Building a program into a contender in the Pac-12 is a tough gig. Completing the feat with the schedule stacked against you, makes the process seem even longer at times. And just as you’re waiting for Oregon State to make that colossal breakthrough in the “Conference of Champions”, the wins just seem harder and harder to come by with programs like USC suddenly restoring themselves to shades of their former glory, Washington coming from mid-league cast-offs to yearly national contenders and Colorado literally emerging out of near-nowhere to challenge for a league title. It’s funny how quickly things can change.
Heading into the 2017 season, optimism is high around the Oregon State program, as the Beavers continue to develop under head coach Gary Andersen and his staff but as already noted in SB Nation’s preview of the team, a rigorous schedule could be their potential downfall. That news was only made worse on Friday, when ESPN’s Chris Low put out a piece ranking the toughest “three-game stretches” for any college football team in the country. As expected, the Beavers were situated right in the midst of that list.
Coming in at the 6th-toughest “three-game stretch” for their late-September/early-October clashes with Washington, USC (away) and Colorado, it’s safe to say that Oregon State will have their hands full, smack-dab in the middle of what is expected to be a huge transition for the program. However, maybe the rocky road ahead is simply setting the Beavers up for an opportunity to knock-off one of college football’s giants, in what could be considered at the end of the day, one of the biggest upsets of the college football season.
September 30th v. Washington
The Huskies showed their supremacy over the Beavers last season, walloping Oregon State in a 41-17 victory in late-October. In the contest, Washington quarterback Jake Browning completed half his passes for 291 yards and 3 scores, while running back Myles Gaskin chipped in his own 128 yards and a touchdown. Defensively, the Huskies picked off Oregon State quarterback Marcus McMaryion twice as a part of what could be considered a completely dominant performance. At no point, did things go well for head coach Gary Andersen and company.
Heading into the 2017 season, Washington is a top-ten team once again, who returns both Browning and Gaskin, but needs to fill a wealth of departures on the defensive side of things. Along with USC, Oregon State’s opponent the week after, Washington is one of the favorites to win the Pac-12, who will provide Oregon State’s with one of their biggest tests all-season long. It’s no surprise that they kick off what ESPN considers the sixth-toughest “three-game stretch” in all of college football.
October 7th at USC
If trying to beat what looks like a completely revived USC program isn’t difficult enough, the Beavers will have to try and tame the Trojans’ fearless running game, their Heisman contending quarterback and their NFL prospect-saturated defense all on the road, because sometimes it’s fun to add an extra degree of difficulty to these things. Thank you Pac-12 schedule-makers. While home and away may be irrelevant for this season’s clash, as USC just looks like a bit too much for even the best Beavers effort to handle in any regard, making some strides in this contest could help Oregon State go forward with a better sense of belief with Colorado just a week away.
It’s not to say that the Beavers can’t knock off the Trojans, as through the years, the Oregon State program has been renowned as an always lurking “giant killer” but this is a USC team who has potential to make the College Football Playoff. It’s doubtful they’ll come into this one unfocused enough to leave the door ajar to the Beavers, at any point in the contest. These two programs haven’t met since back in 2014, when then a Top-20 USC squad knocked off Sean Mannion and the Beavers by a 35-10 scoreline. It’s safe to expect a similar result for this year’s clash with USC, as well.
October 14th v. Colorado
The most-winnable of all three contests, Oregon State’s meeting with Colorado on October 14th could be this team’s greatest indicator of how their season is headed, for better or for worse. If the Beavers can find a way to knock off the Buffs, Oregon State has come full circle in the rebuild under Andersen. If they lose, the Beavers will need to refocus for Stanford and get the ball rolling with five-straight more manageable contests to close out the season. Yes, Colorado is suddenly their swing-game.
The Buffs are not exactly a swing-game opponent that anyone wants to see, considering their balanced attack under head coach Mike MacIntyre torched the Beavers to the likes of 47 points and 563 yards of total offense in Boulder last season. The only good part about this time around is that something could change with the game now in Corvallis. Some of the Buffs stand-out defensive play-makers are gone, but Oregon State will have to find their flow on offense quickly to keep up with a very dangerous Colorado group.