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September 7, 2012

All-Out Blitz: Oregon State



Welcome to this week's "All-Out Blitz," where you'll find everything that you need to know about the Badgers' next opponent. The Badgers didn't have the benefit of game tape to prepare for Oregon State this week, but that doesn't mean you have to go into the game unprepared.

All Out Blitz: Oregon State

Head coach: Mike Riley (12th season @ OSU), 72-63 (46-47 Pac-12)
OSU All-Time Record: 507-547-50
2012 Record: 0-0 (0-0 Pac-12)
Ranking: N/A (AP), N/A (Coaches Poll)
All-Time record against Wisconsin: 0-2

Did you read this?

Know Thy Foe: Oregon State
Beat writer preview: Oregon State

Last year

It was a rough season for Mike Riley's Beavers, who limped to a 3-9 finish after dropping all four of their non-conference games, including their season opener against FCS Sacramento State. The Badgers shut out the Beavers in Camp Randall, and Oregon State decided to move forward with Sean Mannion as their starting quarterback. Mannion guided the Beavers to three wins, but ultimately the Beavers weren't able to overcome their bad start and return to a bowl game.

Season outlook

The Beavers have several positives to build on this season. Mannion and 15 other starters are back this season, including an experienced group of wide receivers. The Beavers's schedule is in the top-25 in difficulty, and they have tough road games with Stanford, Washington, and BYU on their schedule. But Oregon State gets to host in-state rival Oregon in Corvallis, Ore., and they definitely have a shot at returning to the post-season this year.

This year

Mannion ended supplanting Ryan Katz as the Beavers' starting quarterback after their game against Wisconsin, and finished the season with 3,328 yards and 16 touchdowns. He did throw 18 interceptions, but his numbers should improve in his second year under center. Mannion finished the season with a quarterback rating of 127.1.

The Beavers return three of their top six receivers from 2011, which should give Mannion a boost in his second year. Senior receiver Markus Wheaton led the team in receptions, yards and yards per catch last season, but had just one receiving touchdown to show for it. Sophomore flanker Brandin Cooks is back as a starter as well. The 5-foot-10 Cooks caught 31 passes for 391 yards and had three touchdowns during his freshman season.

The Beavers have had to deal with a lot of injuries on the offensive line over the last few years, but it's given them a chance to develop some younger players. The Beavers have four returning starters on the offensive line this season, and all of them could conceivably return after this season. Center Isaac Seumalo is the only projected starter who didn't start last season, and he'd be the first true freshman to start at center for the Beavers since 1978.

The Beavers return eight defensive starters, spread out across the unit. Three of four starters are back on the defensive line, including sophomore Scott Crichton, who led the team with six sacks in 2011 as a freshman. Senior middle linebacker Feti Taumoepeau is back, and the Beavers return three out of their four starters in the secondary. Senior Jordan Poyer led the team with four interceptions last year.

Matchup to watch: OSU receivers vs. Wisconsin's defensive backs

We've been talking about Wisconsin's big-play defense all week, and Oregon State's wide receivers should give the Badgers' defensive backs a good test in week two. If the Badgers want to play a '60-minute' game on defense this time around, and if the offense struggles again they can't afford to give up big plays through the air to the Beavers. If the Badgers can stay locked in for four quarters and not have any big mental errors on defense, they should be in pretty good shape.

The pick: Wisconsin 28 Oregon State 17

This is a trickier game than you might think on first glance. The Big Ten has historically struggled out on the west coast, and Oregon State has been tough on ranked opponents in the past. To protect their streak of non-conference wins, the Badgers will need to play a cleaner game on offense and get better push out of the offensive line. I'm guessing offensive coordinator Matt Canada will open up the play book a little more to give Danny O'Brien a few more passing options in their second game, which should help if Oregon State loads up the box to stop Montee Ball like they did last year.

The defensive lapses need to be addressed as well. The Badgers have said this week that they've been working on them in practice, but Oregon State should provide a good test. I think the Badgers play a cleaner game overall, and leave Corvallis with another win after a hard-fought road game. If they continue to struggle offensively and give up big plays on defense, they might be on upset alert.

The point after:

Oregon State has knocked off nine ranked opponents over the last six years, including a win at home against then-No. 1 USC. The Beavers' last win over a ranked team was in 2010, but they have three of those nine wins at home. Oregon State has been calling this game the biggest non-conference home game in school history, and they might be right. This is the first time a Big Ten team has ventured to Corvallis since 1971, when the Beavers beat Iowa 33-19.

For more Wisconsin Badgers news, notes and discussion, follow John on Twitter.


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