This coming Saturday, the San Jose State Spartans travel up north to Corvallis, Oregon, to take on the Oregon State Beavers on a Saturday night in Reser Stadium. Since the last time these two teams haven't played since 1997 (where the Beavers hold a slight 3-2 edge in the series between these two), Spartan fans may not be that familiar with the Oregon State program and what to expect from them in this upcoming battle.
I was lucky enough to be able to get in contact with Andy Wooldridge, who covers the Oregon State Beavers on Building The Dam. Andy gives us some great insight on the Beavers program, and what we will most likely see play out on Saturday night.
Let's get right to it:
Collins has the explosive ability to make big plays that no one else on the roster can, but that was the case all along. What he has added is better ability to throw accurately, while Marcus McMaryion, his primary competitor, seems to have regressed in that area. He's also cut down his mistakes, which is what had given Coach Andersen pause initially.
Collins can be counted on for a big run, and probably a highlight hurdle, at some point. But what the fans that didn't miss the first 2 minutes of the Michigan game saw, multiple completions to multiple receivers in different areas of the field, is what will beat someone should he be able to do it on more than 1 or 2 drives during the game.
And the better the passing game, the less opponents can load the box to stop both Collins' scrambles and the regular rushing game.
The Gary Andersen/Dave Baldwin offense is a run first and short pass offense, that in turn looks to make the bigger play out of those smaller ones. Look for Chris Brown running and a lot of crossing routes and dump down passes with the occasional Collins keeper.
The Oregon State offensive line is the most experienced position group on the team with 4 returning starters, plus a prior 2 year starter in Isaac Seumalo who missed all of last season with a foot injury that dated back to the Hawaii Bowl in 2013 against Boise State. As such, it was expected to be a strength of this team, and it was a surprise when the o-line struggled collectively early in the season.
Closer analysis and grading of the first 2 games reveals that the line is playing pretty well, but have been hamstrung by isolated mistakes, and not all by them; the tight end and the receivers and running back all have significant blocking assignments in this offense.
But the one thing that's been an issue is getting good push downfield, which is probably largely a product of the change in blocking style from the pro-style offense these guys have all spent 2-4 years in under the prior coaching staff.
Beyond Collins, WR Jordan Villamin is the biggest threat to any opposing defense. The sophomore is still learning the intricacies of the job, but is Oregon State's leading receiver in terms of both catches and yards. The reason is his 6'5" frame that carries well over 230 lbs, which is a tight end build, doesn't slow him down, and he's a mismatch for most defensive backs.
That mismatch has resulted in opponents having to resort to taking a penalty to stop him in both games so far, so his production actually exceeds his stats.
The defense has exceeded all reasonable expectations. Given that there are only 2 returning starters, and a new system to learn there, expectations weren't very high to begin with though.
But the Beaver defense has been ahead of schedule under Defensive Coordinator Kalani Sitake every step of the way. And a real playmaker has emerged in junior LB Rommel Mangeo.
It was partially that Michigan has more big road graders than the local heavy equipment dealer, and other factors, not bad play by the defense beyond a couple of blown assignments. Oregon State's defense, which had shut out Weber State (the Wildcats' only production came on a pick-6), actually played pretty well until finally wearing down in the 4th quarter.
The 95 yard field flip that special teams miscues caused just before half time set up a first and goal from less than 3 yards out, which it still took the Wolverines 3 plays to pick up, cost 1 touchdown, and 2 of the other 3 tds came in the 4th quarter, when the defense had to contend with their offense sending them back out after going 3 and punt 4 possessions in a row, and just wore down against the massive Michigan front.
It was a shock here, just as it was everywhere else, and so was Coach Riley's departure for Nebr ska the week before. No one expected a hire of this quality, or any hire that quickly.
But once the shock wore off, most fans were excited. They had wanted a change in the defensive system, which Andersen brought, and many were also wanting a more spread and up-tempo offense, which Andersen also brought.
Expectations were and are tempered, as everyone knew this season would be an uphill battle, after graduating Sean Mannion, the most productive quarterback in the history of the program, and the aforementioned almost total turnover of the defense.
There's been some concern that the offense hasn't been more consistent, but most realize that this team is still so lacking in big playmakers on either side of the ball that can make up for a mistake that it only takes one or two players to make one or two mistakes to derail a play, series, or possession, and not be able to make up for it.
Competing with the Ducks will continue to be a challenge, and not just for the Beavers, but there have already been some encouraging signs. Oregon State now has a line into south Florida in assistant coach Telly Lockette that has already been fruitful, and its also become apparent that Andersen is far more creative in his use of where he will go to get a player.
He's also responded to losing a major recruit by having a ready next player he was able to get, something that sometimes was a challenge for Riley's staff.
Andersen's staff is generally a younger group than most of Riley's top assistants, and the appearance (and hope) is that they will relate better to today's high school prospect.