Football Fast Forward: Oregon State
The Pac-12 Networks launch August 15 and will broadcast at least one game from all 12 teams in our first month of football. We can't wait -- each school's Networks debut game is previewed here, with an assist from SB Nation. See if you will get Pac-12 Networks from your TV provider by visiting the Pac-12 Networks Channel Finder. Answers to frequently asked questions are at support.pac-12.org.
By Andy Woolridge, Building The Dam
Oregon State debuts its season—and and its brand new "Field Turf"—against Nicholls State on the Pac-12 Networks, and there will be a lot to check out besides that new surface.
There's no point in ignoring the disappointment of last year's 3-9 season or the fact that the Beavers have missed a bowl game two years in a row for the first time since the 1997 and 1998 seasons, which was the beginning of Mike Riley's collegiate head coaching career.
No one is more disappointed than the players on the team. When the Colonels come to town, it will be the first opportunity for the Beavers to do something about it.
Sophomore quarterback Sean Mannion, who is the first sophomore ever to be named a captain, completed 305 passes for 3,328 yards last season, good for the single-season record for most completions and the third-most yards ever by a Beaver quarterback in one year.
The Pac-12 Networks has promised to deliver the firepower of the country's best passing conference to viewers and this could be one of the best air shows of the season, as Mannion is determined to lead Oregon State back at the expense of opposing secondaries. Despite starting only 10 games last year, Mannion had Oregon State ranked 19th in the nation in passing offense by the end of the season.
Wheaton, Cooks Capable Targets
Watch for senior Marcus Wheaton to be Mannion's main target, but keep an eye on sophomore Brandin Cooks. Cooks became the first true freshman to start at wide receiver in his first game last year in 15 years for Oregon State, averaging 12.6 yards per catch.
It's also the first opportunity for offensive tackle Michael Phillip to take out some frustrations since the two-year starter had to stand by and watch last season unravel. A knee injury sidelined Phillip before the season started and contributed to Oregon State's struggles in both running the ball and pass protection. How this offensive line plays in game one will be a great indicator of how this season will unfold on that side of the ball.
Poyer, Crichton Lead Defense
On the other side of the ball, the Pac-12 Networks telecast will also be the first opportunity to watch the Oregon State secondary, led by Jordan Poyer, who is seemingly on more watch lists than not (Ronnie Lott Trophy, Jim Thorpe Trophy, Bronko Nagurski Trophy).
It will be the first glimpse at the Beavers' secondary under new defensive backs coach Rod Perry, who comes to Corvallis this year after 22 years coaching the position in the NFL.
The Beavers' defense will also feature the edge rush of talented sophomore defensive ends Scott Crichton and Dylan Wynn, who are two more players who should benefit greatly from a year of D-1 experience and a full offseason of strength training and conditioning. The Beavers were one of the youngest teams in the country last year, with 23 first-time starters, including 10 true freshmen. Oregon State hasn't seen the speed these sophomores bring to the position in over a decade, when DeLawrence Grant and Ladarius Jackson help lead the Beavers to a Fiesta Bowl.
No Repeat Of Last Year's Start Likely
There's certainly no chance of Oregon State overlooking a Football Championship Division opponent in Nicholls State after losing last year's opener to Sacramento State. The loss did have a silver lining: It gave Mannion the chance to play and start cementing his role as the signal caller for the Beavers after coming off the bench to direct a comeback from a 15-point deficit in the fourth quarter—heroics that only fell short as a field goal attempt caromed off the goal post upright as time expired.
A win will also move Riley within one of Lon Stiner for most coaching wins at Oregon State.
You can bet on the Beavers pulling out all the stops to make sure momentum for the season is built in the opener, rather than letting it slip away as it did in 2011. And thanks to the Pac-12 Networks, you can watch it, too.