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Despite a tough home defeat to No. 6 USC, Oregon State, along with Oregon, should feel pretty good about their teams.

PMG PHOTO: RALEIGH EMERSON - Oregon football players dance with the Ducks mascot before the fourth quarter begins against BYU on Sept. 17, 2022, at Autzen Stadium in Eugene.

Who feels better today, Oregon or Oregon State fans?

The simple answer is Oregon due to winning its game with Washington State, however despite a last minute loss to a top-10 ranked USC team, there's more reason for Beaver Believers to be looking up opposed to down in a year without a dominant Pac-12 team.

Both are good. Neither are great. That's not a knock against either, but rather an acknowledgement that — like all teams outside the country's top-10 — something's missing.

In the case of the Ducks, that something is experience and symmetry with a coaching staff and system new to the scene.

And the Beavers? The four and five-star talent that history tells you is necessary to win at the big-boy level.

But despite the lack of "Jimmies and Joes," Oregon State's "Xs and Os" allowed them to play neck-and-neck with a USC team that's been prematurely crowned.

That's right, no one with two eyes, a heartbeat and not named Colin Cowherd thinks this Trojan team is elite. Sure, the Fox hype machine that per multiple accounts facilitated and pushed USC and UCLA to the Big Ten this past summer wants desperately for you to believe that Reggie Bush, Matt Leinart and the second coming of Pete Carroll aren't walking through the Trojans' locker room door, but already have. Yet, upon closer inspection USC looks less like a playoff contender and more like a pretender riding on the shoulders of a rich tradition that with every passing year gets further in the rearview mirror.

Oregon State was every bit the Trojans equal in that game. Minus an interception or two, in addition to a bit more savvy decision-making under center, pundits and fans alike would be dreaming big for the Beavers this week opposed to wondering what could've been. Like Oregon, who survived their mistakes by saving their biggest plays for last.

The Ducks spent the first three quarters on the Palouse digging their proverbial grave by way of defensive mistakes and redzone ineptitude, and then rose from the dead by way of the "big play" and the type of fortitude rooted in the chemistry cultivated by a coaching staff making its mark.

For as lifeless and lost as Dan Lanning and his staff looked a month ago against Georgia, the fruits of their labor appear to be ripening with every snap, game and week before our eyes. As a result, Oregon and its fans are riding high on a wave of optimism while their Willamette Valley brethren are doing the same.

It's been too long since the Beavers have experienced Pac-12 relevancy. Sure, they won five conference games last season and eked their way into a bowl game for the first time in eight years, but their play in their three nonconference wins this year coupled with their effort in their lone defeat doesn't reek of what's been, but rather what could be if they stay the course of the right coach, pointing them in the right direction.

Johnathan Smith has the recipe to succeed in Corvallis and for four years has been gathering the ingredients to make it all work. He has the attitude and culture he needs, and to some extent the players capable of doing things the way he wants them done. But now he needs the handful of playmakers necessary to frost the cake he saw baked to perfection two decades ago under his former coach Dennis Erickson.

This week the Beavers travel to Utah for what could be their season's stiffest test, while the Ducks host a Stanford team who always gives them fits. For now, things are looking up in both Eugene and Corvallis. The Ducks and Beavers are a combined 6-2, both appear to be legitimate Pac-12 North contenders, and the pluses far outweigh the minuses for two programs working toward a similar goal of winning. So far, so good for both the green and orange, and that should leave both fanbases feeling pretty good — win or lose.


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