Oregon State’s Near Future: Early Season Outlook [76 Days of Summer]
It is hard to believe that just three years ago the Beavers were playing in the Civil War for a chance to play in the Rose Bowl for a second year in a row. That’s right, in 2008 and 2009 the Beavers were playing for a Rose Bowl birth. Now they could easily finish last in the PAC-12 North and in the bottom fourth of the PAC-12 as a whole.
The Beavers have many of the same struggles Oregon has: no huge in-state football population and no storied past going back to the time of the four horsemen (although they do have a Heisman winner). What they don’t have that Oregon has is money and the “cool” factor. When Oregon State starts to slide they will slide for years.
Recruiting has been down in recent years and right now they are the only BCS conference team to not have a commit for next year’s recruiting class. In the past Mike Riley has been able to make good to great teams out of only a little talent. Last year Oregon State lost to Sacramento State, a FCS team. There is no excuse for that to happen.
There were a few bad losses last year but also some surprising wins. The Beavers got wins over Arizona, Washington State, and Washington. Washington was a big deal and a total surprise. The Beavers have the ability to beat good teams but also the ability to blow easy ones.
This pattern has caused some to question whether Mike Riley is the right coach for the job still. Before you even get to discuss Riley’s merits as a great coach the fans should re-evaluate where they think their program can actually go. I think playing in a BCS game in the early 2000’s and competing for a conference championship during one fifth of the decade is a pretty reasonable expectation. Don’t let a few bad years sour the whole direction of the program. Also, who else are you going to get to replace him? Nobody. I don’t think any coach who is proven or a sure thing to be better is going to want to make a career out of coaching in Corvallis like Mike Riley is.
The upcoming season could easily be worse than the year before. There isn’t even a left tackle currently listed on the depth chart (Dion Jordan must be stoked). On the bright side, there is a long pattern of quarterbacks performing extremely well in their second year. Last year was Sean Mannion’s first year under center after Ryan Katz performed awful in the first few games.
With Marcus Wheaton returning and hopefully some form of a running game this is a team that will have to do a lot of work to reach a bowl game. They have to win every game that would be characterized as a “swing game.”
Oregon State doesn’t have the backing that Oregon does, although there are some rumblings of a marketing and branding strategy on an Oregon level. The players may not be highly touted coming out of high school but there’s one guy who has shown a history of turning poor teams on paper in to good teams, Mike Riley. I like the Beavers and always cheer for them when they are not playing Oregon and I hope they do much better than I project this season.