Last Season: 7-6 (4-5) Pac-12
After they finished 9-4 in 2012, many polls had Oregon State solidly in the top 25 and hopes were high in Beaverton. With an extremely backloaded schedule, they had time to develop a new starting QB and find some cohesion before they finished the regular season with the five-week gauntlet of Stanford, USC, at Arizona State, Washington, and at Oregon. Many expected the Beavers would be 7-0 when they hit that final stretch but as it turned out, they couldn’t even get to 1-0. An embarrassing home-loss to Eastern Washington of the FCS was not how anyone in the program wanted to start the season. They won their next six before they hit that murderer’s-row of Pac-12 schools and finished the season on a five-game losing streak to end the year 6-6. As far as bright spots, the Beavers finished third in the country in passing yards per game (372.6) and won the Hawaii Bowl over Boise State 38-23 .
The biggest loss for the Beavers is pretty obvious. In 2013, Brandin Cooks won the Biletnikoff Award (given to the best wide receiver in the country); was named first team all-conference, a consensus All-American; and set single-season Pac-12 records in receptions (128) and receiving yards (1,730). He set the Oregon State single-season record for TD receptions with 16, and left as the school’s all-time leader in TD receptions (24) despite only playing three years. He was drafted by the New Orleans Saints in the first round of the NFL draft.
Keys for this year
Heisman Potential – Before last season, there was something of a quarterback controversy in Beaverton. Cody Vaz and Sean Mannion had both played extensively the year before, and despite naming Mannion a captain in the offseason, coach Mike Riley waited until the week before their first game to name him the starter. It took him a while, but he made the right decision. Mannion finished the season first in the Pac-12 in passing yards (4,662) and passing touchdowns (37), as well as second in completion percentage (66.3%). He’ll have to find a way to replace the huge numbers that Cooks put up, but with RB Storm Woods, WRs Richard Mullaney and Malik Gilmore, and TE Connor Hamlett returning — Mannion will have plenty of weapons around him. The senior even has an outside shot at Heisman contention if the Beavers make a big move this season. Defensively – The Beavers have to do better against the run than they did last season, when they allowed opposing teams to rush for an average of 190.3 yards per game (almost 100 more than their 94.4-yard offensive average). Only one starter will return to the D-line which could be a good thing if addition-by-subtraction is a legit concept.
Oregon State should be reserved in their expectations after last season — better to under-promise and over-deliver. With Mannion firmly established as the starter and eight other starters returning to what was one of the Pac-12’s best offenses a season ago, expect the Beavers to at least compete with the big boys of the Pac-12 North. Oregon and Stanford are both run-heavy teams — even if they differ greatly in approach — so Oregon State will have to figure out a way to stop the run. Expect a big season from Sean Mannion. The Pac-12 North title might be too much to expect, but if Mannion puts the team on his back like he has shown he is capable of and improves his efficiency numbers, it’s not out of play. Hope for the best, expect the worst, Beaver fans.