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Oregon St. Could Be The Next Arizona

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Can Oregon St. burst onto the scene successfully in the new era of Beaver football? It's been done before.
Can Oregon St. burst onto the scene successfully in the new era of Beaver football? It's been done before.
(Photo by Andy Wooldridge)

Oregon St. is embarking on a new era of football, and without a returning quarterback. The Beavers will also be installing new schemes on both sides of the ball, and instilling a new, more athletic approach. And they are coming off a losing season.

Oh, and expectations are located near the bottom of their division.

If this sounds not only like a challenge, but also like a story Pac-12 fans have seen before, its because it is.

3 years ago, the same could be said for Arizona, who, like Oregon St., was installing a new system brought by an ex-Big 10 coach, in a relatively small market program, and one not consistently one of the conference's blue bloods.

There's a lot of differences between Rich Rodriguez and Gary Andersen, but there are a lot of similarities too, not the least of which being a willingness to put players on the field who can take some chances, but also make some plays.

Lets review how that worked.

Arizona was coming off a 4-8 season, similar to Oregon St.'s 5-7 mark last year, though the 'Cats had fired Mike Stoops after the Beavers beat them 37-27 mid-season. But Arizona did have an upset win over Arizona St. late in the year to build on, something Oregon St. also has to carry into the 2015 campaign.

The first year was a surprisingly successful turnaround, as Arizona improved to an 8-5 year, including a bowl win over Nevada.

A strong start in a manageable non-conference schedule was instrumental, and though going unbeaten will be tough for Oregon St. with a trip to Michigan in week 2, a 2-1 start to the season should nevertheless be the floor for expectations.

Sure, there were some blowout losses, including a 49-0 loss at Oregon, and a 66-10 thrashing at UCLA. Though unpleasant to think about, Beaver fans should bear those events in mind as the season proceeds.

But there also disappointing to 'Cat fan losses that had to be considered progress, in that they were winnable games. The first of which Beaver fans will recall quite clearly, the 38-35 win in Tucson in which Sean Mannion gave an indication of things to come, bringing Oregon St. from behind 3 times.

A week later, there was a 6 point loss at Stanford, and the regular season ended on a down note, a 1 score loss in the Territorial Cup.

And there were wins over Washington, USC, and Utah.

Most Oregon St. fans would gladly sign up for an 8-5 season, or probably even a 7-6 one (considering the more difficult non-conference schedule), this season.

Year 2 under Rich Rod was another 8-5 campaign, but it included an upset of Oregon, and another bowl win. And it was accomplished with another new quarterback, a situation Oregon St. may not face.

But in another cautionary note to Beaver fans, the 2013 'Cat campaign also included a lopsided loss to the Huskies, and a loss to the Cougs.

Still, 16 wins and 2 bowl wins in 2 years would exceed anything Oregon St. has accomplished since 2007-2008.

And last year, Arizona won the Pac-12 South, with another upset of Oregon, on their way to a 10 win season. Again, this is something that many in Beaver Nation would sign up for, even though last year ended on a 2 game losing streak for the 'Cats, as the Ducks exacted revenge for the upsets in the conference championship game, and then Rich Rod lost his first game as the coach at Arizona to a non-conference opponent. when Boise St. beat them by a touchdown in the Fiesta Bowl.

Clearly, Oregon St. will want to work on some of the bumps in the road Arizona experienced. But with a similar recruiting outlook, one with a more high profile program just up the road, and mostly the same opponents, its not unreasonable to look at the application of athleticism in a system that's willing to accept some risks, and probably get beat at times as a result, as one that can also challenge the rest of the Pac-12 on a regular basis.

It's a different sport than baseball, in essentially every way, but football is similar in one way, to what a certain rather successful Oregon St. coach named Pat Casey preaches; namely compete smartly and put pressure on the opponent, and sometimes they won't successfully respond, while you do.

Around Christmas 2017, we will know for sure whether Andersen and Beaver Nation was able to approximate Arizona's success in implementing a new system. But at least there is a timely, relevant precedent that proves it is possible.

Andy_Wooldridge@yahoo.com