Oregon State enters Saturday’s season opener atColorado State - the first game on the 2017 FBS calendar - craving a bowl berthafter three straight sub-.500 seasons. The Beavers will be playing in a daunting,high-altitude environment against one of the Mountain West Conference’s betterteams, which also will be opening its new 36,500-seat on-campus stadium in frontof a sellout crowd.
Oregon State finished 4-8 a year ago in coach GaryAndersen’s second season in Corvallis - doubling their 2015 victory total and finishing3-6 in the Pac-12 a year after a winless conference campaign. Now, the focus ison making a similar jump this fall and playing in the postseason for the firsttime since 2013. “This year you can just feel it,” senior safety BrandonArnold recently told the Oregonian newspaper. “You can tell that everybody isvery serious about trying to win. (Everybody) wants that bowl game, wantssomething better.” The Rams have made four straight bowlappearances but their sights are set on christening CSU Stadium’s debut seasonwith their first Mountain West championship since 2002.
TV: 2:30 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network. LINE: ColoradoState -4
ABOUT OREGON STATE (2016: 4-8): Picked fifth inthe Pac-12 North preseason media poll, the Beavers have one of the league’s most experienced teams with 17 returning starters. However, senior quarterback Darell Garretson will take a back seat to VenturaCC/Idaho transfer Jake Luton, who was a Junior College All-American last seasonwhile setting Ventura records with 3,551 passing yards and 40 touchdown tosses.Luton will rely heavily on junior tailback Ryan Nall, the Pac-12’s third-leadingreturning rusher, and an experienced defense bringing back nine starters - highlighted by linebackers Manase Hungalu and Bright Ugwoegbu and cornerbackXavier Crawford.
ABOUT COLORADO STATE (2016: 7-6): Rams coach Mike Bobo is also entering his third season at the helm in FortCollins and has one of the Mountain West’s most experienced rosters with 16returning starters. Senior quarterback Nick Stevens, who boasted the nation’shighest passing-efficiency rating from Oct. 11 to the end of last season, wasan honorable mention all-conference selection despite barely starting half ofthe Rams’ games and was joined on the All-Mountain West squad by wide receiverMichael Gallup (first team) and center Jake Bennett (second team). Defensivelineman Darnell Thompson, linebacker Josh Watson and safety Jake Schlagerheadline a defense which ranked in the middle of the Mountain West pack with419.2 yards and 30.4 points allowed per game.
1. This will only be the third meeting betweenthe two programs and first since 1975.
2. Oregon State will be without leading returningreceiver Seth Collins, a converted quarterback, due to a finger injury.
3. The game was originally slated for Sept. 23,but the Beavers agreed with Colorado State’s request to move the contest up in order to break up a jam-packed schedule which had featured 12straight weeks without a bye.
PREDICTION: Colorado State 38, Oregon State 24