Before Oregon State can worry about an upcoming meeting with another top 10 opponent, it has a potentially challenging hurdle to clear in its home opener.
The No. 25 Beavers look to bounce back from a season-opening loss when they face Louisville on Saturday.
Oregon State has had some time to ponder a 30-21 defeat to then-No. 6 TCU at Cowboys Stadium on Sept. 4. The Beavers hung with the favored Horned Frogs until a fourth-quarter safety all but put the game out of reach.
“I think you learn a lot about your team against top-notch opponents, and then the players learn a lot about playing in big games,” Beavers coach Mike Riley said.
Though Louisville (1-1) has been inconsistent early on under new coach Charlie Strong, looking past the Cardinals could be dangerous for a Beavers team that faces No. 3 Boise State on the road Sept. 25.
Oregon State could be the last major roadblock standing in the way of a perfect season for the Broncos.
“We’re going to be tested. By the time we get to the Pac-10 we’ll have played some tremendous competition,” said Riley, whose squad opens league play against Arizona State on Oct. 2.
First, the Beavers need to get star Jacquizz Rodgers back on track as they try to win their ninth straight home opener.
The junior averaged nearly 111 rushing yards last season, but was limited to 75 yards on 18 carries by a traditionally tough TCU defense. He was held without a catch after recording 78 in 2009.
Ryan Katz also must improve after he went 9 of 25 for 159 yards and two touchdowns in his first start for Oregon State.
The Beavers could see both of those things occur against Louisville, which has allowed 696 yards through two games. The Cardinals gave up 230 on the ground in a 23-16 season-opening loss to Kentucky on Sept. 4.
“It’s going to be a great challenge for us,” Strong said. “(Oregon State is) quick and (has) a lot of speed and (is) a consistent as a team in all of these things. You just hope they don’t run by you.
“We’ve got to have great composure. We need to go in and ride the highs and lows of the game.”
Louisville has failed to do that at times this season, and the Cardinals will have to be better in that area as they try to avoid a 10th consecutive road loss.
They scored all their points in the first half last Saturday, then struggled to maintain their intensity during a 23-13 win over Eastern Kentucky.
“We just have to put together a 60-minute game,” Strong said. “We have to be consistent.”
Bilal Powell rushed for 153 yards against Kentucky and 92 with two touchdowns last week. The senior could be in for another big game against an Oregon State defense that allowed TCU to rush for 278 yards.
Louisville won 63-27 at home in the schools’ only meeting in 2005. The Cardinals, though, have dropped their last three road games against Top 25 opponents.