Saturday's game at Reser Stadium is big-opportunity time for Portland State. Coach Nigel Burton thinks he has the horses to win the Big Sky championship after coming close to a nine- or 10-win season a year ago but finishing 6-6.
It's not quite a no-lose situation for the Vikings -- a blowout loss would not be a good scenario -- but it's a chance to pull off an upset win that would thrust them into a top-25 FCS ranking and set the stage for an outstanding season.
For Oregon State, it's a chance to flush the memory of season-opening losses to FCS opponents Sacramento State (2011) and Eastern Washington (2013) and get the Beavers on the right track to what they envision as a very successful 2014 campaign.
Portland State's offense is, in a word, says OSU coach Mike Riley, "dynamic," with junior quarterback Kieran McDonagh experienced in the pistol attack, a big offensive line led by senior center Cornelius Edison -- a preseason all-Big Sky pick -- and receiver Kasey Closs, a third-team all-Big Sky selection a year ago.
Oregon State's veteran defense will be a good challenge for the Vikings, who may try to pick on junior cornerback Larry Scott, making his first career start Saturday.
The Beavers will attack a Portland State secondary that was the back end of a pass defense that ranked last in the Big Sky a year ago. They'll try to run, too, but I expect they'll pass to set up the running game more than the other way around.
The Vikings have another major weapon in senior punter Kyle Loomis, a first-team All-American last season who began his career at Oregon State back in 2006. Loomis, who turns 27 next month, has an NFL-caliber leg.
I don't expect a one-sided contest. The Vikings are dangerous. They've been pointing for the Oregon State game since the spring.
"Weve been getting ready for the season," one source inside the Oregon State program says. "Theyve been getting ready for us. Theres a big difference.
Even so, Oregon State will go into the game full throttle, mindful of the recent history of that not being the case. The Beavers have too much talent and experience to lose this one.
THE PICK: Oregon State 38, Portland State 20