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Beavers face difficult schedule

The Oregon State football team has a 12-game regular season schedule this year, beginning with a trip to Colorado State on Aug. 26 and winding up with the Civil War at Oregon on Nov. 25.

Here's a look at each opponent, starting with the season-opener in Fort Collins, Colorado.

AT COLORADO STATE, AUG. 26: This is anything but an easy start to the season for the Beavers.

The Rams have an explosive offense led by quarterback Nick Stevens, who came on strong in the second half of the season and finished with 1,936 yards and 19 touchdowns.

Stevens has a solid group of receivers to target, including Michael Gallup, who caught 76 passes for 1,272 yards and 14 touchdowns.

Running backs Dalyn Dawkins (952 yards, four TDs) and Izzy Matthews (747 yards, 13 TDs) are both back for the Rams. The run game is key for CSU. The Rams went 7-0 last season when rushing for at least 200 yards and lost six when held under 200.

Defensively, the Rams gave up a lot of points in big games, including a 44-7 loss to Colorado and a 61-50 loss to Idaho in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.

PORTLAND STATE, SEPT. 2: The Vikings return to Reser Stadium for the first time since 2014, a 29-14 Oregon State win.

The Vikings won three games last season and lost most of their top statistical leaders.

Josh Kraght is back after passing for 125 yards and a touchdown last year while rushing for 47 yards and a score.

The Vikings were able to put points on the board but were too often outscored by opponents. PSU gave up 39 points a game in 2016.

MINNESOTA, SEPT. 9: The Gophers come to Corvallis after taking on the Beavers in Minneapolis last season and handing them a 30-23 loss.

It's been a rough offseason for Minnesota and one result was the controversial firing of coach Tracy Claeys despite a 9-4 season that culminated in a bowl win over Washington State.

The Gophers made a quick recovery with the hiring of P.J. Fleck out of Western Michigan and he will lead them against the Beavers this time around.

Expect Minnesota to run first and they have a big line and quality backs in Rodney Smith and Shannon Brooks. Smith rushed for 1,158 yards and 16 touchdowns.

Minnesota loses quarterback Mitch Leidner, who was a huge part of the offense with 2,169 yards and eight scores through the air and 366 yards and 10 TDs on the ground.

AT WASHINGTON STATE, SEPT. 16: The Beavers begin conference play with a trip to The Palouse.

WSU has been among the top throwing teams in the country since Mike Leach arrived in Pullman. The Cougars led the Pac-12 in 2016 with 362.5 yards a game.

That won't change this season, despite the loss of a few top receivers.

Luke Falk is back at quarterback after averaging 343.7 yards a game through the air. He has put together some monster games against Oregon State since starting against the Beavers as a freshman.

When the Cougars do run the ball, they will have a solid trio of backs in Gerard Wicks, Jamal Morrow and James Williams. The line will be led by all-American guard Cody O'Connell (6-8, 370).

The defense wasn't great last season but showed flashes of strong play and kept the opponents' scoring at a reasonable level (26.4 points per game).

WASHINGTON, SEPT. 30: It doesn't get easier for the Beavers despite playing this one at home.

The Huskies made the College Football Playoffs last season, getting knocked out by Alabama.

Washington won the Pac-12 with a suffocating defense that allowed 17.7 points a game last season. Most of the secondary (Budda Baker, Kevin King, Sidney Jones) has gone on to the NFL, but UW should still be stout up front.

Jake Browning is back at QB with Myles Gaskin (1,373 yards rushing, 10 touchdowns) and Lavon Colen (852, 7 TDs) returning to the backfield.

Browning lost speedster John Ross and his 81 catches for 1,150 yards and 17 touchdowns, but has senior wideout Dante Pettis (53 receptions, 822 yards and 15 touchdowns) back.

AT USC, OCT. 7: The Trojans are once again the fashionable pick to win the Pac-12.

That's because of a strong finish last season and the return of QB Sam Darnold. Darnold sparked USC to wins in nine games, throwing for 3,086 yards and 31 touchdowns.

The Trojans capped the season with a wild win over Penn State in the Rose Bowl and also had wins over Washington and Colorado.

Losing Adoree' Jackson to the NFL could mean a step back in the return game and the defensive backfield, but the Trojans have a lot of talent throughout the roster.

COLORADO, OCT. 14: The Buffaloes made a big step up in the conference last season, finishing 10-4.

The question is whether or not Colorado can keep it going this year.

QB Sefo Liufau is trying to stick in the NFL, but the position should be in good hands with Steven Montez, who stepped in for Liufau for a bit and looked solid.

The receivers should be a strength with Shay Fields and Devin Ross back and running back Phillip Lindsay also returns.

But a strong defensive backfield has departed and the Buffaloes could face some tough times trying to stop Pac-12 offenses.

STANFORD, OCT. 26: The Cardinal enter the season with two huge losses to the NFL in running back Christian McCaffrey and defensive lineman Solomon Thomas.

McCaffrey and Thomas were two of the most dominant players at their positions in college football. Stanford does have talented running back Bryce Love back and did fine with him in the bowl game, but the defensive line is a question mark.

Stanford is loaded in the secondary, so that should help the defensive linemen acclimate.

Quarterbacks Keller Chryst and Ryan Burns are back. Chryst is battling a knee injury and Burns lost the starting job during the season, so the spot is a little shaky.

AT CALIFORNIA, NOV. 4: After a rough season last year that included a loss at OSU, the Golden Bears dropped Sonny Dykes and his Air Raid offense for Justin Wilcox and more defense.

Wilcox quickly put together a strong staff, including offensive coordinator Beau Baldwin, who coached Eastern Washington. Baldwin will bring back some of the more traditional elements to the offense, but don't expect Cal to revert to 3 yards and a cloud of dust.

Cal does have two talented running backs in Vic Enwere and Tre Watson. Enwere is a power runner and Watson is dangerous in space.

Defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter is charged with turning around a porous unit that gave up 40 or more points nine times last season.

AT ARIZONA, NOV. 11: One of OSU's four wins also came against the Wildcats.

Arizona struggled to score and it doesn't look much brighter on offense going into this season.

QB Brandon Dawkins is dangerous when he tucks and runs but his passing can be erratic and the Wildcats lack established receivers.

Injuries have limited running backs Nick Wilson and J.J. Taylor, but both can be effective when healthy.

Arizona lacks experience on the defensive front, but could be tough in the back end.

ARIZONA STATE, NOV. 18: The Sun Devils are looking to get back into a bowl game after sitting out last season.

There's a QB battle to sift through with Manny Wilkins trying to hold off Alabama transfer Blake Barnett.

Once that's settled, the winner will have some talent at the skill positions. Demario Richard and Kalen Ballage are back to carry the football and N'Keal Harry is looking to build on a big freshman season at receiver.

The Sun Devils have a solid group of linebackers but the secondary struggled against the pass and needs to improve.

AT OREGON, NOV. 25: The Ducks will be looking to get back to the win column in the Civil War after losing to the Beavers last season.

That loss most likely factored into the decision to get rid of Mark Helfrich and bring in Willie Taggart and a new staff.

The Ducks are looking to make a quick rebound after a 4-8 season. They are set at quarterback with Justin Herbert and running back Royce Freeman is among the best in the conference.

Receivers are a bit of a concern with the departure of Devon Allen and Darren Carrington, although Charles Nelson is back.

Defensively, UO had a tough time last season. That brought a switch to a 3-4 set which should give linebacker Tony Dye room to roam. The line will be bolstered by Scott Pagano, a grad transfer from Clemson, once he recovers from a foot injury.