Is this Oregon State's year?
That's what people are asking themselves after the Beavers' dominating win over USC this past Saturday night. Albeit, not the USC of old, but still a more talented team than OSU, and with a favorable schedule, watered-down conference, and a team and coach playing with the belief necessary to do the unbelievable, Beavernation is dreaming big â€“ and why not?
This is a program that hasn't had a winning season since 2013, hasn't won an outright conference championship since 1964, and had a coach â€“ Gary Anderson â€“ quit on them in the middle of the 2017 season because he reportedly saw the situation and prospect of building a winner in Corvallis as untenable.
Jonathan Smith â€“ who played quarterback for these same Beavers during their most successful season in modern history, 2000 â€“ however, sees things differently. And why wouldn't he? Smith epitomizes what Oregon State needs to do to excel in a college football world built for them not too â€“ overachieve.
There are no billionaire Beaver alums willing to make the necessary commitment to make a difference, no history of winning, no dazzling facilities or flashy lifestyle necessary to recruit at a championship level at OSU, so to do so they have to fill 5-star shoes with â€“ at best â€“ 3-star feet.
Smith was around when Dennis Erickson did just that. He got the most from Smith at quarterback, an undersized back in Ken Simonton, midling recruits across the board, then filled-in the gaps with junior college talent that slipped through the system's cracks. The fourth-year Beaver head coach is doing the same thing now, but with the NCAA's transfer portal, which allows disgruntled collegiate talent the ability to fly the coup for "greener" pastures â€“ or in this case orange ones.
Football is the ultimate team sport. If a group of 11 guys play together and buy-in to a viable system, they can do great things. You saw that last Saturday night in the Los Angeles Coliseum.
To be fair. These aren't your dad or granddad's Trojans. They've been underrecruiting and even further underperforming for years, and since a Week-2 loss to Stanford have been playing with an interim coach on the heels of firing now former head coach Clay Helton. They certainly have their share of problems, but that only slightly diminishes what the Beavers were able to accomplish in their 45-27 drumming of the "Men of Troy."
This was less about the hapless Trojans than it was about Oregon State. There's no nice way to put this, so I'm not going to bother with the kid-gloves: the Beaver football program has been pathetic for the better part of 50 years.
Since 1970 they've had just 11 winning seasons, went 28 years without one, and have 21 times failed to win more than two games. Prior to last week's outcome they hadn't won at USC since 1960. That's 22,290 days, 12 presidents, and seven Trojan Heisman Trophy winners later. Not to mention, 26 Trojan conference championships and seven national titles in that span. To say they (USC and OSU) have been an apt illustration of the Pac-12 "haves" and "have-nots" would be accurate. But this group of Beavers wanted none of it, and the Trojans seemed to want none of them from the onset of last Saturday's game.
Oregon State outgained USC, outrushed them 322-76, and at no point looked the lesser of the two teams. This group â€“ unlike Beaver teams of the past â€“ believed, and they've no reason not to prior to any of their remaining eight games.
No task â€“ on paper â€“ will appear more daunting than the game they just won, and with the bulk of their stiff competition forced to come to Corvallis, no game on their schedule should appear at the least unwinnable, including at Oregon to finish the year, primarily because they have the luxury of last year's end-of-year win to lean on from a confidence perspective.
So, can Oregon State win the Pac-12 conference? I think they can.
Will they? I believe they think so, and that's half the battle in a conference ripe for the pickin'.
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