The Oregon State Beavers are having their best season yet under the guidance of head coach Jonathan Smith. Marcus Russell from SBNation sister site Building The Dam was kind enough to answer some of our questions on what is behind the resurgence of Beavers football.
ATQ also answered questions from BTD. You can read their questions and our answers here.
ATQ: Duck fans are likely not up-to-date on the quarterback “drama” (if you will) surrounding the Beavers this season. Would you explain for us what has been going on and where OSU is at coming into this weekend’s game?
BTD: Ben Gulbranson will definitely start on Saturday with Tristan Gebbia likely being his backup. Chance Nolan suffered quite the neck injury against Utah on October 1st and still has not been cleared to participate ‘fully’ in practice. Gulbranson has gotten progressively better each week, and most importantly he’s limited turnovers, allowing the Beavers to lean on their run game. Some will argue that Gulbranson has just been a game manager and Chance Nolan has a higher ceiling, so it’ll be interesting to see what happens when both are healthy and competing for the top spot again. Overall the guys in the locker room really have rallied behind Ben Gulbranson and personally I think he’s got the inside track to not only start the bowl game in December, but also start the 2023 season.
ATQ: OSU’s defense faltered last season to the point that Tim Tibesar was let go, making Trent Bray the interim DC before being hired for that position. The Beavers defense is arguably better this season, and not just because of the W-L result. With a sizable contingent of veterans still on the roster from last year, what are the things you see that Bray is doing that is giving OSU better defensive results?
BTD: It’s been a long time since Oregon State fans rooted for a team with a strong defense, but this Beaver defense has really been impressive. Trent Bray has been excellent and the defense improved almost immediately when he took over for Tim Tibesar midseason last year. The players feed off his energy and he’s done an excellent job putting them in positions to succeed. The front-seven has slowed down opposing rushing attacks and I truly believe their secondary is the best in the conference this year. Oregon State hasn’t faced an offensive line like Oregon’s, though, and they’ve struggled to get pressure on opposing quarterbacks at times. It hasn’t hurt the Beavs too badly yet, as they’ve still been able to keep most plays in front of them and make opposing quarterbacks throw into tight windows.
ATQ: It looks like the seismic temblors caused by the impending departure of USC and UCLA have dissipated - for now. Are there still rumblings in the Beaver fan base about the coming restructuring? What is/are Oregon State’s greatest fear(s) going forward?
BTD: I think all Oregon State fans hate realignment and all the swirling rumors. A scenario where the Big Ten and Big 12 pick-off teams would likely leave Oregon State and WSU out of the power conference picture and effectively out of any national relevance. The Beavs are spending big on stadium renovations and Jonathan Smith hopes to have this program ready for that next step. Hopefully things stabilize for the new Pac-10 (plus SDSU?) and they are able to negotiate a lucrative new TV contract. It sure would be a bummer if the Pac-12 collapsed and Oregon State had to find a new conference, but at this point I think Oregon State fans are more worried about keeping Jonathan Smith and his assistants in Corvallis for the long haul.
ATQ: On paper, Oregon would appear to have some advantages going into this game, especially if Nix is running the Oregon offense. Assuming that is the case, what are the things that Oregon State absolutely must accomplish to come out of Reser Stadium with the win?
BTD: The Beavs are tough to beat if they get their running game rolling and can jump out to an early lead. Oregon State is 8-0 as the favorites and 0-3 as underdogs this season. Also Oregon State is 10-1 at home the past two seasons, with the only loss coming on a late USC field goal in a game Chance Nolan tossed four interceptions. The three things that Oregon State will absolutely need to accomplish to pull off the upset win is: decisively win time of possession, rush for 150+ yards, and not lose the turnover battle. If those three things happen Oregon State will have a good chance on Saturday. Another subplot Beaver fans are watching is Damien Martinez’s five game streak with 100+ rushing yards. If he does it again on Saturday he’d break Steven Jackson’s OSU record set back in 2003.
ATQ: Kindly give us your thoughts on how the game will play out and what you think the final score will be.
BTD: The Ducks are very good and were my pick to win the Pac-12 this season (still seems likely). This late in the season nagging injuries will be a factor for both teams. Reser Stadium will be rocking despite the limited seating. I imagine it’ll be close, but Bo Nix and Oregon’s offense make a few more plays down the stretch to earn the victory. I’ll say Oregon wins it 27-24. Oregon State fans have already endured two tough 3-point losses this season so I sure hope I’m wrong!