Corvallis became the nexus for some of the most unusual twists and turns in the offseason coaching carousel. It started with long-time head coach Mike Riley bolting Oregon State for Nebraska and ended with the Beavers bringing in former Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen to take over the program.
Andersen and his staff inherit an Oregon State team in full rebuild mode. The Beavers stumbled to a 5-7 finish in 2014 after losing six of their final seven games. Oregon State has enough pieces to work with on offense and defense to defy dismal preseason predictions. Andersen showed his capability for turning programs around during his stint at Utah State from 2009-12.
This marks the first meeting between Oregon State and Weber State and the Beavers will be heavy favorites. The Wildcats have won a total of six games over the last three seasons and are still a season or two away from being one of the better Big Sky Conference teams in FCS.
Weber State at Oregon State
Kickoff: 8 p.m. ET (Friday)
TV Channel: Pac-12 Networks
Three Things to Watch
1. Quarterback platoon
Andersen is bucking conventional wisdom by deploying two quarterbacks to run the Oregon State offense. Freshmen Seth Collins and Marcus McMaryion will both get snaps behind center and earn a chance to show they have the skills to succeed Sean Mannion. Both are dual-threat quarterbacks with big-play ability. Andersen noted there is zero separation between Collins and McMaryion coming out of fall camp. Both players should see plenty of time against Weber State and both will benefit from a veteran offensive line anchored by Outland and Lombardi Trophy candidate Isaac Seumalo.
2. Building a better defense
Aggressive hard-hitting defense could be a trademark for Oregon State in a short time. New defensive coordinator Kalani Sitake brings a track record of success to the Beavers. He oversaw a Utah defense in 2014 that led the nation in sacks and ranked among the top FBS teams in several other key categories. Sitake has some promising talent to work with in his first year. Jaswha James, in particular, should wreak havoc all over the field from his hybrid outside linebacker/defensive end position. Justin Strong could enjoy a breakout season in the secondary after tallying 56 tackles as a nickel back in 2014.
3. Youthful Wildcats
Second-year coach Jay Hill, who coached with Andersen and Sitake at Utah, has committed to build Weber State without relying on tons of junior college transfers. That means the Wildcats have a roster filled with sophomores and juniors who will play big roles. Leading rusher Zach Smith returns after gaining 742 yards on 129 carries last season and the junior anchors a deep backfield in 2015. Cam Livingston is a capable threat at receiver after tallying 856 yards on 57 catches a year ago. Jadrian Clark enters the season as the starting quarterback after starting the final five games last fall.
Oregon State will likely struggle to finish above .500 in Andersen's first season, but the Beavers will be competitive with most teams. Beating a rebuilding Weber State squad should not be a problem. The Wildcats have not defeated an FBS opponent since beating Nevada 47-30 in 1993 and simply don't have enough talent to hang with Oregon State for four quarters.
Prediction: Oregon State 42, Weber State 14
— 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.