Jimmy Kimmel LA Bowl: First Look At The Oregon State Beavers
The Utah State Aggies will be challenged against resurgent Oregon State. Here’s our first look at how the Beavers got back to a bowl game.
How strong is the dam that’s been built?
The Utah State Aggies will close out the 2021 season with an appearance in the Jimmy Kimmel LA Bowl on December 18, where they will battle the Pac-12’s Oregon State Beavers. It makes for an interesting matchup of teams who have worked their way back to prominence from deep valleys, though the Beavers’ revival has been a much more methodical rebuild.
So what should Aggies fans expect when they prepare for the game? Here is our first look at Oregon State.
2021 Oregon State Beavers — Team Profile
2020 Record: 7-5 (5-4 Pac-12)
SP+ ranking: 41st (15th offense, 85th defense)
FEI ranking: 43rd
Sagarin rating: 39th
Head coach: Jonathan Smith (fourth year, 16-27 overall)
2021 in a nutshell: Oregon State made big strides in order to land the program’s first bowl bid in eight years. One improvement? Winning at home in Corvallis, where the Beavers finished 6-0 at Reser Stadium for the first time since 2000.
They did so largely on the strength of an offense that paced the Pac-12 in yards per play and landed a pair of star talents on the conference’s first team, though the Oregon State defense also improved by nearly one full yard per play allowed, anchored by at least one NFL-caliber talent in the middle.
Best wins: vs. Utah (10-3), vs. Arizona State (8-4), vs. Hawaii (6-7)
RB B.J. Baylor
From Ken Simonton to Steven Jackson and Jacquizz Rodgers, the Beavers have had a knack over the years for discovering talented running backs and Baylor, the Pac-12’s regular season rushing champion, is the latest entrant in that illustrious history. He led that conference with 209 rushing attempts and 1,258 yards, scoring 13 touchdowns to cement himself as an offensive centerpiece deserving of Utah State’s attention.
There goes B.J. Baylor!
— FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) September 26, 2021
QB Chance Nolan
Nolan’s emergence as an anchor under center helped him secure a spot on Pro Football Focus’s all-Pac-12 first team offense. He sports an 82.7 passing grade, the best in that conference, by completing 63.5% of his throws and averaging 8.4 yards per attempt with 19 passing touchdowns.
He’s adept at making plays with his legs, as well. Nolan also averaged 4.56 yards and scored three touchdowns on 62 rushing attempts (not adjusted for sack yardage), meaning that Utah State will need to be prepared for anything when his offense is on the field.
LB Omar Speights
All-Pac 12 linebacker Avery Roberts won’t play in the bowl game after undergoing a recent surgery, but his unit mate in the Beavers starting lineup is no slouch. Speights finished second among Oregon State defenders with 80 total tackles and collected four tackles for loss and two interceptions, proving his worth as an athlete capable of cleaning up on the second level while earning a second-team nod on the all-conference defense.
WR Trevon Bradford
Bradford hasn’t put up the same raw numbers as Utah State’s own Deven Thompkins, but game will certainly recognize game on the field. Only USC’s Drake London has a better PFF receiving grade among Pac-12 receivers than Bradford’s 82.9, and in leading the Beavers with 40 receptions, 606 yards and five touchdowns, he’s clearly the focal point of Oregon State’s passing game.
LB Jack Colletto
Though Colletto is listed as a linebacker on the official Oregon State roster, he earned a spot on the all-Pac 12 second as an all-purpose player because he’s done, well, everything for the Beavers this year. On defense, he’s made seven tackles, forced a fumble and grabbed an interception. As a Wildcat quarterback, Colletto has earned 19 first downs on 21 third- and fourth-down carries and scored eight times in just 30 total attempts.
Even for an Aggies defense that’s faced everything from the Air Raid to the triple option this season, Colletto will present a unique challenge.
THE HAMMER FOR SIX ‼️🔨💥
— Oregon State Football (@BeaverFootball) November 21, 2021
This side of the ball is clearly the Beavers’ strength, but it only because of the skill position talents like Nolan, Baylor and Bradford. The Beavers are a finalist for the Joe Moore Award, given annually to the nation’s best offensive line, which makes sense considering four starters earned all-Pac 12 honors. Chief among them are Nathan Eldridge, a two-time first-team all-conference center with a reputation as a road grader, and tackles Brandon Kipper and Joshua Gray.
Oregon State also makes good use of a pair of rangy tight ends, Teagan Quitoriano and Luke Musgrave, who combined for 35 catches and four touchdowns this year. It’s definitely been a team effort which has enabled the Beavers to average 2.94 points per drive, good for 19th among FBS teams, and earn 55.7% of available yards per drive.
The Oregon State defense showed a lot of improvement this year, but it’s far from a flawless unit. For example, the Beavers allowed a 50.87% conversion rate on third downs, the worst in the Pac-12, and in giving up 56% of available yards per drive, the Beavers rank 111th nationally. Roberts, the unit’s best player, also won’t see the field against Utah State, so while there’s no dearth of talent here, Oregon State will have something to prove.
Will the Beavers be able to get after the quarterback? To date, their 3.3% sack rate is 125th overall and no one has more than lineback Andrzej Hughes-Murray‘s four. He and Speights will have to do a lot of heavy lifting to keep Utah State from asserting its will.
Even without a dynamic pass rush, however, the defensive backfield isn’t likely to make it easy for Utah State’s downfield passing game. Safety tandem of Kitan Oladipo and Jaydon Grant combined for 14 passes defended while cornerbacks Rejzohn Wright and Alex Austin started every game for Oregon State this season and picked off two passes each.