OREGON STATE BEAVERS (0-0)
at COLORADO STATE RAMS (0-0)
Kickoff: Saturday, 2:30 p.m. ET
Line: Colorado State -3.5, Total: 60.5
The college football season opens as high-scoring Colorado State debuts their new stadium, hosting Oregon State.
Oregon State showed some improvement in Gary Andersen’s second year as head coach, salvaging a rough 2016 season with wins over Arizona and Oregon to close the year at 4-8. Much like it was during his time at Wisconsin, Andersen’s offense is based around an effective running game that is chock full of talent, and junior college star QB Jake Luton is primed to improve a passing game that was impotent last season. The defense has a lot of work to do if the Beavers are going to play in a bowl game, though a handful of promising young players are returning. Colorado State righted the ship after a 3-4 start to 2016, winning four of their last five regular season games to earn a bowl berth. Unfortunately, their flimsy defense allowed 606 total yards in a 61-50 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl loss to Idaho. While the defense was inconsistent, the Rams offense was a juggernaut in the second half of last season and returns all of its skill position talent, including QB Nick Stevens and All-MWC WR Michael Gallup. These two teams haven’t met since 1975, and this will be the first game ever played at CSU’s new on-campus stadium. This game was moved from Sep. 23 to “Week Zero” because Colorado State’s conference schedule locked them into playing 12-straight weeks with the season’s final week off; the rescheduling of this game allows them a Week 4 bye. Oregon State has lost its last 13 road games, going 5-8 ATS in that span, which dates back to Oct. 2014. Colorado State was 5-1 SU & 4-1-1 ATS at home in 2016.
Oregon State relies heavily on the ground game. RB Ryan Nall scored 15 TD while averaging 95.1 rushing yards per game and 6.5 yards per carry last season, and RB Artavis Pierce (529 rushing yards, 5.3 yards per carry) tallied 111 total yards and two TD in his lone start last season. Transfer RBs Thomas Tyner (Oregon) and Trevorris Johnson (TCU) give the Beavers a deep stable of capable runners. OSU managed just 174 passing yards per game last season (100th in the nation), but junior college transfer QB Jake Luton, who threw for 3,551 yards and 40 TD at Ventura College last season, should upgrade the passing attack. Returning WRs Jordan Villamin (1,491 career receiving yards) and Seth Collins, an athletic former QB, give Luton skilled targets to work with. The Beavers defense allowed 185.5 rushing yards per game (105th in FBS) and 5.3 yards per carry (114th), but returns most of its key players in the defensive front, including LBs Manase Hungalu (83 total tackles) and Bright Ugwoegbu (5.5 sacks, 11 TFL). The secondary was the strength of the defense, allowing just 6.3 yards per pass attempt (16th in FBS) last season. While two starters are gone, CB Xavier Crawford, a Freshman All-American last year, has a chance to be special.
Colorado State QB Nick Stevens was benched after an awful Week 1 showing, but when injuries forced him back into the lineup, the Rams averaged 44.3 points per game in the second half of the year. Stevens threw for 1,856 yards, 19 TD and three INT in those seven games, and he has a firm grasp on the starting gig entering 2017. Top WRs Michael Gallup (1,272 yards, 14 TD) and Bisi Johnson (613 yards, 4 TD) return, as does moving chess piece Detrich Clark, a former junior college QB who’s listed as WR but logged 37 carries for 250 yards and three TD in 2016. Last season’s productive RB trio of Dalyn Dawkins (1,081 total yards, 5 total TD), Izzy Matthews (790, 13) and Marvin Kinsey (593, 6) is also still intact. CSU’s defense endured an up-and-down season, shutting out Fresno State in early November, but allowing 49 points to Air Force the next week and 61 points to Idaho in a bowl game. LB Deonte Clyburn, a top performer in 2015, returns after missing all of last season because of blood clots. Josh Watson (90 total tackles, 7.5 TFL), Evan Colorito (10 TFL) and Tre Thomas (7 TFL) round out a solid linebacking unit. The Rams allowed a whopping 8.5 passing yards per attempt (117th in the nation), but return some experience, including safeties Jake Schlager (72 total tackles) and Braylin Scott (3 INT). The defensive line also returns plenty of veterans to a unit that struggled last year, led by DLs Toby McBride (4 sacks, 7 TFL) and Jakob Buys (3 sacks, 4 TFL).