Top 25 Countdown
No. 22 Oregon State
• Last Season: 9-4 (defeated Pittsburgh in the Sun Bowl).
• Returning Starters: 9 (6 offense, 3 defense).
• Key Game: at Oregon, Dec. 3.
Why They're Worth Watching
Oregon State has finished in the top 25 in each of the past three seasons, and the Beavers could extend that streak largely because of two outstanding playmakers in brothers Jacquizz and James Rodgers. Jacquizz Rodgers finished second in the Pacific-10 in rushing despite missing nearly all of the last three games with a shoulder injury. James Rodgers, a junior wide receiver, ranked 18th nationally in all-purpose yards with 152.8 per game. The Beavers have two capable senior quarterbacks in Sean Canfield, who is 7-4 as a starter, and Lyle Moevao, who is 11-4 as a starter. Moevao's return from shoulder surgery sets the stage for a strong quarterback competition throughout the season.
Player to Watch
Jacquizz Rodgers, Soph., RB
Despite his stature -- 5 feet 7, 191 pounds -- Rodgers had one of the best freshman seasons in Oregon State history and was the first freshman to be named Pac-10 offensive player of the year. He became the Pac-10's all-time leading freshman rusher with 1,253 yards.
Why They're Vulnerable
The defense will be a work in progress. The Beavers return only three starters on that side of the ball, and the entire secondary must be replaced. They have a good amount of athleticism in the defensive backfield but will be very green. Filling the void left by the departures of defensive ends Victor Butler and Slade Norris will be a challenge. There are also sizable questions about the left side of the offensive line and the prospect of replacing two accomplished players in Andy Levitre and Adam Speer. Michael Philipp, a freshman left tackle from California who was rated among the top offensive line prospects in the country, could eventually emerge as a starter this season.
-- Eric Prisbell