10 Reasons to Believe Oregon State Is for Real in 2012
In week two, the Oregon State Beavers upset No. 13 Wisconsin. It was a big win, but one that came at home against the obviously overrated Badgers.
Then they had a week off with their bye.
In week four, the Beavers toppled No. 19 UCLA on the road. Another big win, but their second on extra rest—their week one matchup against Nicholls State was postponed.
Finally on regular rest—and staring down the kind of fast paced team that had burned the Beavers in the past—OSU faced off with Arizona in week five.
They won again, moving to 3-0 on the season. It's the program's best start in over 10 years.
But with plenty of football left on the season, what makes these Beavers the real deal?
Well, I'm glad you asked.
Not One Big Win, but Two
You could have said beating No. 13 Wisconsin was a fluke. That Badgers team has been a disappointment all season long, and bad teams upset good teams all the time. It's the crazy nature of college football.
Then the Beavers toppled No. 19 UCLA. That's when they started looking for real. Just for good measure, they beat an Arizona team that had three weeks prior beat Oklahoma State.
At 3-0 with two wins over ranked opponents and a No. 14 ranking themselves, it's hard to make a case for the Beavers being a fluke.
They Have the Best QB in the Pac-12
In a conference filled with fast paced offenses and dynamic two-way quarterbacks, you might not think of Sean Mannion as the best. But he is.
His stats: 64.6 percent completion, 1,088 yards, six touchdowns and one interception. His 362.7 yards per game leads the Pac-12, as does his touchdown-to-interception ratio.
He's twice set single game records for himself—379 yards against UCLA followed by 433 yards against 'Zona.
As long as Mannion is leading the offense, they're something to be feared.
In the past, the Beavers offensive struggles have started with the O-line. Over the last two seasons they've allowed 62 sacks for a total loss of 445 yards.
This season Oregon State is second in the Pac-12 in sacks against, allowing just six on the year.
While the line is finally experienced and healthy, they're also led by true freshman center Isaac Seumalo. The 6'3, 302 pound Corvallis native was the Beavs' only five-star recruit in 2012, and was considered one of the best O-line prospects in the country.
The time the line is giving the offense this year is making such a difference. They're also getting better at opening—and holding—running lanes.
It's a huge reason for the Beavers' success.
The Developing Running Game
From Steven Jackson to Jacquizz Rodgers, OSU has always been known for their great tailbacks.
The program took a step back last season, as the team rushed for a mere 86.9 yards per game, last in the Pac-12.
This season things are looking up. Led by Storm Woods—and his absolutely awesome name—they're eighth in the Pac-12 with 126.7 yards per game.
Woods continues to amp up his production. After rushing for just 36 yards against Wisconsin, he's put up 257 yards on the ground over OSU's last two games.
As long as he keeps getting better, the Beavers offense gets that much more dangerous.
The Dynamic Duo
The Oregon State offense has a lot of important components, but none is more important than the dynamic duo of Markus Wheaton and Brandin Cooks.
Cooks leads the Pac-12 in receiving yards per game with 134.7. In second place is Wheaton with 134.3. Combined, they're averaging 34.2 yards a catch.
With these two, OSU might have the best receiving corps in the Pac-12. Cooks seems unstoppable when he gets his hands on the ball, and Wheaton can catch just about anything.
Until teams find a way to slow down both of these receivers, they're going to keep shredding secondaries.
Scott Crichton entered 2011 an unknown. He left a great player on a horrible defense.
In 2012, Crichton continues to play at the highest level, wreaking havoc on opposing offenses. The sophomore has 10 tackles—five for loss—with three sacks on the season.
His biggest game was against UCLA, in which he registered six solo tackles, two sacks and a pass deflection.
Crichton is a fixture in that defensive line, and as long as he keeps playing at a high level so will the Beavers.
They're Stopping the Run
With programs like Oregon, Stanford and UCLA, it's tough to compete in the Pac-12 if you can't stop the run.
For the past couple of years, the Beavers have had issues in that department. It was a big reason for the 3-9 record they displayed last season.
In their first two games, Oregon State faced Wisconsin and UCLA—two of the nation's top running attacks. Between both those games the Beavs allowed a combined 107 yards on the ground.
With a strong defensive line and a healthy corp of underrated linebackers, Oregon State has finally stopped their Achilles heal. If they keep it up, they should make waves in 2012.
A Sound Secondary
While the Beavers couldn't do anything against the run in 2011, they remained strong against the pass. That core group of guys has returned in 2012.
Leading the group is Jordan Poyer, one of the top corners in the country. But it's not just the Poyer show anymore, as the rest of the group has caught up.
Rashaad Reynolds has been a pleasant surprise this season. The junior had a standout game against Arizona registering 10 tackles, an interception and four pass deflections.
Also playing well is safety Tyrequek Zimmerman, who has 19 tackles on the season.
With a sturdy secondary, the Beavers should be able to keep pace with any offense in the conference.
They've Got Nothing to Lose
When most pundits pre-rank you as bottom feeders in the Pac-12—a conference filled with teams like Colorado and Washington State—you've got nothing to lose.
Are the Beavers playing with a chip on their shoulder? Maybe. Are they playing like a squad with something to prove? Absolutely.
And they're getting that point across quite clearly.
This isn't a giant playing well. This is an underrated college program proving to the nation they've got what it takes to play with the best.
It's easy to stumble when you have the weight of the world on your shoulders. Lucky for OSU, they don't have that kind of pressure.
Finally, we get to the man of the hour.
The longest tenured coach in the Pac-12 as of this season, you'd be hard pressed to find a nicer guy in college football.
But looks can be deceiving, and while he's a gentle giant Mike Riley is still a great coach. He runs things his way, recruits diamonds in the rough and puts together great football teams.
This season he's returned to play calling on offense, and so far it's proven a success.
As long as he's at the helm, the Beavers will always be dangerous. Riley's a master at toppling giants, and runs one of the best programs for QBs and linebackers in the conference.
So look out Pac-12, because Oregon State is on the move.