Beavers look to snap long road losing streak when they take on the Wolf Pack
Oregon State (1-1) is recharged on offense under new head coach Jonathan Smith. The Beavers have racked up 15 plays of 25 or more yards from scrimmage through two games this season. This new brand of explosiveness carried them to a 48-25 win over FCS opponent Southern Utah last week.
Nevada (1-1) is searching for answers after getting shutdown in a 41-10 loss to Vanderbilt a week ago. The Wolf Pack opened the season strong, but came out punchless on offense against the Commodores. Nevada is searching for its first win over a Pac-12 team since beating Washington State 24-13 in 2014.
Oregon State leads the all-time series with Nevada 3-0. The Wolf Pack are just 15-60-5 overall against current Pac-12 teams.
Oregon State at Nevada
Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 15 at 7 p.m. ET
Spread: Nevada -4
Three Things to Watch
1. Who will start at quarterback for Oregon State?
The Beavers find themselves immersed in a battle for the starting quarterback job after two games. Conor Blount took over for Jake Luton after he suffered a concussion in the first half against Ohio State. Since that time, Blount has made a compelling case to become the full-time starter.
Blount threw for 169 yards and two touchdowns on 12-of-19 passing against the Buckeyes. He followed that up with 226 yards and one score on 15-of-22 passing against Southern Utah. Oregon State's offense has operated smoothly with Blount at the controls. Coaches like his composure and decision making.
Luton tallied 63 yards on 4-of-9 passing in the second half against the Thunderbirds. His concussion limited him to a single series against Ohio State.
Beavers head coach Jonathan Smith said on Monday that he will not name a starter until the end of the week. He wants to give Blount and Luton a full week of practice to make their case. The two players divided reps in practice equally earlier in the week.
2. Can Nevada regain its offensive explosiveness?
The Wolf Pack looked brilliant on offense in their season opener against FCS foe Portland State, generating 636 total yards in a 72-19 win. Going up against Vanderbilt brought Nevada back down to Earth with a thud. The Wolf Pack flat out couldn't move the chains when it mattered.
Nevada got shut out in the second half by the Commodores and managed just 250 total yards. It offered a stark contrast to their win over the Vikings when the Wolf Pack generated four rushes of 15 or more yards and nine pass plays of 20 or more yards. Nevada only had three pass plays of 20 yards or longer against Vanderbilt and no runs that went for 15 or more yards.
If receivers McLane Mannix and Kaleb Fossum can make a big impact down the field, it could be the difference-maker against Oregon State. The duo combined for 271 receiving yards against Portland State.
3. Beavers' running game operating by committee
An injury to Artavis Pierce means that Oregon State will have a new featured runner in the backfield against Nevada. Pierce is expected to miss at least four weeks after suffering an elbow injury against Southern Utah.
Jermar Jefferson, a freshman, will get the start against the Wolf Pack. Jefferson had a strong outing against the Thunderbirds. He tallied 238 yards and four touchdowns while averaging 10.8 yards per carry. It ended up being the third-most rushing yards in a single game in school history.
Still, Jefferson isn't expected to share the load alone. B.J. Baylor, Kase Rogers and Christian Wallace are all expected to see some playing time. Oregon State wants a rotation of backs early in the season to avoid putting too much wear and tear on a single player.
Oregon State is not the same hopeless team as it was last season. The Beavers are playing with renewed purpose on offense. Defense is still a work in progress, but it shouldn't prevent Oregon State from snapping the long road losing streak against a Nevada team that isn't expected to be one of the better Mountain West squads this season.
Prediction: Oregon State 38, Nevada 34
— Written by John Coon, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Coon has more than a decade of experience covering sports for different publications and outlets, including The Associated Press, Salt Lake Tribune, ESPN, Deseret News, MaxPreps, Yahoo! Sports and many others. Follow him on Twitter @johncoonsports.
(Top photo courtesy of @BeaverFootball)