2011 BTD Preseason Football Poll: Pac-12 North (3rd Place)

Today we continue the second annual picking of the BTD Preseason Football Poll.

Earlier this week, you guys voted in Washington State as the sixth place team in the Pac-12 North, you picked California to finish fifth in the North division, and you picked the Washington Huskeis to finish fourth. Today, it is time to pick the third place team.

Below you will find my prediction, along with the three remaining Pac-12 North teams. Your job is simple, just pick the team that you think will finish in 3rd place. The poll will be open all day, and the next poll will be up shortly after.

Happy Voting!

My Prediction: Oregon State

Boy am I glad the Beavers are back in this position. It was just a year ago that Oregon State was picked to finish either second or third in the Pac-10 (Depending on which poll you looked at), as media and bloggers down the west coast broke the golden rule of placing the Beavers in the upper half of the conference standings.

Oregon State did not know how to handle these high expectations and had a very disappointing year in the eyes of Beaver Nation.

Now, however, the Beavers are right where they like to be: In the middle of the division race, poised to make a Rose Bowl run. While the rest of the conference worries about Oregon, Stanford, and Willie Lyles, the Beavs will sneak up from behind pull an upset, and finally get to the promised land.

We hope.

Honestly, I don't think it's too far of a stretch. In my opinion, the most important thing to Oregon State's season will be getting healthy, and staying healthy for the rest of the season.

I don't like blaming injuries like an Oregon fan, but let's pretend that James Rodgers isn't tackled halfway into the endzone down in Tucson last season. I would say that with a healthy Rodgers, the Beavers go into Seattle full of confidence and knock off the Huskies. Actually, I'd say it wouldn't even be that close of a game.

After beating California, the Beavers would have been 5-0 in the Pac-10, tied for first, and ranked in the Top 15. I doubt with a healthy James our offense would have struggled so much down in Los Angeles, but let's pretend it does and we lose a heartbreaker. We are still 5-1, right in the thick of the Pac-10 race.

There would be no way we would lose to Washington State, we would defeat the Trojans the next week, and despite a loss to Stanford, we would have a much better chance to upset Oregon and go Alamo Bowl.

So, as you can see, injuries do matter. First, let's take a look at our updated injury situation:

  • Junior quarterback Ryan Katz says his wrist is 100% and he has been throwing all summer. This is VERY good news.
  • Senior wide reciever James Rodgers is back on the field and running during voluntary workouts. Once again, very good news.
  • Tight End Joe Halahuni is expecting to return in ealry-September following the shoulder surgery he had last spring. Hopefully he will only miss the Sacramento State game.

All in all, not very bad. As long as these guys stay healthy from now on, it will be a major improvement from last season's injury debacle.

Full season prediction after the break

Now let's take a look at the schedule. For the first four games of the season (Sacramento State, @ Wisconsin, UCLA, @ Arizona State), I've got all chalk. Wins against the Hornets and Bruins, losses to the Badgers, and Sun Devils. After that, it gets a little more interesting.

I don't know if the Beavers will be favored or the underdog when they host Arizona and BYU in early-October, but regardless, I've got Oregon State winning both of them. I have Arizona having a pretty bad season, which you will learn about in the coming days, so I'm expecting the Beavers to cruise in that one. However, the Cougars are going to be difficult.

If this one was going to be played in Provo, I'd pick BYU without a second thought. But I think home-field matters a lot in this one. BYU returns 15 starters from last year's team, including a great sophomore quarterback in Jake Heaps. But, their defense does have some major holes in it, notably at linebacker and strong-safety. I think the Beavers escape with a win thanks to a raucous Beaver Dam and a great performance by Ryan Katz.

I have the Beavers splitting the next two games, both of which should be close. I think the Beavers and Washington State are tied at Halftime at Century Link Field in Seattle, but a rousing halftime speech gets the Beavers pumped and gets them a win.

Next week it won't be so easy, as Rice-Eccles Field will be an absolute bees nest. The Utes might be playing to keep themselves in the running for a Pac-12 South title, and I think they come out playing their best Football of the season. Oregon State will need career performances from everyone on both sides of the ball, and I think that the Utes will barely edge out a victory.

Now the Beavers head into November and their last four games needing to win one to become bowl-eligible and all four to keep their slim Rose Bowl hopes alive. The stretch starts on a cold, rainy, Homecoming Saturday against the Stanford Cardinal. It would be a day that would go down with the 2008, 2006, and 2000 USC games as all-time great upsets in Corvallis.

It turned out that Ryan Katz and company saved their career days for a week later. The Beavers would jump out to a 14-0 lead, but Andrew Luck would slowly lead Stanford back to tie the game going into the fourth quarter. In the fourth, both teams would trade punts until James Rodgers finally took one to the house, his first of the year, with just 2:15 to play.

The Beaver defense would hold, the fans would rush the field, and both Ryan Katz and James Rodgers would earn helmet stickers on College Football Final to end the night.

Asked throughout the week if he thought the Beavers would have a letdown against California, quarterback Ryan Katz replied with, "It may not be in Berkeley, but it's Cal. You know what happens at Cal." It would turn out that the Golden Bears had different plans, leading the whole way and hanging on to a tight 30-28 advantage with just 1:10 left when Oregon State started their final drive at their own 20. Ryan Katz tried to put the Beavers into the end-zone, but all he could manage was a few completions to the California 36.

Instead of a Hail Mary, Mike Riley turned to freshman Trevor Romaine to win the game. With a brisk bay area gust of wind, Romaine's kick split the uprights with a few yards to spare to spend the Beavers dancing back to Corvallis.

The Huskies would provide a stiff challenge for the Beavers, but Markus Wheaton and Ryan Katz connected all day long for three tocuhdowns. Add another two from Ryan McCants, starting his first game after Jovan Stevenson sat out with an injury, and the Beavers pounded the Dawgs 35-17.

Unfortunately for the Beavers, Oregon continued to take care of business all season long and would be playing in the Pac-12 title game no matter what happened in the Civil War. The Beavers put up a fight, and even lead by seven at halftime, but the fast Duck offense would outlast the Beavers and send them back to Corvallis with a 38-17 loss.

So in the end, I don't have the Beavers in the Rose Bowl, or even getting past Stanford for 2nd Place. But a 8-4 record with a tough schedule is a good accomplishment, especially for a team that missed out on a bowl game last season. And who knows, maybe a break goes their way in Salt Lake City, or Arizona State misses a crucial extra point down the stretch in Tempe?

There will be upsets, both good and bad for the Beavers, and in the end it will determine whether the Beavers are in Pasadena or Albuquerque for the holidays.

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