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The Beavers host USC facing a familiar path forward with the Trojans while the Ducks have a tough opener at Wazzu.

PMG PHOTO: JOHN LARIVIERE - Oregon State football's Anthony Gould celebrates a third quarter touchdown against Montana State on Sept. 17, 2022, at Providence Park in Portland.The start of conference play certainly looks intriguing in the Pac-12.

Oregon State (3-0) will host USC, perhaps for the last time?

Dan Lanning will coach a conference game for the first time, and it will happen in the Palouse against an unbeaten Washington State team.

Beaver believers everywhere can keep the faith for at least one more week.

Oregon State football is 3-0 for the first time since 2014, the final season of Mike Riley's second stint in Corvallis. That factoid will be thrown around a lot this week, especially with OSU entering the spotlight ahead of its Pac-12 opener against No. 7 USC.

But at the risk of being a buzzkill, it's worth remembering what happened next in 2014.

That year, Oregon State defeated two Mountain West teams (Hawai'i, San Diego State) and a Big Sky outfit (Portland State) in nonleague play. As a result, the undefeated Beavers were receiving votes in the AP poll in the week before its Pac-12 opener against the Trojans.

Sound familiar?

After their hot start, Riley and the Beavers went down to Los Angeles and lost 35-10. OSU quarterback Sean Mannion had arguably the worst game of his college career, and the team's only touchdown came on a 97-yard Ryan Murphy kick return. The Trojans' offense burned the Beavers for 461 total yards, while the defense held Oregon State under 200.

In 2000, Kenny Simonton ran for 234 yards and three scores during the Beavers' eventual run to the storied Fiesta Bowl win over Notre Dame — the high-water mark in recent OSU history.

That year, the Beavers went 11-1 and earned the right to play in one of the country's premier bowls, where they beat Notre Dame 41-9 and finished No. 4 in the AP poll.

The other reason to bring up that 2000 season? The Beavers started the year 3-0 with wins over two Mountain West teams (New Mexico, San Diego State) and a Big Sky program (Eastern Washington) ahead of their Pac-12 opener against top-10 USC in Corvallis.

Sound familiar?

— Andy Dieckhoff

Can Ducks show on the road


It's been a fun couple of weeks in Eugene as the Ducks offense moved up and down the Autzen Stadium turf. Bo Nix has been efficient and confident, the offensive line has been solid, and a variety of skill position players have made plays — particularly the running backs.

PMG PHOTO: RALEIGH EMERSON - Oregon football's Troy Franklin (11) makes a leaping grab inside the 5-yard line against BYU on Sept. 17, 2022, at Autzen Stadium in Eugene.After the 41-20 win over 12th-ranked BYU, Nix pointed to the players without the ball as the key to the offense. In other words, receivers and running backs willing to block. Heck, Nix himself got into the blocking act (sort of) a couple of times.

Nix figures to get more comfortable with his receivers as the weeks go by. He certainly should have confidence throwing to Troy Franklin, whose tremendous catch set up the Ducks second touchdown against BYU. And, he has a connection with the tight ends, particularly Terrance Ferguson who has caught two TDs in each of the last two weeks.

One telling matchup will be Oregon's offensive line against the Washington State front seven. The Cougars are allowing only 50 rushing yards per game, so far — and less than two yards per attempt. Granted, Idaho and Colorado State at home were not elite competition, but WSU limited Wisconsin to 53 net rushing yards in the win at Madison.

Oregon used a lot of power sets with multiple tight ends, and even an extra offensive lineman as lead blocker at times, against BYU. Will that be the approach to soften up the Wazzu run defense?

Oregon's defense has tackled well for two weeks and seem to be playing freer and not hesitating as much as they did against Georgia. Of course, the now top-ranked Bulldogs are a different beast. Stopping all four of BYU's fourth-down attempts was a big part of the story last week. If the Ducks continue to get stops on third and fourth down and get the ball back for the offense to grind down the opponent, maybe they will contend in what is shaping up to be a very contentious Pac-12 race.

Ultimately, this game probably comes down to Oregon's mental toughness. The Ducks have rolled in consecutive home games, but starting this week they figure to face some real adversity in games. How they respond will have a lot to do with what they can accomplish.

But, the exciting thing for Ducks fans is that Lanning isn't going to play it safe — if his decision to go for it on fourth down from his own 30 in the second quarter against BYU is any indication.

— Paul Danzer

Another challenge for Portland State

After a week off, the Vikings open Big Sky Conference play with a sizable challenge, visiting the No. 3-ranked team in FCS, Montana (streamed on ESPN+).

Portland State was oh so close to winning its opener at San Jose State, then got torched by what's proving to be a very good Washington offense. Now the Vikings see an opponent on their own level — well, in terms of classification, anyway.

The Grizzlies might have the best defense in all of FCS. They have outscored Northwestern State, South Dakota and Indiana State by a combined 120-21.

So, it will be a test for the PSU offense in Dante Chachere's third start at quarterback. To pull off the upset, the Vikings will need their defense to produce a few takeaways.

One interesting question: Which flag will fly outside the Barnum residence in Vancouver? Cooper Barnum, son of PSU coach Bruce Barnum, transferred to Montana to play football after two seasons of baseball at Washington State. Cooper Barnum is listed as a sophomore safety, but hasn't yet played for Montana.

— Paul Danzer

Small colleges

Lewis & Clark is 2-0 after a 44-13 win at Whittier (California) that saw Dyontae Navarre run for 151 yards and three TDs on only 11 carries. The Pioneers play a non-conference home game at 4:30 p.m. Sept. 24 against Lewis-Clark Valley. Northwest Conference play starts Oct. 1.

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