Entering the 2015 season, there were absolutely no expectations where Oregon State football was concerned.
None. Zip. Nada.
The media picked the Beavers dead last of 12 teams in the conference. Not just last in the North Division, but last in the entire group. But after a home win to San Jose State and then a relatively close loss to Stanford (it was just a 21-17 deficit at half) that is looking better and better, the Beavers suddenly find themselves on the brink of going bowling or not.
It will be only Oct. 10 when Oregon State goes down to Tucson to take on a wounded Wildcat team in Arizona. Before the season began, a young Beaver team that is breaking in a true freshman at quarterback probably had no chance of winning when they looked at this part of the schedule. Arizona is the defending Pac-12 South champ and they feature an offense Oregon State has had a history of not being able to defend will.
And Arizona had one of the best defenders, not only in the conference, but in the nation in one Scooby Wright.
That was before the season got underway and a lot has happened since.
Wright has been battling various injuries and will not be able to face the Beavers. Without Wright in the lineup, the Wildcat defense has been lit up like a Christmas tree. UCLA battered Wright and the Cats to the tune of a 56-30 score and then in the next week, without Wright completely, Stanford ran through Arizona 55-17. This is the same Stanford team that had trouble with the Beavers for a half.
“Arizona is in a position to play for championships and they’ve played at a high level in this league for a very long time. I’m sure those kids and those coaches will be just fine,” Oregon State coach Gary Andersen said. “Those kids are going to come out and expect to win. They’ve had a couple of tough losses, but it’s not anything they haven’t been through before.”
Despite all the adversity going on in the desert, this is going to be tough sledding for the Beavers. Arizona is 0-2 and is desperate for a win. The game is going to be at 2 pm local time and although it’s October, the game time temperature is supposed to be around 90 degrees. The state of Oregon has had a hot summer, but this will be very different than what the Beavers are used to.
Even then, Oregon State should still be in this game. The schedule makers were kind by giving Oregon State a bye the week after playing Stanford. The Cardinal are the most physical team in the Pac-12 and the opposition are usually quite beat up afterward. The bye couldn’t have come at a better time for the Beavers.
The coaches in Corvallis had a lot of positives to take away from the 42-24 loss to the Cardinal. Quarterback Seth Collins played well and was able to keep the Stanford defense on its heels by mixing in the run and the pass and using his legs to keep plays alive. It was only when Stanford pulled away and made Collins and the Beaver offense one dimensional that seemed to stifle Oregon State.
Those same coaches also saw Stanford’s Christian McCaffery run around, over and through the Wildcats for 156 yards and a touchdown. That has to give them some hope and think their tailback, Storm Woods, has the capability to do the same.
One would have to assume that if Oregon State wants to do the unthinkable and go to any kind of bowl game, the Arizona game is a must have. This is the portion of the Beaver schedule where they can get on a nice roll.
Oregon State goes to Pullman next week to take on Washington State, a team that has been up and down all season. The key here is playing in Pullman relatively early in the football season. No team wants to go up to Eastern Washington in November where you would have to deal with the wind, cold, snow or possibly all three of those elements which can even the odds for the Cougars.
Next would be a home game with annual cellar dweller Colorado. The Buffaloes have won a grand total of one game in the four seasons of being a Pac-12 member. They are much improved and played Oregon tough at home last week, but with everything being even, the Beavers should win that game.
Oregon State needs to win these next three games to be 5-2 overall because the schedule turns nasty.
It’s a gauntlet that includes at No. 5 Utah, No. 20 UCLA at home, at No. 23 and undefeated Cal, Washington and then the Civil War at Oregon. If, and it’s a big if, the Beavers should find themselves 5-2, they have to find one win in the remaining schedule.
The Huskies would be most likely candidate for the Beavers to get that elusive six win and to be bowl eligible. It’s also good the Washington game is in Corvallis and not Seattle. Husky Stadium is not a kind environment for freshman quarterbacks, no matter how good or bad the Huskies happen to be in that particular year.
Should it come down to the Civil War, Oregon State can feel good that the Beavers most likely will have the best quarterback on the field if for some reason Vernon Adams doesn’t play. Even with that one advantage, Autzen Stadium during the Civil War makes Husky Stadium seem like a golf course.
It won’t be easy for Oregon State to find that sixth win, but Andersen will be a lock for the Pac-12 Coach of the Year Award if he can somehow get his Beavers to a bowl in December.