The Beavers battle Washington State in Pullman on Saturday afternoon. We tackle five questions heading into the Pac-12 North showdown.
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1. Can Oregon State finally record a sack?
There are 129 FBS programs in the country, and Oregon State is one of three teams that have yet to record a sack in 2017. Keep in mind that Oregon State played a week zero game and an FCS opponent. For Oregon State to not have an official sack in the stat book is flat out embarrassing.
Outside linebacker Bright Ugwoegbu showed flashes of brilliance last year before suffering a season ending injury. His 2017 campaign has left much more to be desired.
The defensive linemen have been consistently pushed back through three games, and man, could the Beavers use a player with the skill of Craig Evans right now. The former Michigan State defensive lineman has yet to play this season and there are clouds of uncertainty surrounding his future in Corvallis.
Against Wazzu's Luke Falk led passing attack, it will be more important than ever for the Beavers to get pressure on the quarterback.
2. Will the offense find a healthy balance?
Oregon State's offense has mightily struggled this season as they rank No. 93 in the country in total yards per game. Coming into the season, we were talking about this arguably being the best running back corps in school history, and as of now, it's looking like the most disappointing group instead.
With the talent that Oregon State has in Ryan Nall, Artavis Pierce, Trevorris Johnson, Thomas Tyner, and even Calvin Tyler, the Beavers' rushing attack has been under utilized but also hasn't lived up to the hype. The Beavs' rushing offense ranks No. 92 in the nation with 128.7 yards per game.
Is it a lack of identity that the Beavers are struggling with or is it just plain lack of execution?
“Personally, I think identity is an overused term,” offensive coordinator Kevin McGiven said. “The last two games, we’ve had nine three and outs, and whether you call that an identity crisis or not able to execute. I don’t think we have an identity issue. I think it’s an execution issue.”
3. Who will step up in the secondary?
Shawn Wilson, Kyle White, and Jay Irvine will need to step up in place of Crawford and Williams. At safety, David Morris will likely slide over and start next to Brandon Arnold.
This secondary has not looked good so far this season and were gashed by a Minnesota passing offense that threw the ball just eight times. Big plays seem to occur against them when Kevin Clune dials up a blitz with man coverage in the back end. The pass rush has been poor, leaving the cornerbacks on an island.
4. Can the offensive line have consistency?
There's no doubt that the key to success for this Oregon State football team is on the offensive and defensive lines.
The offensive line has done decent enough in pass protection as they've given up just four sacks through three games (three sacks came against Minnesota though). It is more of the run blocking that we're very concerned with.
Oregon State has just 386 rushing yards through three games compared to the Beavs' defense allowing 735 rushing yards. Ouch.
To really put 386 rushing yards through three games in perspective - Portland State from the Big Sky piled on 291 rushing yards in a single game against OSU. And the Beavers have just 386 through three games.
This offensive line desperately misses graduated seniors Dustin Stanton, Gavin Andrews, and Sean Harlow from last year's squad.
5. Can Oregon State limit their turnovers?
Oregon State is one of just a few teams that have played three games already this season, but with 10 turnovers, the Beavers have committed more than any other team, more than the likes of other teams that have played three games - Hawaii (4), Boise State (6), San Jose St. (7), Colorado State (7), and New Mexico (8).
Oregon State quarterback Jake Luton has been progressively doing a better job taking care of the ball this season, which bodes very well for the Beavs. Fumbles continue to be an issue though for this team.
If Oregon State has any chance of beating Washington State, they have dominate the turnover margin. The Beavers will need to take care of the ball first and foremost.