Oregon State in Trouble



ESPN and ABC are doing what they can to hype tonight's Oregon State/Boise State game that's getting a rare exclusive Saturday Night prime time network window. Boise State is hoping to make history by being the first mid-major to play in the BCS championship game. Oregon State represents the "giant killers" fighting to save the honor of major conferences by travelling to Boise and taking care of business.

There's a big problem with that. Oregon State is playing poorly so far this season, and has a bad recent history against big name opposition in September.

Boise made a smart scheduling choice!

You may recall that Oregon State was in the same boat two weeks ago, on the road against another mid-major power, TCU. You probably watched some of the game. Here are the boxscore stats to refresh your memory.

Total Yardage: Oregon State 255, TCU 453
Rushing Yardage: Oregon State 73, TCU 278
Passing Stats: Oregon State 10-26-0-182, TCU 17-27-2-175
Turnovers: Oregon State 0, TCU 2

The Beavers covered the two-touchdown spread, but needed a turnover edge to do it. They were dominated at the point of attack by TCU, losing total yardage by almost 200, and rushing yardage by MORE than 200!

The young Oregon State quarterback was in over his head for the most part. He did make a few lengthy completions. He did avoid turnovers because of a conservative game plan. Trying to play catch up in the second half was an exercise in futility though.

If Oregon State was 200 yards worse than TCU...and the Beavers had trouble playing catch up after falling behind...when:

  • The game was in a giant cavern that gave TCU no real home field advantage
  • TCU couldn't beat Boise State on a neutral field last year

How are things going to be better for Oregon State this time around? Will they need to win turnovers again to have a chance at the cover? Can they count on getting those in a TRUE road game at one of the toughest sites for visitors in all of college football?

Of course, that was two weeks ago...and a lot can happen to a young team early in the season. They can make great strides forward once they get things figured out. Let's look at what happened in Game Two last week (after a bye) when Oregon State was a 20-point favorite at home against Louisville...one of the worst teams in the struggling Big East...

Total Yardage: Louisville 453, Oregon State 319
Rushing Yardage: Louisville 165, Oregon State 177
Passing Stats: Louisville 22-38-1-288, Oregon State 15-27-0-142
Turnovers: Louisville 2, Oregon State 0

Whoa...hold the phone! Oregon State lost statistically to a very bad Louisville team! The Cardinals had been crushed statistically by Kentucky, then didn't impress at all the next week vs. unheralded Eastern Kentucky. But...they were able to fly across the country and put 453 yards in the boxscore while covering a three-touchdown spread.

Once again, Oregon State needed a turnover edge to avoid humiliation.

If Oregon State is a lot worse than TCU on a virtually neutral field, and 134 yards worse than Louisville at HOME...what's going to happen on the road at Boise State. It's scary to think about.

And, actually, it may not be all that hard to imagine. Two years ago, Oregon State was visiting Penn State in a high profile September game. Penn State was favored by about 15-16 points (similar to the 17-18 range we're seeing tonight). You had pundits on TV suggesting that the dangerous team from the Pac 10 could make things very interesting...

Halftime Score: Penn State 35, Oregon State 7
Final Score: Penn State 45, Oregon State 14

A laugher...with a BETTER Oregon State team that we see tonight...and possibly a better Boise State team than Penn State had two years ago. Boise State has upgraded its size and physicality because they got tired of everyone saying they were too small to really be a big time team. You saw against Virginia Tech that Boise State is a big time team now. You saw then beat Wyoming at Wyoming much more impressively than Texas beat Wyoming in Austin.

Oregon State may be in for one ugly beating!

ESPN may not be interested in telling you this during their full day in Boise. They want drama, and they're going to cross their fingers and hope they get some. As handicappers, you need to be aware that:

  • This is not a very good Oregon State team right now.
  • Coach Mike Riley doesn't have a good September history against quality (Oregon State lost at home last year to Cincinnati in a pick-em game too).
  • The inexperienced road quarterback is going to be dealing with noise and bedlam like he's never seen before.
  • Boise State knows it has to impress vs. name opponents in TV games to have any shot of staying up high in the BCS ranking structure. Remember that Boise State defeated the Oregon team that would ultimately appear in the Rose Bowl on this field last season. This Oregon State team is nowhere near that Oregon team.

Does Oregon State have any hope? Hey, there's always hope!

  • Oregon State has shown an ability to avoid turnovers. You do that, and you always have a chance to cover as a big dog.
  • Oregon State does have a veteran team outside the quarterback position. There are certainly others on the field who can step up and have a big impact.
  • Oregon State's poor statistical showing vs. Louisville could have been a red herring because it came after an unusual early bye...and because the Beavers were looking ahead to Boise State. It was a classic sandwich spot. (Luckily, our database shows us what happened in every similar scheduling situation over the last 30 years!)
  • Boise State's players could easily get distracted by the ESPN hoopla. The "GameDay" crew has never been to Boise before. It's a big deal locally. The moment Boise starts thinking "Hey, we've finally arrived," is the time somebody's going to take them down. Oregon State has a much better chance of doing that than the WAC teams Boise State is used to facing on the fabled blue turf.

JIM HURLEY may or may not have a play in this prime time thriller. We always preview the marquee evening game here in the NOTEBOOK because we know so many of you will try to handicap it yourself. NETWORK has crunched all the numbers...studied all the trends and angles...run all the computer simulations...called all of their Wise Guy connections...and found the VERY BEST PLAYS ON THE BOARD for Saturday.

Among games we've studied very closely on the Saturday slate:

Alabama at Arkansas
Stanford at Notre Dame
UCLA at Texas
Cincinnati at Oklahoma
West Virginia at LSU

Plus a couple of low profile matchups (relatively speaking) where covers of at least 7-10 points are very likely.

You can purchase our SATURDAY BOMBSHELLS online right here at the website with your credit card. Be sure you act before the early games start so you get full value! Seasonal packages in the BLUE RIBBON, CLOSED CIRCUIT, or TOUCHDOWN clubs are also available. If you have any questions, call the office at 1-800-323-4453.

Back tomorrow to preview the Jets/Dolphins game set for Sunday Night football on NBC. Monday we'll feature Green Bay/Chicago on ESPN. Then, our traditional stat reviews will follow so you know what REALLY happened on the nation's gridirons.

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