Back Gophers Over Beavers As QB Mitch Leidner Is Standing Strong

Matthew Jordan

Tuesday, August 30, 2016 9:51 PM UTC

Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2016 9:51 PM UTC

I wouldn't exactly call it a potential Rose Bowl preview, but Oregon State of the Pac-12 visits Minnesota of the Big Ten on Thursday night as the teams kick off the new season. Read on for capper's NCAAF picks.

Nowhere To Go But Up For Beavers
Back in December 2014, Big Ten school Nebraska hired Oregon State head coach Mike Riley to replace the fired Bo Pelini. Then in a surprise, the Beavers were able to lure Gary Andersen from Wisconsin to replace Riley even though Andersen had been at UW for just two years and it's considered a better program  by a considerable  margin than Oregon State is. But Andersen did have ties to the western portion of the country.

However, Anderson's first season in Corvallis was an utter disaster as Oregon State was 2-10 overall and 0-9 in the Pac-12 last year. The wins were over pushovers Weber State and San Jose State and OSU lost by at least 10 points in every other game except for a 17-13 home loss to Pac-12 doormat Colorado. OSU's season-ending nine-game losing streak was the school's longest since dropping 10 straight in 1995 and the Beavers didn't win a game in the conference for the first time since 1997.

Thus the pressure could be on Andersen a bit this season, although Riley left the cupboard pretty bare. OSU brings back 14 starters. The new starting quarterback is Darell Garretson, a Utah State transfer who was named the starter by Andersen following spring practice. Garretson sat out last season and started a total of 11 games in 2013-14 at USU, completing 63.1 percent of his passes for 2,586 yards, 18 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions. He was quite familiar with OSU's spread offense as he worked with new Beavers quarterbacks coach Kevin McGiven while at Utah State. Andersen also coached at Utah State before going to Wisconsin. Oregon State was the only Pac-12 school that failed to reach 2,000 passing yards in 2015.

Oregon State's most unique player is Seth Collins, who could line up at quarterback, running back or receiver depending on the play. Last year he completed 83 of 160 passes for 935 yards and six touchdowns and rushed for 575 yards and eight scores. Collins didn't catch a pass in 2015 but is now listed as a starting receiver.

Andersen reworked his staff after last season's disaster and OSU has new offensive coordinators (McGiven and T.J. Woods) and a new defensive coordinator (Kevin Clune).

The Beavers were 3-9 ATS on college football odds last year and 6-6 O/U.


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Claeys Begins First Full Season As Gophers Coach
Minnesota was 8-5 in both 2013 & '14 under Coach Jerry Kill but slipped to 6-7 last year, although it did get a waiver from the NCAA as a 5-7 team to play in a bowl game and beat Mid-American Conference school Central Michigan 21-14 in the Quick Lane Bowl, Minnesota's first bowl win since 2004.

The Gophers started last season coached by Kill, but he resigned halfway through due to health problems related to epilepsy. The school promoted defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys to replace Kill on an interim basis at first and decided to give him the full-time job despite a 2-4 record under him. But some believe that Minnesota will aim for a bigger name after this season under new athletic director Mark Coyle. It would cost just $500,000 to buy out Claeys' contract.

Minnesota returns 13 starters from last year, led by quarterback Mitch Leidner, whom some scouts believe he has a pretty good NFL future if he continues to develop. Last year while playing through a foot injury and battered offensive line, Leidner completed 59.5 percent of his passes for 2,701 yards, 14 touchdowns, and 11 picks. He also rushed for 270 yards and six scores.

The Gophers are expected to open the season without leading rusher Shannon Brooks due to a foot injury. He rushed for 709 yards last season and his average of 6.0 yards per carry were the third highest for a freshman in team history. He was a three-time Big Ten Freshman of the Week. Fellow sophomore Rodney Smith, who rushed for 670 yards in 2015, should start in his place. Tight end Brandon Lingen (33 catches, 428 yards, three TDs) is questionable with an injury.

Minnesota was 7-6 ATS on college football picks in 2015 and 7-6 O/U.


Oregon State Beavers vs Minnesota Golden Gophers 
The teams have met three times, all in Minneapolis, and the Gophers lead 2-1. The schools haven't played since 1981. Minnesota will visit Oregon State next year. It should note that Andersen was 2-0 against Minnesota while at Wisconsin.

I like the total better than the side and would go 'under.' But I would also give the points. OSU is 3-8 ATS in its past 11 non-conference games. Minnesota is 5-1 ATS in its past six overall. The 'under' is 5-2 on Oregon State's past seven non-conference games. The 'under' is 4-1 in Minnesota's past five out of conference. 


Free NCAAF Picks: Under 55.5 -105
Best Line Offered: at Heritage

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