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Middle Of Season Will Define Oregon State

How Oregon St., and Storm Barrs-Woods, navigate the October portion of their season, will determine whether November will be anything to remember.
How Oregon St., and Storm Barrs-Woods, navigate the October portion of their season, will determine whether November will be anything to remember.
(Photo by Andy Wooldridge)

With temperatures hovering in the upper 90s, making weight lifting in the air conditioned Oregon St. training center look like an attractive option, it seems like a long way to fall and football, though in 7 short weeks, we will have already broken down the Beavers' opener against Weber St.

But its that time of year for breaking down not only teams, but schedules. As usual, with the brutal Pac-12 schedule that makes most games, even those with a clear favorite, interesting because there are rarely games without at least some uncertainty. When and where the games are played, and which games aren't played (the schedule misses), can be even more important in determining how the season shakes out than the relative strengths and weaknesses of the teams overall.

As such, the most important games aren't necessarily the rivalry games, unless those contests are in the list of swing games that could well go either way. This year, the Civil War, for example, probably isn't one of them for either the Beavers or the Ducks. Blast away in the comments for such heresy, but as much as Oregon St. fans would like to end the losing streak against Oregon, in Autzen Stadium against a team that's got a great shot at a return to the College Football Playoffs, an Oregon St. team that's got bowl eligibility as probably a high-water mark, that's going to be a tough one to get a W in.

Similarly, September is the month with the least suspense involved. Oh sure, the unveiling of new an entirely new offense, defense, and special teams approach under new head Coach Gary Andersen will warrant a very close look, but Weber St. and San Jose St. are the 2 most likely wins of the season.

And while both the trip to Ann Arbor and the visit from Stanford on the 2nd day of fall classes are both winnable, the Beavers will likely be sizable underdogs in both games. At least it looks like that today.

Also, November will see an opportunity to upset visiting UCLA again, as well as a potentially very important trip to Berkeley for one of those "up for grabs" games, plus a chance at home to shake the collar the Huskies had on former coach Mike Riley.

But while November is usually when the games that are remembered are played, whether those games will have a chance to be all that memorable will depend on what happens in October.

Oregon St. starts the month off with a trip to Tucson to take on defending Pac-12 South champion Arizona, who has a shot at not only defending that title, but earning a New Years eve/day game. But there's enough uncertainty about the 'Cats to put the outcome of this one in the uncertain category, especially since the Beavers have a history of playing Arizona tough.

A week later, its off to Pullman, where every game is literally an "up in the air" affair. Oregon St. has a good track record in the Palouse, and recent history has seen late lead changes in this series. Plus, its a key game for the Cougs, who represent direct competition for the Beavers in the Pac-12 North race, as well.

October will be tough given that 3 of 4 games the Beavers play will be on the road, so the by Colorado is about as close to a must win game as there will be if Andersen is to make a run at bowl eligibility in his first campaign in Corvallis.

And the Buffs, who took the Beaves to the limit in Boulder last year, will have this game circled as one of their best chances for a Pac-12 road win.

Halloween ends the month, and Oregon St. will celebrate it in Salt Lake City. Given that the Beavers and Utes pushed towards midnight in overtime games the last 2 years, if this is a night game at Rice-Eccles (and with 2 teams that feature black as a team color, don't bet against it!), this one might actually not be decided until its actually November.

Plus, its a homecoming for a lot of the Oregon St. staff, many of whom have a lot of history in the Salt Valley.

It's possible Oregon St. could go 4-0 in this tough stretch, but its also not unreasonable to see them going 0-4. Something in between is probably more likely. And while its a road-game heavy month, these are all very "makeable" road trips, ones that traditionally see a strong Beaver Nation presence, no small consideration for what will be one of the youngest, and least experienced teams in the conference and country, but one that could be rounding into form just in time for some emotional wins.

But in any event, the middle third of the season should not only see some of the most competitive football of the year, it will be the most defining football of the beginning of the Andersen era.