Countdown to 2014 – No. 7 – Oregon State

Note … This is the sixth in a series of previews for the 2014 season, ranking CU’s opponents from the easiest to most difficult.

Previously posted … No. 12 Massachusetts; No. 11 Hawai’i; No. 10 California; No. 9 Colorado State; and No. 8 Utah


Oregon State is the Pac-12 program with which Colorado is least familiar. The Beavers and Buffs have met only six times in their respective histories, with the meeting last September the first between the two teams since 1988.

Even the one meeting in conference play contested between the two teams was unusual. The Buffs traveled to Corvallis with a 2-0 record on the 2013 season, with wins over Colorado State and Central Arkansas … but it was also their first road trip of the 2013 season, and was coming after a three week layoff. The Fresno State game two weeks before had been cancelled due to heavy rains and flooding in Boulder, giving CU an undesired pair of bye weeks.

Colorado stayed with Oregon State for almost a half, trailing 10-3 before surrendering a Sean Mannion-to-Brandin Cooks touchdown pass with 16 seconds before the half. A 21-0 third quarter led to a 44-17 finish, with CU picking up a consolation touchdown from Connor Wood to Paul Richardson with 13 seconds to play.

Both Brandin Cooks and Paul Richardson opted for the NFL, with both players taken quickly (Cooks No. 20 overall; Richardson No. 45). Connor Wood is also gone for Colorado … but Sean Mannion returns for the Beavers.

Had Mannion chosen to play in an NFL stadium this fall, the Buffs’ chances at picking up a victory in the first home conference game this fall would have risen considerably. As it is, Mannion’s presence makes this a tough game to call.

2013 Season

Oregon State’s 2013 season was a roller coaster ride.

The Beavers opened with a 49-46 loss to Eastern Washington (the same Eagle team which gave CU fits in a 31-24 Buff win in 2008). Left for dead by the national media, Oregon State rebounded with a 33-14 win over Hawai’i and an exciting 51-48 overtime win on the road over Utah. A close win over San Diego State and a comfortable win over Colorado allowed the Beavers to escape September with a 4-1 record.

After mauling Washington State (52-24) and Cal (49-17), Oregon State was 6-1, 4-0 in Pac-12 play, and looking for more.

Then reality set in.

Done with the easy portion of the schedule, Oregon State ran the gauntlet of Stanford, USC, Arizona State, Washington and Oregon … and lost every game. The Beavers hung tough against Stanford (20-12), but got worse each successive week for a month, capped by a humbling 69-27 loss to Washington.

Left for dead a second time, Oregon State again responded. The Beavers lost the Civil War to Oregon, 36-35, but gave the Ducks all they could handle. Then, rather than whimper into the 2014 season with a six game losing streak, Oregon State took out Boise State in the Hawai’i Bowl, 38-23, to cap a 7-6 season.


Sean Mannion returns, which is the good news for the orange-and-black. Last season, Mannion set a Pac-12 record with 4,662 passing yards (CU quarterbacks combined for 2,989 passing yards) with 37 touchdowns (CU – 21).

The bad news for Mannion and new offensive coordinator John Garrett (who replaced Danny Langsdorf, who left Oregon State to become the quarterbacks coach for the New York Giants) is that Mannion doesn’t have Cooks to throw to any longer. Richard Mullaney (52 receptions, 788 yards, three touchdowns) returns, but after that there are question marks amongst the wideouts, with no other returning receiver with more than seven receptions.

The running game is intriguing. On the one hand, Oregon State was awful running the ball, finishing 115th in the nation in rushing (CU was 108th). On the other, there was a re-birth in the rushing attack in the final two games. The Beavers put up 231 yards rushing against the Ducks in the regular season finale, then ran for 195 more in dominating Boise State in the Hawai’i Bowl. Storm Woods (447 yards) and Terron Ward (521 yards) both return … but will run behind an offensive line which must replace three starters.

If the newly constructed offensive line can’t protect the quarterback, and can’t open holes for a modest running game, it will be a safe bet that Sean Mannion will not be setting any new Pac-12 passing records this fall.


With the offense scoring 34.8 points per game, the Oregon State defense did not have to be dominant in order for the Beavers to win.

The fact that the Beavers finished with a 7-6 record, however, is an indication that the Oregon State defense was far from dominant.

Oregon State gave up 31.4 points per game (90th in the nation) and 436.6 yards per game (100th). The strength of the defense will be the linebackers, where three senior starters return. Three senior defensive backs also return, including two who received honorable mention All-Pac-12 honors last season.

The issue for the defense – aside from improving the overall numbers – comes along the defensive line. Scott Crichton left for the NFL, but the Beavers pick up Miami transfer Jalen Grimble, a former five-star recruit who sat out a transfer year last fall.

As will be the case in Boulder, having returning starters … from an ineffective unit … will either be a blessing or a curse.


Oregon State should be 3-1 when the Beavers come to Boulder for the first time in over a quarter of a century October 4th.

Oregon State opens the season against Portland State at home. Portland State, like Eastern Washington, is from the Big Sky Conference, but the Vikings are not as good as the Eagles, and, even if they were, the Beavers will remember the stinging opening day defeat from last season, and will take no chances in preparing for the 2014 season opener.

After a trip to Hawai’i to take on the Warriors, Oregon State gets a bye before taking on San Diego State at home. The Aztecs gave the Beavers a game at home last season (34-30), but will be hard pressed to stay with Oregon State in Corvallis.

Posting a 3-0 non-conference record will give Oregon State some momentum, but a trip to Los Angeles to face USC to open Pac-12 play will put an end to the winning streak. That leaves the Beavers with a 3-1 overall record when they travel to face the Buffs on October 4th.


Had Sean Mannion decided to take his talents to the NFL, the Colorado/Oregon State game would have been a matchup of fairly equal teams. Both teams would be playing without their star wide receiver. Both teams would be searching for a running game. Both teams would have question marks along the defensive line, with a strong linebacking corps and a defensive backfield with experience – but results indicating a porous unit.

With Sean Mannion back, the Beavers have an advantage, perhaps offset by the game being played in Boulder. Colorado fans – absent collapses in the non-conference schedule – will certainly be up for the Pac-12 home opener. Colorado may also be able to take advantage of getting to play Oregon State earlier in the schedule, before Oregon State’s offensive and defensive lines have an opportunity to form cohesive units.

After playing Oregon State, CU’s next three games will be against USC, UCLA, and Washington – not an easy game in the bunch. If Colorado is to make post-season plans in 2014, the Oregon State contest could be the game which gives the Buff Nation reason to believe a bowl game is a realistic goal.


3 Replies to “2014 Preview – No. 7 – Oregon State”

  1. Geoff, I know what you are saying, but ‘ya got me thinkin’ negatively. 3-2 or 2-3 ? Don’t get ahead of yourself. One game at a time. As in golf, one shot at a time. In football, one play at a time and knowing what your assignment is. Play in the moment with everything you have to bring to the table. Until proven otherwise, I say we are undefeated. 13-0 baby !!

  2. Oregon State is the second Pac-12 home game of the year for the Buffs. Arizona State comes to Boulder Sept. 13. Buffs could be sitting at 4-1 if they take care of business against Cal and CSU, but the crowd could be less of a factor if Buffs are sitting at 3-2, or worst case scenario, 2-3.

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