In the 100 days leading up to the kickoff of the college football season on Saturday, Aug. 26, HERO Sports is ranking the top 100 teams in the FBS. You can find all the rankings and previews here.
No. 57 Oregon State
Oregon State ended the season with two victories, their first winning streak in two seasons under Gary Andersen. They return a Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year candidate in running back Ryan Nall, two veteran receivers and nearly a dozen key players on a much-improved and deep defensive line.
However, a difficult schedule — including arguably the hardest month of October in college football — might prevent the Beavers' from improving win-loss improvement.
2016 Record: 4-8 (3-6, Pac-12)
Oregon State doubled their win total from 2015 and — after going winless in the Pac-12 in Gary Andersen's first season — the Beavers won three games in the conference. They beat Oregon in the Civil War for he first time since 2007.
However, their most impressive games and ones that showed serious signs of improvement were losses. They held Utah to 19 points, narrowly fell to Washington State, 35-21, and trailed Stanford by eight points in the fourth quarter.
Head Coach: Gary Andersen (3rd, 6-18 overall)
It'll take a decade of winning for Gary Andersen's win-loss record to be attractive after going 2-10 (0-9, Pac-12) in his first season, though that hardly matters for a program reinventing itself after their first coaching change in two decades.
MORE: Andersen: Oregon State's Draft History is a Powerful Statement in Recruiting
"This is a big year for us," Andersen said in June. "It's year three, and I think we can make strides. I'm excited for this team. We have a crew of seniors that we've spent a lot of time with. We're ready to compete. Personally, I think the similarities between us and Utah State are unbelievably familiar. We're excited."
Key Returning Offensive Players
QB Marcus McMaryion, QB Darell Garretson, RB Ryan Nall, RB Art Pierce, WR Jordan Villamin, WR Seth Collins, TE Noah Togiai, OT Blake Brandel, G Gus Lavaka
Gary Andersen hired Jason Phillips to fix a passing attack that has been stagnant the last two seasons. Phillips, the receivers coach and passing game coordinator, came from his receivers post at Kansas and was previously offensive coordinator at SMU and Houston.
"I don't think we're going to overhaul anything or reinvent the wheel, so to speak," Phillips said. "It's just kind of get ideas from me from what I've been a part of over the last 12-15 years and see where those kind of things intersect with what we're currently doing."
The Beavers have yet to name a starting quarterback. Junior Marcus McMaryion and senior Darell Garretson are locked in a three-way battle with JUCO transfer Jake Luton. None of the three separated themselves during spring ball.
The winner will facilitate an offense powered by running back Ryan Nall, a converted h-back/tight end who is averaging 6.4 yards per carry. The big (6-foot-2, 239 pounds) all-purpose back exploded for 951 yards and 13 scores last year.
"He's very elusive. He's a kid that right now we think of as a unicorn," said running backs Telly Lockette. "A kid to be that big, that agile and that fast, you don't see that that often in this game.
Elsewhere, Art Pierce returns as their No. 2 ball-carrier after an outstanding freshman season, as do their second- and third-leading receivers, Seth Collins and Jordan Villamin. Both are capable of 1,000-yard seasons if they can stay healthy. And Noah Togiai returns from a torn ACL to be their primary tight end.
The offensive lost three starters and will rely on two returning sophomore starters in Blake Brandel and Gus Lavaka and a bunch longtime reserves.
Key Returning Defensive Players
DE Baker Pritchard, LB Bright Ugwoegbu, LB Manase Hungalu, LB Andrzej Hughes-Murray, CB Xavier Crawford, S Brandon Arnold, S Jalen Moore
Oregon State's defense had 20 turnovers and 18 interceptions last year. Gary Andersen wants 30 and 30. Only two Pac-12 teams (Utah and Washington) accomplished the feat last year.
Outside linebacker Bright Ugwoegbu was one of two players with more than two sacks (5.5) — the other, Caleb Saulo (four), graduated — and zero players had more than two interceptions. Senior end Baker Pritchard will be imperative in reaching Andersen's goal. The 6-foot-3, 272-pounder needs a breakout season after registering only three tackles for loss and two sacks in his last two years.
Sophomore Hughes-Murray is one of many underclassmen who will significant snaps at linebacker, a group led by Ugwoegbu and Manase Hungalu. Hungalu is one of the better coverage inside linebackers in the conference
The secondary lost corner Treston Decoud and safety Devin Chappell, but return an army of capable playmakers. Safety Brandon Arnold (below) is the lone senior on the two-deep.
Xavier Crawford is back at corner after a Freshman All-American season, and fellow sophomore Jalen Moore returns alongside Arnold at safety.
Notable Player Losses
WR Victor Bolden, OT Sean Harlow, CB Treston Decoud, S Devin Chappell
Victor Bolden is gone after a stat-stuffing career. The hybrid receiver/running back had 2,590 career yards and 10 touchdowns. He signed with the San Francisco 49ers as an undrafted free agent. Also in the NFL is guard Sean Harlow. The Atlanta Falcons' fourth-round pick started 37 games at both tackle spots but is projected as a guard.
Corner Treston Decoud was also drafted after the leading the Beavers in passes defended (10) and interceptions (two). And safety Devin Chappell is also gone. He had seven forced fumbles in 2016.
Notable Player Additions
QB Jake Luton, OT Justin Sattelmaier, C Sumner Houston, DT Craig Evans,
Jake Luton left Idaho after his freshman season (2015) to pursue his dream of playing in the Pac-12. He dominated in one season at Ventura Community College — 3,551 passing yards and 40 touchdowns — and earned an offer from Oregon State.
Another JUCO transfer, offensive tackle Justin Sattelmaier, is competing for snaps on the right side of the line. Sumner Houston, meanwhile, is not new to the Beavers but he is switching sides of the ball, coming over from the defensive line to play center.
Defensively, JUCO transfer Craig Evans bulks up the defensive line He picked Oregon State over offers from Ole Miss and USC.
Hat tip to Oregon State for their willingness to play Colorado State on the road when the Rams open a new stadium. Too bad they won't be rewarded with a friendly schedule.
The Beavers' slate is terrifying. Other than Portland State at home on Sept. 2, they don't have another likely win. They might not even be favored against until Nov. 18 against Arizona State.
|Saturday, Aug. 26||at Colorado State|
|Saturday, Sept. 2||vs. Portland State|
|Saturday, Sept. 9||vs. Minnesota|
|Saturday, Sept. 16||at Washington State|
|Saturday, Sept. 30||vs. Washington|
|Saturday, Oct. 7||at USC|
|Saturday, Oct. 14||vs. Colorado|
|Thursday, Oct. 26||vs. Stanford|
|Saturday, Nov. 4||at Cal|
|Saturday, Nov. 11||at Arizona|
|Saturday, Nov. 18||vs. Arizona State|
|Saturday, Nov. 25||at Oregon|