We continue with our series looking at each Pac-12 team's nonconference opponents in 2014.
Portland State, Saturday, Aug. 30
Coach: Nigel Burton (18-27), fifth year
2013 record: 6-6, 3-5 Big Sky
Returning starters: Seven offense, four defense
Offensive headliner: During the past two seasons, quarterback Kieran McDonagh has rushed for 775 yards and 13 touchdowns to go with more than 4,000 passing yards and 29 scores.
Defensive headliner: Cornerback Aaron Sibley is the lone returning starter in the secondary. He was an all-conference honorable mention last year after posting 42 tackles, 1.5 for a loss and one interception. Has all-conference potential this season.
The skinny: The Vikings lose a talented running back in DJ Adams, but the offense still has a lot of explosion after setting six school records last season. Defensively, there is some work to do with only four starters returning. This is the first of two meetings between the league and Portland State, which also faces Washington State on Sept. 13.
At Hawaii, Saturday, Sept. 6
Coach: Norm Chow (4-20), third year
2013 record: 1-11, 0-8 Mountain West
Returning starters: Seven offense, six defense
Offensive headliner: Offensive lineman Ben Clarke earned all-conference honorable mention honors last season and has started 24 games the past two seasons. He’s one of four returning starters on the offensive line.
Defensive headliner: Linebacker Jerrol Garcia-Williams posted 67 tackles last year, including three for a loss and a sack. He also forced a couple of fumbles.
The skinny: We hit on Hawaii during the Colorado post last week. That will actually be the third game for the Warriors in the 2014 season against the Pac-12. They open at home against Washington and then get Oregon State a week later. Hawaii hasn’t beaten a Pac-12 team since topping Colorado 34-17 in the 2011 season opener.
San Diego State, Saturday, Sept. 20
Coach: Rocky Long (25-14), fourth year
2013 record: 8-5, 6-2 Mountain West
Returning starters: Six offense, four defense
Offensive headliner: Quinn Kaehler returns at quarterback after taking over starting duties last year – where he passed for more than 3,000 yards and 19 touchdowns to nine interceptions.
Defensive headliner: Oft-injured defensive back J.J. Whittaker was able to put together a complete season last year and rewarded the Aztecs with a team-high three interceptions, including a critical pick-six in the team’s win over Boise State last year.
The skinny: The Aztecs lose a huge chunk of production with the departure of running back Adam Muema. But Long has this team competing for a Mountain West title. It took a bizarre turn over events for the Beavers to win last year’s game at Qualcomm. Recall, SDSU was up 30-21 with five minutes left before an OSU touchdown, followed by a Steven Nelson pick-six and a Ryan Murphy interception in the final three minutes locked up the unlikely comeback.
Thoughts: We’d like to think Oregon State will jump out to a 3-0 start to the season. But we’ve been fooled before. The Beavers have dropped two games in the last three seasons to FCS foes -- Sacramento State in overtime in 2011 and the 49-46 shootout against Eastern Washington last year when the Beavers started the season ranked No. 25. So take the following analysis with a grain of salt: The Beavers absolutely should start the year 3-0. They have an elite quarterback, a running game they hope will blossom and experience on all three levels of the defense. Are they a perfect team? Absolutely not. They have holes like everyone else. But their holes shouldn’t matter against the likes of Portland State and Hawaii. San Diego State, however, is a surging Mountain West team. The Aztecs have gone to four straight bowl games (including 3 for 3 under Rocky Long) and pushed OSU to the brink last season. But the schedule works out that the Beavers have two games then a bye before wrapping the nonconference slate with SDSU at home. Then it’s off to USC to start league play on Sept. 27. The Beavers will be favorites in all three games so thinking 3-0 isn’t lofty. It’s expected.