Oregon State, during the Mike Riley era, has developed a notorious reputation for getting off to slow starts. While Riley is regarded as an above average head coach, his teams tend to take their time in finding a rhythm. In 2004, OSU began the season at 1-4, only to recover by finishing 7-5. In 2006, the Beavers began the season at 2-3, but posted a final record of 10-4. The next year, 2007, Oregon State again began 2-3, but ended up 9-4 overall. 2008 was an exact repeat of the previous year, as OSU again began 2-3, and finished 9-4. Each season, while other teams are gearing up for conference play by crushing cupcake opponents, Beavers fans are tortured with the possibility of dropping a game to a team like Sacramento State.
Last year was different, though. We saw the Beavers shake off their usual sluggish start, as they tore through the early season, winning their first six games. Not every game was easy, and the Beaver Faithful knew that not every game was pretty, but they were wins. There were scares, as Sean Mannion pulled OSU from the grasp of defeat at Arizona, throwing a last minute touchdown pass to win the game. There was uncertainty, as an inexperienced Cody Vaz stepped in for an injured Sean Mannion and shredded a very good BYU defense (which began a quarterback controversy that still divides Beavers fans today). For the first time in a handful of years, Oregon State was climbing in the rankings and the upcoming Civil War looked as though it might not be the bloodletting that recent years had been. In the end, however, this early success was soured as Oregon State alternated losses and wins for the remainder of the season to finish 9-4 overall, finishing with a discouraging loss to Texas in the Alamo Bowl.
This season, the Beavers should once again get off to a very good start. Their schedule is quite weak early on, as their first seven opponents combined for a record of 35-52. If we remove the 11-3 record that Eastern Washington posted last year (EWU finished #4 in the nation at the FCS level), the remaining six opponents have a combined win-loss record of 24-49. With OSU beginning the season ranked #25 overall, it is easy to forecast a high ranking for the Beavers entering their game against Stanford in Week 9. Stanford, currently #4 in the nation, is expected to be a contender for the National Championship, meaning that the October 26th showdown in Reser could be a game that defines the season.
It is interesting to look at the road the Beavers will have to take to ensure that they are ready to host the Stanford Cardinal, who will very likely be 7-0 and ranked in the top 5 (Stanford has three potential upset games leading up to Oregon State, but has the benefit of having them all in Palo Alto).
Eastern Washington will kick off the season for the Beavers, and while EWU was #4 in the FCS standings last year, OSU will be ready to show the Eagles that the big boys play on a different level. The fans will surely be nervous, as the season opening loss to FCS Sacramento State was only two years ago, but Riley will not allow the Beavers to forget that nightmare. Apologies to Eastern Washington, but this should be a warm up game for OSU. The next week, the Beavers host Hawaii. The Warriors are one of the weakest opponents on Oregon State’s schedule and will not put up much of a fight in the confines of Reser Stadium. The third game of the season is an early PAC-12 conference tilt, as OSU goes on the road to play Utah. The Utes have traditionally been a very successful team, but their transition to the PAC-12 has been lackluster thus far. Following this game, the Beavers should be 3-0 and ranked near #20 in the nation.
The fourth game of the season is the one that the Beavers may get caught sleeping on. They travel to San Diego to take on San Diego State, a team that won 7 games last year. I think that the Beavers may come out a little flat in this game, but they will tighten it up in the second half and cruise to victory. The next three opponents for OSU are Colorado, Washington State, and California. These three teams combined for a total of seven wins last season, and none of them are expecting much more from their squads in 2013. These games should not be close.
At 7-0, the Beavers would have to be ranked within the top 15. It is likely then, that a Stanford team ranked at least #4 will travel to Reser Stadium to play an Oregon State team ranked at least #15, with undefeated records at stake.
This showdown would occur on October 26th, and with Halloween only days away, it would be fitting for the team in black and orange to upset Stanford, reminding the nation that Oregon has always been, and always will be, the Beaver State.