Oregon State will bring a young, inexperienced defense into TCF Bank Stadium on Thursday night as the Gophers’ opening night opponent.
The “young, inexperienced” part, however, might be a strength, not a weakness.
The OSU defense last season was awful, and at times much worse than that. Oregon State has changed, well, everything since last fall, but here's a look at the Beavers' D of 2015:
Teams scored 57 touchdowns in 12 games against OSU, which finished 2-10 and 0-9 in Pac-12 play -- that's almost five TDs each game. In their nine games against winning teams, Oregon State gave up 51 of those TDs (5.7/game).
The Beavers finished with the 114th-ranked defense, out of 128 big-school teams. Only Oregon, Indiana, Texas Tech and Kansas ranked lower from Power 5 conferences.
They gave up more than 40 points seven times last season. They gave up 199 points in four December games last season, dang near 50 per.
The Beavers’ margin of defeat in three games between Halloween and Thanksgiving: 38.6 points.
The better news for fans of OSU defense: new coordinator Kevin Clune has taken over, bringing a 3-4 scheme designed to stop the run.
But maybe the best news for fans of OSU defense: not many Beaver defenders have to get over their personal trauma of their 2015 performance. Transfers and youth dominant the D's depth chart, with sixteen underclassmen on their two-deep roster.
Could the Gophers be the next team to put up 40-plus on OSU? We'll find out sometime before midnight. Star Tribune Gophers football beat reporter Joe Christensen sees a little less scoring than that, with the Gophers winning by eight.
Marcus Fuller wrote a more in-depth look at Oregon State and coach Gary Andersen, formerly of Wisconsin, for Thursday’s Star Tribune.
Joe Christensen will have extensive pregame, in-game and postgame coverage of the opening night at startribune.com/gophers.