You are forgiven if you skimmed over the Colorado-Oregon State matchup this upcoming Saturday, lost amid the abundance of clashes that promise to make the weekend another beautifully chaotic one.
Stanford-Washington demands attention, as do Texas-Oklahoma State, Tennessee-Georgia, Wisconsin-Michigan, and Louisville-Clemson. Heck, even Oregon-Washington State will be must-watch TV.
As far as the quality of your weekend viewing is concerned, there is no reason to tune into Colorado, the perennial Pac-12 doormat, and Oregon State, the heir apparent to Colorado’s recently vacated spot in the cellar. That coexistence of teams provides oddly sentimental – and perhaps even watchable — value.
The Buffs, so long the West Coast’s in-conference cupcake game, have at last begun to mature as a program, thumping Colorado State in the opener, 44-7, to assert themselves as the in-state power. That wasn’t all. CU crushed Idaho State in week two, held a two-touchdown lead over now-No. 4 Michigan in week three, and clung to a late lead to stun Oregon last Saturday.
“For Colorado and Coach Mac it’s awesome to see it happen,” Oregon State coach Gary Andersen said earlier this week.
“How many times were people ready to say ‘This isn’t going to work’ blah, blah, blah. The bottom line is the kids stuck to the plan, and I have tremendous respect for them. Coach Mac stuck to the plan and I have tremendous respect for him competing back to the days when we were in the WAC together … In my opinion, it’s the most gratifying thing as a head coach in football when you can flip a program. I felt that way as an assistant, but not even as close to the way you feel as a head coach. I know he feels they aren’t close to arriving yet. But they are playing a brand of football they haven’t played in years.”
This Saturday will almost serve as a passing of the torch between Colorado and Oregon State, the former cellar dweller being replaced by the next, a coach who has found his stride standing opposite another who seeks to do the same through the long, arduous and dreaded rebuilding process.
It will not be easy.
Oregon State hasn’t won a conference game since 2014, a streak that now includes 11 games. Colorado’s been there. Prior to this season, the Buffs were 2-25 in Pac-12 play during the Mike MacIntyre era. It’s far from a guarantee that Oregon State will win one this year, too.
Where Andersen can take hope is that he is far from the first Pac-12 coach to reinvent a program. Steve Sarkisian put the defibrillators to Washington, and Chris Petersen has since done the same. Chip Kelly completely reinvented Oregon. Jim Harbaugh and David Shaw have built Stanford into one of the most feared schools not just on the West Coast, but in the country. Just as Harbaugh was not expected to win with Andrew Luck in those first few seasons, and many were wondering why Kelly demanded his offense move so darn quickly, Andersen will not be expected to win anytime soon with Oregon State.
His Beavers are nearly 20-point underdogs to Colorado, and it’s quite possible that the Buffs will cover. Perhaps two, maybe three years down the road, Andersen will be set to play the newest Pac-12 doormat, and they’ll say something along the lines of Oregon State playing the best brand of football in years.
It won’t be now, of course. Not Saturday. That’s why the process is called a rebuilding one.