As we are now past the midpoint in the Oregon State football season, Beaver nation can turn their eyes to more meaningful games. Each contest from here on out will affect which bowl game OSU will play in. With the colossal affair against Stanford looming this weekend, every game will be showcase time to substantiate their position in the conference as well as any ranking which may come their way.
A lot has been made of OSU’s light schedule to date (what does that say about Oregon, who has played common Beaver opponents in Colorado, Washington State, California and an FCS school?) As fans or media, it is easy to analyze or question which games are easy versus difficult. If Coach Mike Riley and his staff are doing what is expected of them (and have done so by guiding the team to six straight victories), no game is a walkover and preparation is diligent for all opponents.
The Beavers left Berkeley with an easy win over California. However, oddly, not their best game. The week before, taking out Washington State up in Pullman was a more rounded effort. Against the Golden Bears, the Beavers could have hung up a 70-spot had everything gone routinely. But a Caleb Smith fumble just before entering the end zone near halftime, Trevor Romaine missing a short field goal, a drive starting at the Cal 17 ended up in a punt and a Beaver turnover well inside California‘s side of the field, all ended up in missed scoring chances for an offense which has proven itself as opportunistic. Basically, OSU kept their foot off the pedal and had it neutral once they got up 7-3. The final score of 49-17 was one of those ‘it wasn’t as close as the score indicated’, despite the blowout.
How does this pertain to Stanford and the rest of the Oregon State schedule? Evaluate what has happened and apply what you have learned (Top Gun movie buffs know this familiarity). The first seven entries for the Beavers are complete. Now this team moves forward with a push toward validation. This team deserves to be in the top floors of the conference, regardless of who they have played. What comes next is ascertain the intangibles that brought them down in those games and utilize the improvements. Six games remain (counting the bowl game) for Oregon State, each one formidable to a certain degree.
But why everyone is pointing at the back loaded schedule for OSU as an uphill battle can be debated on who is tougher to dispose. With the prolific Sean Mannion and company, OSU cannot be counted out of any game. Furthermore, a defense, which created one turnover in the first two games, now has 19 on the season. About a month ago, sure, OSU looked like an enigma. These days, it’s a different story. Underdogs? Depends on your point of view. No opponent will look past these late arriving Beavers.
Stanford and Oregon State have only two common opponents. Each blew out the Cougars, while Stanford lost to Utah and the Beavers edged the Utes in overtime. In the BCS standings, the Cardinal comes in at #6 and the Beavers lie at #25. As the season unfolds, these games are closer than one might think. And thanks to the Beavers developing as expected, OSU could have a big say in their bowl future as well as their conference counterparts. All post season road signs lead their way in and out of Corvallis (three more home games), beginning this Saturday.