDSU to the 3 yard line with 20 seconds left, only to throw the game-sealing interception in the end zone. It was similar to last year's OSU-SDSU ending, where the Aztecs lost a 13-point lead in the final quarter, punctuated by a Steven Nelson pick-6, and another Kaehler interception on the following drive that doomed the Aztecs to a 34-30 loss.

The Aztecs have shown improvements since then, despite losing their leading rusher Adam Muema this year. San Diego State will still run a lot, this year with D.J. Pumphrey, and on defense will employ a 3-3-5, with many plays designed to confuse and rattle Sean Mannion, who lit up the Aztecs last year. However, unlike last year, when the Beavers averaged .5 yards/carry against SDSU, the OSU offensive line doesn't appear to be completely inept at run blocking, and they should be able to beat their whopping 10 yards of rushing yards they picked up last year against SDSU.

There's no doubt the Aztecs are talented, but at home the improved Beavers should take care of business, and begin to pick up some attention due to the 7:30 PM start time. To do this, the Beavers will have to show that the ugly 2nd half against Hawaii and ugly 1st half against Portland State were the fluky halves, and not the ones where they dominated. Something to keep an eye on is the O-line play, as they somehow managed to pick up more injuries over the past couple weeks, and are still missing Isaac Seumalo. The O-line has regressed since last year in terms of protecting Sean Mannion, but they've been serviceable, and considering the huge steps forward in the run game, they've done their job.

Oregon State has held their opponent scoreless in 5 of the 8 quarters they've played. The other 3 include 14 points in the 2nd quarter against Portland State and 23 points in the 4th against Hawaii. Nobody really stands out on the Beaver defense, and really no unit does either. The secondary, linebackers, and defensive line are all playing at roughly the same level, and the result should be solid, consistent performances, even if they haven't put it together quite yet.

The biggest problem for the Beavers are penalties. They're worst in the nation in both penalties/game and penalty yardage/game. Most of the miscues have been pre-snap, which have hopefully been corrected over the bye week. If not, there's a long season with lots of whistles coming for the Beavs.

Beating San Diego State is a necessary step for the Beavers to prove they're not as low on the Pac-12 totem pole as many have them. If they look ahead to the USC matchup, however, they may fall to an Aztec team hungry for revenge.