(13) Wisconsin (1-0) at Oregon State (0-0)|
Saturday, September 8, 4:00 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By Frank Haynes, Senior College Football Editor
GAME NOTES: After having their season opener postponed due to inclement
weather, the Oregon State Beavers make their first appearance of the 2012
campaign when they entertain the 13th-ranked Wisconsin Badgers on Saturday
It wasn't pretty, but the Badgers managed to win their 15th straight season
opener last Saturday by knocking off visiting Northern Iowa, 26-21. It was
also the 17th straight home victory for Wisconsin, and its 33rd consecutive
win over a non-conference opponent during the regular season. Following this
contest, the Badgers return home for a pair to take on Utah State and UTEP.
Their Big Ten Conference slate begins at Nebraska on Sept. 29.
Oregon State was supposed to kick off its 116th season of football competition
against visiting Nicholls State last Saturday, but the Colonels' travel plans
were canceled due to the presence of Hurricane Isaac in the gulf region. The
game has been indefinitely suspended so now the Beavers will turn their
attention to the Badgers.
Mike Riley enters his 12th season as Oregon State's head coach, and his 72
career wins leaves him just three shy of the school's all-time record. The
Beavers went just 3-9 last season, and that came after a 5-7 campaign the year
before. Riley hopes the return of 14 starters will help turn things around,
and he will rely heavily on budding star, QB Sean Mannion.
Wisconsin owns a 2-0 lead in the all-time series with Oregon State, and the
Badgers blanked the Beavers in Madison last season, 35-0.
In the narrow win over Northern Iowa last week, 2011 Heisman finalist Montee
Ball rushed for 120 yards and a TD to help fuel the Wisconsin offense, which
finished with 387 total yards. Ball has now scored at least one TD in 21
consecutive games, and he has eclipsed the century mark in rushing in seven
straight, and 17 times in his career. New starting QB Danny O'Brien completed
19-of-23 passes for 219 yards and a pair of TDs, both to WR Jared Abbrederis
who finished with six receptions for 84 yards.
Coach Bret Bielema is thrilled to have a player of Ball's caliber on his team,
and knows he is going to get maximum effort from him on every play, "That was
vintage Montee. He was engaged, he was eager. I saw him in pregame warm-ups
and he slapped me as hard as I want to be slapped. So I thought, 'OK, I think
28 is ready to roll.'"
Even with another solid performance, Ball knows his team has to ramp up the
offense for it to be truly successful this year, "Speaking from the offensive
side, it's just keeping the foot on the gas. We have to keep the mentality of
Wisconsin, which dominated the time of possession battle (39:05-20:55), held
the Panthers to just 41 net rushing yards and only 3-of-11 on third-down
conversion attempts. Linebacker Mike Taylor, who led the Big Ten in tackles
last year, paced the Badgers with 13 stops.
With Mannion at the controls as just a freshman last season, the Oregon State
offense averaged 286.8 passing ypg to rank fifth in the Pac-12 Conference and
19th nationally. The rookie signal-caller completed better than 64 percent of
his passes with 16 TDs and 18 INTs, and he has the benefit of having his
favorite target back for another go-around, as Markus Wheaton hauled in 73
balls for 986 yards last season.
OSU's top rusher returns as well, but Malcolm Agnew gained just 423 yards. He
did score five TDs, but the team as a whole was credited with only 12 rushing
scores all year, and produced 50 yards or fewer in six games.
Defensively last season, the Beavers were one of the worst teams in the
country against the run, yielding 196.8 ypg (last in the league, 101st
nationally). The return of three starters along the defensive line and two
more in the linebacking corps should be viewed as a positive, but the unit as
a whole is going to have to step up its effort, particularly against a
Wisconsin team that boasts a potent rushing attack.
The secondary features some guys with playmaking ability, namely senior CB
Jordan Poyer, and the unit held firm last season in permitting 214.4 passing
ypg to rank among the Pac-12's best in that department.
The Beavers have a star-in-the-making in Mannion, who is the first sophomore
in team history to be named a captain. He will need to be on top of his game,
and the OSU defense will need to be at its best as well if there is any hope
of knocking off the Badgers in this one.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Wisconsin 35, Oregon State 17
09/05 10:33:35 ET