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Oregon State Beavers vs. Minnesota Golden Gophers Point Spread - Pick

Oregon State Beavers (0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS) vs. Minnesota Golden Gophers (0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS)
College Football Week 1
Date/Time: Thursday, September 1, 2016 at 9PM EST
Where: TCF Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, Minnesota
TV: Big Ten Network
By Scott, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com

Point Spread: OREST +13/MINN -13
Over/Under Total: 51

The Oregon State Beavers come to Minneapolis to face the Minnesota Golden Gophers on Friday, September 1 in week one college football action. It’s a nice Pac-12 vs. Big Ten battle between two teams looking to upgrade their standing this season. Oregon State head coach Gary Andersen had a rough ’15 campaign in his first season with an abysmal 2-10 record where they went winless in their last nine games. Minnesota, meanwhile, was a so-so 6-7 and look to get this season off to a good start in what looks like a good spot.

Last season was hopefully a throwaway season for the Beavers, a bad campaign that can hopefully be chalked up to a new coach and system, a litany of injuries, and the subsequent abundance of youth and inexperience. They are hoping the flipside of that coin is more evident in 2016, where hard knocks resonate into experience. A little step back was anticipated last season with the departure of longtime coach Mike Riley. But it was worrisome how ugly it really became, with the Beavers giving up 40 or more points 7 times in their nine-game losing streak to end the season.

One would think Andersen didn’t leave a successful gig at Wisconsin to stink it up with Oregon State. One would assume he’d turn things around at some point. There is hope on the offense with the arrival of a few different components, including Utah State quarterback transfer Darell Garretson. With the Aggies, he was able to get the offense moving, while showing a lot of nerve and guts. New Beavers’ offensive coordinator Kevin McGiven was also coordinator with Garretson at USU and the two should work well together. Garretson has some tools in the box with which to work, including a promising-looking aerial package with Jordan Vilamin and Victor Bolden. Former starting QB Seth Collins could see time at receiver. Interesting youngsters also lie in wait.

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Garretson will have multiple viable targets aerially, but the run-game looks like a major point of concern. Some production from a yet-to-be established source will need to manifest. There just isn’t any experienced talent in that regard and whoever steps into the fold will need to run behind a line that didn’t get much right last season. They also caught no breaks in the injury department. One upside of that is that a lot of guys gained experience and between G Gavin Andrews, G Fred Lauina, T Sean Harlow, and T Dustin Stanton, and BYU transfer Brayden Kearsley, they should field a strong starting-five. Also helping will be Garretson’s ability to get vertical and stretch the defense—something Oregon St. has struggled to do recently.

Oregon State’s defense was not up-to-snuff last season by any standards. They were just trying to throw something together to see if it would stick and it seldom did. Again, they’re holding out hope that the youngsters thrown to the fire will better off for it this season. They have depth in the secondary and at linebacker, but no real difference-makers. Up front, they’re looking for Philip Napoleon, a Juco transfer, to provide some pass-rush, with nose-tackle Kalani Vakameilalo stuffing the run. They should get better, but again, that’s not saying an awful lot.

Minnesota has never really gotten over the hump with Mitch Leidner at quarterback. He still showed a lot of moxie playing hurt last season and should cap off his Golden Gophers career with some flair this season. He has made 29 starts and the expectation that he should be a little better this season isn’t ill-founded. The offense took a hit with the injury to leading returning rusher Shannon Brooks, but his backup is more of a co-starter in Rodney Smith. Still, they’ll miss Brooks’ big-play ability for at least the first game of the season.

Leidner will again operate behind center without much of a vertical threat. Will Reger offers some upside in that department. Otherwise, he will depend on a solid, but unspectacular WR package with Eric Carter, Drew Walitarsky, and tight end Brandon Lingen. Leidner also loses three starters up front, but a lot of depth returns around returning starters C Tyler Moore and tackle Jonah Pirsig. They might not hit the ground running, but this is a group that could develop nicely.

Minnesota may return 7 starters on the “D,” but they’re not the best guys from last season. On the line, there are a ton of questions and a lot of youth and inexperience. All those questions won’t be answered in the positive, as this could be a major liability of this unit. That’s too bad for a linebacker crew that has experience, but can’t be expected to pick up the slack of a deficient line. In the secondary, Damarius Travis returns from injury, with good safeties Duke McGhee and Adenkunle Ayinde, but corner remains a dicey spot and it’s hard to look at this “D” on paper and emerge with a ton of optimism.

This is not a bad spot for a Golden Gophers team looking to pump some early wind into their sails. Oregon State carries a 9-game losing streak into a tough road game. Last season, the Beavers could only beat FCS school Weber State and San Jose State by 4 points. They were winless on the road and the margins were usually pretty vast. They were winless in conference and anything resembling that form would likely result in a lopsided Beavers loss even to a Minnesota team that is still trying to figure out things.

Some tempered optimism for Oregon State might be warranted, however. Andersen being in his second season should help. Having Garretson with a coordinator he’s worked with should get this offense out of the slow-lane, as he does have some nice targets with which to work. If forced to pick a team on the rise, one would be tempted to go with the Beavers, though they admittedly had nowhere to go but up. Minnesota is a pretty good team and a tough task at home. I just see Oregon State’s improvement on offense with the apparent depreciation of the Minnesota defense being enough to keep Oregon State in this game. I’m going with the Beavers.

Scott's Pick to Cover the Point Spread: I’m betting on the Oregon State Beavers plus 13 points.

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