I’ve got to do better.

Jacquizz Rodgers intends to "do better" against Arizona St., as he did in last season's Oregon St. win.

So says Jacquizz Rodgers, after the 1-2 start to Oregon St.'s season, and the Beavers' 37-24 loss in Boise. Considering that Oregon St. is outside the top 100 (of 120) FBS teams in both passing and rushing, albeit after having gone on the road against two top 5 teams with a green quarterback, that's true, and its also something quite a few others need to be saying as well.

It's probably a good thing that, with Dennis Erickson, who coached Oregon St. in 2000 when the Beavers had their winningest season ever, coming to town with his Arizona St. Sun Devils, and a ten year reunion of the Fiesta Bowl team is planned. And that ESPN's Gameday is down the road, for a major game between #9 Stanford and #4 Oregon.

These things have taken the attention away from the team, and preparation for the 2-2 (0-1 in the Pac-10) Sun Devils. And allowed for preparation without distraction, at least to the extent possible in the first week of fall term.

Oregon St. enters the game as favorites, largely due to being the home team, against an ASU team that has had their own games with ranked opponents get away the last two weeks at Wisconsin, and against Oregon. Games where mistakes made potential upsets unattainable.

The reality is Saturday's game is much more important to Oregon St. than either the TCU or Boise St. games. It's a Pac-10 game, with direct impact on bowl possibilities, but it's also a "swing" game, one the Beavers [clearly] CAN win, but could also lose.

Many of the same players were on both OSU and ASU a year ago when the Beavers won 28-17 in Tempe, breaking a 16 game losing streak there that dated back over 3 decades, and a significant number were involved two years ago, when Oregon St. started their current two game winning streak in the series. Different teams, yes, but not so different that history has no relevance.

Regardless of how well ‘Quizz, or the rest of the Beavers, played in Dallas and Idaho, where they covered the spread in both cases, those were games where Oregon St. (or anyone else) could have played REAL well, and still lost.

Play calling, quarterback Ryan Katz's reads, and blocking have got to do better (after all, other than when running the "Wild Beaver", ‘Quizz has no control over these factors that determine if he will even have the opportunity to do better), as well. So will a defense that's employing a scheme that leaves corners in difficult positions, especially if the defensive ends can't collapse the center of the formation, regardless of whether it's a passing play or a rush. And at or below that 100 of 120 cutoff mark as well.

The "Lunchpail U." tag applied to Oregon St., one some tire of, applies in conditions like this, or at least it had better, as the Beavers need to a) not lose confidence just because they, like everyone else who has tried lately, couldn't overcome the Horned Frogs or the Broncos, and b) do the work to put themselves in position to do better.

Historically, in "quiet" weeks leading to Beaver games played AFTER Oct. 1, Oregon St. coach Mike Riley's teams usually do exactly that. Which, despite the fact that the Sun Devils are a quality team, should result in the Beavers winning, and probably even covering the spread.

This time however, there is one MAJOR wild card, and it potentially trumps all else. WR James Rodgers, having suffered a concussion in the second half against Boise St., has been at practice all week, but not participating in physical drills. Rumors persist that James may not play Saturday, or will have a reduced role, probably excluding kick returns, if he does get on the field.

This despite the fact that he has passed all the tests meant to determine if he is fit for action. Which raises the question, or at least will raise it Saturday, of if the tests are being passed, [that's why we have tests, trainers, and doctors, so the guesswork is eliminated] what reason is there to hold him out?

If even a few in Beaver nation besides ‘Quizz (and Brandon Hardin, who pointed fingers after the Boise St. game...at himself) take the same personal responsibility for the situation that he has, Oregon St. should be "ok". In any event, if there are questions about the Rodgers brothers Saturday night, those questions won't be of them.

Saturday will go a long way to answer the question not just Beaver nation, but the entire Pac-10 has, which is whether Oregon St. (on the field and on the sideline) can do better.

Sometimes, the keys to the game lie in breaking down xs and os, and sometimes it lies elsewhere, in the hearts and minds. This feel like one of the weeks when it is the latter.

Prediction: OSU 34 ASU 27 (Alternative: NOT pretty)

Andy_Wooldridge@yahoo.com

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