I'm not much of a "what if" person, but sometimes, it's nice to see what could have been.
If you look at the Pac-10 standings that I posted yesterday in my Pac-10 wrap, you'll see that there is a two way tie for first place, and a three way tie for second place. Oregon State has not yet won a game against any of those other four teams. The USC game was out of hand, and probably would still be if we played it with a healthy Yvenson Bernard. USC is a Rose Bowl-caliber team, but it's lapses like the loss to Stanford that are keeping them out of the National Championship.
Arizona State was within reach. If Oregon State does something with their 19-0 first quarter lead besides rolling over and playing dead, we've got a chance to win the game. Arizona State is a good team, but they're not that good. Yeah, they've got the record of a BCS-bound team, but they don't compare with a team like USC yet. (As we all saw on Thanksgiving.)
UCLA, UCLA, UCLA. If Lawson doesn't fumble three kickoff returns, and if our defense doesn't fall apart late in the fourth quarter, I still don't know if we win that game. Yeah, we were leading for much of the game, and were up 14-12 in the fourth. But still, that game didn't have a good feeling to it from the beginning. UCLA was another one of those teams that was good, but not that good. They're obviously a different team now.
So here's an extreme situation: Instead of scheduling a team like Cincinnati on the road at the beginning of the year, the athletic department gets a WAC team like Boise State, Nevada, or even another Mountain West team like BYU. Boise State has been a good opponent over the years. I realize that scheduling is a very difficult thing with lots of factors inovolved, I'm just offering my .02. BYU might have been a stretch because we opened the season with Utah. I know Cincinnati was a prime-time TV game on ESPN with Erin Andrews and everything, but the bottom line is Oregon State doesn't do well in that type of game. (Louisville, Cincinnati, etc.)
So, we go 3-0 in non-conference play with wins over Utah, Boise State at home, and Idaho State. If we get Boise at home, maybe we play Utah on the road, I don't know.
Now, the extreme part continues: We win at Arizona State, and we're 4-0. I think that's very feasible; Oregon State was very much in that game, and the Sun Devils were still trying to figure out their identity after an easy preseason schedule. Let's say we beat UCLA too. Our offense gives more production, and the Beavers win because our defense isn't stuck in a hole every UCLA possession. That puts us at 5-0.
Now you start to ask, if we beat Arizona State and UCLA, do we still upset Cal? If Longshore remains beat up, and Cal goes on to have to metiocre season they're having this year, I say we still win the game. That puts us at 7-0 through seven. It sounds unreasonable, but it was possible. We beat Stanford and lose to USC, 8-1. Wins over the Washington schools, 10-1. Now, the Civil War is another questionable game. If the Beavers have a 10-1 season, is Dennis Dixon still healthy for the Civil War? If we played this season again, there's probably zero likelihood that the Ducks are down to their fourth and fifth quarterbacks by the Civil War. The Civil War would be a close game no matter what, but the Ducks pull it out at home, with more of their team healthy.
So what kind of publicity does a 10-1 Oregon State team get heading into the Civil War? What kind of publicity does the Civil War get if both teams are 10-1?
That what-ifs continue.
For this "what if" season to have happened, several things would of had to gone right. In order to avoid the Riley-esque "slow start", we would of had to been ready to play against a team like Boise State (or heck, even Cincinatti). We would of had to know what this team is capable of doing, and have been confident heading into games like Arizona State and UCLA. We would of had to avoid getting upset by a team like Washington or Washington State, and not look silly against teams like USC.
But bottom line, this has been a great season. The pieces have really all fallen together in the last three weeks, which is ironically the amount of time Lyle Moevao has been the starter. All I'm saying is that 5-3 in the Pac-10 is good, but if we start the season playing like we are now, it could be 7-1. Or 6-2, at least.
Football is a crazy game. It really is impossible to look back on a season and correctly say "this could of happened", etc., because there is no way to tell. The upset is always going to be a major factor in college football, and in the Pac-10 especially, 5-3 is a darn good record.
I've enjoyed the ride, as I'm sure most Oregon State fans have this year. There were the low points, but there have also been the high points.
Now, let's go win us a Civil War.
And then, if the chips fall, the Holiday Bowl would sure be nice.