Editor’s note: Saturday Out West’s annual Crystal Ball prediction series will preview every team in the Pac-12. Today: Oregon State.

Already covered: Utah, Oregon, USC, UCLA


After Gary Andersen fell flat on his face and turned Oregon State into the laughing stock of the Pac-12 with winless-in-conference seasons in 2015 and 2017, it has taken Jonathan Smith some time to rebuild the Beavers in his image.

And his image is Beaver, through and through.

The former Oregon State star quarterback returned to his alma mater in 2018 and promptly went 2-10. Then came a 3-game turnaround in the overall record (5-7) and league play (from 1-8 to 4-5). After a regression in 2020 back to 2-5 in the pandemic-shortened, conference-only schedule, the Beavers bounced back last year to win 7 games for the first time since 2013.

After finishing above .500 in conference play for the first time since the year prior, 2012, Oregon State is on a roll. I don’t think this was a blip in the radar. Smith is building the program and the roster back up to healthy numbers, and he’s just about there. There are some rough stretches in the schedule, though OSU is set up for a big finish. This is a big year for the Beavers, but they have some question marks.

Did the Beavers do enough to retool in 2022?

It’s fascinating to watch how the different Pac-12 coaches view the transfer portal. Despite using transfers to his advantage in recent years — vaunted linebacker Avery Roberts, who leaves a huge hole, arrived from Nebraska — Smith has tapped into the high school ranks extensively over past 2 years. As a result, the Beavers added just one player through the transfer portal: running back Jamious Griffin from Georgia Tech. For a team that lost 10 players to the portal, that’s too little of a return.

Smith better hope some of his young newcomers are ready to contribute this year.

Can Deshaun Fenwick fill the cleats of BJ Baylor at running back?

Fenwick was nearly as productive as Baylor on a per-carry basis. Getting 78 carries compared to 227 for Baylor, Fenwick totaled 448 yards, a 5.7 per carry average. Baylor ran for 1,337 yards at 5.9 yards a clip and had 14 touchdowns, while Fenwick added 4.

If Fenwick indeed becomes the Beavers’ bell cow, then he stands to easily surpass 1,000 yards. Backup Trey Lowe should get some nice run, as well, after rushing 56 times for 359 yards and catching 23 passes for 200 yards last year.

Will a quiet stadium cause crickets?

With Reser Stadium under renovations and max capacity at under 27,000 this season, the Beavers will feel like they’re playing in front of big scrimmage crowds, not regular game-day Saturdays. That could be a mixed blessing for the Beavs. If they can adjust to the strange atmosphere early in the season, they can play to the setting in some late-season conference matchups.

Once all is said and done, Oregon State will be happy with the upgrades. But we’ll see how it will affect a season that starts with plenty of promise.

Game-by-game predictions

Week 1: vs. Boise State (W)

Coming off an uncharacteristic 7-5 season in Andy Avalos’ first season, Boise State is drawing buzz as one of the best Group of 5 teams in college football. That’s no surprise — the Broncos have been consistently good for 2-plus decades.

But they showed some major cracks last year, particularly up front, where they allowed 27 sacks and averaged just 3.1 yards per rush. I’m expecting Smith to bring heavy pressure against the Broncos, and it’ll be on Chance Nolan to take on a Boise State defense that returns 8 starters from a squad that allowed less than 20 points per game last year.

Week 2: at Fresno State (L)

It’s always interesting to me when a guy goes from a Pac-12 project to a Mountain West wonder in the span of a couple of seasons. In 2018, Jake Haener appeared in 3 games for the Washington Huskies, completing 9-of-13 passes for 107 yards with 1 touchdown and 1 pick. He’s since blossomed into one of the country’s top quarterbacks with Fresno State, though his former head coach, Kalen DeBoer, is now up in Seattle as head coach of Washington. How the world turns.

Unfortunately for the Beavers, they won’t get a chance to miss Haener this time around. A year after upsetting UCLA at the Rose Bowl (and nearly upsetting Oregon in Autzen Stadium), the Bulldogs head to Corvallis for a date with Oregon State. EPSN’s Football Power Index has Fresno State favored slightly over the Beavers. This should be one of the most competitive nonconference matchups in the Pac-12.

Week 3: vs. Montana State (W)

The Bobcats are a feisty upset pick, coming in as likely a top-5 FCS team. But the difference in size and speed will be evident against an Oregon State squad that, while not filled with 5-star recruits, still boasts ample talent. The Beavers’ defense will be the difference.

Week 4: vs. USC (L)

It’s incredible how much can change in one year. Last year, the Beavers smacked the Trojans around the field, intercepting Kedon Slovis 3 times while rushing for 322 yards. Chance Nolan picked apart the once-vaunted USC defense with 4 touchdowns, and OSU won going away, 45-27. And that was at the Coliseum!

Despite the home-field advantage this year, the Beavers won’t be able to bully a USC squad that beefed up through the transfer portal.

Especially when you consider that the Trojans haven’t lost to Oregon State in back-to-back games since 1916.

Week 5: at Utah (L)

In Week 4 last year, the Beavers pulled off what was then just a mild upset over the Utes, 42-34, after a 21-point third quarter. At that point in the year, no one knew the run Utah would then go on, and it turned into one of the biggest feathers in the Beavers’ cap.

Heading back to Rice-Eccles Stadium, Oregon State isn’t going to make it two in a row. Before last year, the Utes had won 5 straight over the Beavers, and with fewer questions than Oregon State, Utah will deal the Beavers a second straight loss to a top-12 team.

Week 6: at Stanford (W)

In 2009, Oregon State defeated Stanford, 38-28, its 7th win in 9 games in the 2000s against the Trees.

The next year, 2010, the Cardinal shut out the Beavers, 38-0, thus beginning one of the most lopsided decades in Pac-12 history. Stanford would win every year from 2010-2020, with a combined margin of 350-184.

Last year in Corvallis, though, the Beavers shut down the Cardinal, 35-14, in stunning fashion. Oregon State had 29 1st downs to just 15 for Stanford, outgained the Cardinal by 245 yards (475-230) and held Stanford to 4.3 yards per pass.

Somehow, while we are all sleeping, Oregon State became the better team, with a better front seven on both sides of the ball. What a turnaround.

Week 7: vs. Washington State (L)

This is an intriguing matchup, and one I’m very unsure about. The talent level is fairly even, and we haven’t seen Cameron Ward take on Pac-12 talent.

If we’re going off last year’s game, the Beavers are in trouble. Washington State stifled the OSU passing game, holding Nolan to 11-of-25 passing for 158 yards while intercepting him twice.

My sense is that after 3 games against USC, Utah and Stanford, the Beavers will be a little beaten down.

Week 8: vs. Colorado (W)

Leave it to the Buffaloes to restore the Beavers’ confidence. Oregon State inexplicably lost in overtime to Colorado last season, 37-34. It was one of the few highlights in the Buffaloes’ dreary season.

Returning home for an all-important stretch run, Oregon State exacts its frustrations on the Buffs.

Week 9: Bye

Week 10: at Washington (W)

ESPN’s Football Power Index matchup predictor pegs this at 66.2 percent Washington to 33.8 percent for Oregon State. But I’m nowhere near as high on the Huskies as some others in the media. I’m worried about their passing game and nervous about their defensive depth.

Last year’s matchup was decided on a game-winning 24-yard field goal by Everett Hayes, giving the Beavers their first win over the Huskies since 2011.

They’ll take it straight to UDub’s defensive backfield this time around, and OSU will defeat the Huskies in back-to-back years for the first time since winning six straight from 2004-09.

Week 11: vs. Cal (W)

This matchup has been remarkably even over the years, with Cal winning 39 times and Oregon State winning 35. Since 2012, each team has won five times.

The Bears won last year, 39-25, but they were gifted a head start as Oregon State’s BJ Baylor fumbled on his first carry at the OSU 22-yard line, leading to a Cal touchdown three minutes into the game.

Hosting the Bears this time around, the Beavers aren’t going to be struck by such bad luck.

At 6-4 with 2 tough tests remaining, Oregon State is locked in.

Week 12: at Arizona State (W)

Like the Huskies, the Sun Devils are heavily favored over the Beavers heading into the season. But I’m similarly unimpressed with ASU’s passing game and I don’t expect the thin Sun Devils to hold up this deep into the season. I also expect Nolan to bounce back from a poor showing last year, when he threw for just 90 yards on 12-of-18 passing.

Week 13: vs. Oregon (W)

This one is the biggie.

Getting the Ducks back in Corvallis — while a short drive — will be significant. Not as much as the loss of Anthony Brown and Travis Dye for the Ducks, though. The former Oregon backfield combined for 182 and 3 touchdowns against the Beavers last year. The Ducks are in capable hands with Byron Cardwell, but presumed starter Bo Nix doesn’t move like Brown.

I like Smith a lot, and he’ll be able to continue the Beavers’ upward trajectory here.

2022 Projection: 8-4 (6-3)


The Beavers have such returning talent coming back that I predict a big year for them. While they have some work to do up front, the skill position talent is there for an 8-win season. It’ll come down to quarterback play and pressure up front. But the Beavers are definitely building some buzz.