Oregon State (7-2) is coming off a 27-23 loss to Pac-12 rival Stanford, which has dropped the Beavers in the BCS standings.
But regardless of how the remainder of the 2012 season plays out, Oregon State will be remembered as one of the surprise teams on 2012.
After an embarrassing three-win season in 2011, no one gave Oregon State much attention heading into the season, especially since their neighbors—the Oregon Ducks—have hogged the spotlight in recent years.
But after starting the season with six consecutive wins, the Beavers were able to prove that it's sometimes beneficial to start the season way off the radar.
The six wins put Oregon State at No. 7 in the BCS standings, but a loss to Washington knocked them down to No. 11, and since they've dropped two of their last three, it looks as though a Top 10 finish is unlikely.
Unlikely, but not impossible—there's still time left for the Beavers to cover some ground and earn an appearance in a premiere Bowl game.
Regaining Top 10 Status
Oregon State dug themselves into a hole with their two losses, especially with Oregon just two weeks away.
Had the Beavers avoided a loss to Washington, they could have ended the year as a two-loss team that only fell short against ranked teams. This would have resulted in Top 10 consideration and an appearance in a legitimate bowl game.
But since Oregon State lost to Washington and is practically a guaranteed loss against Oregon, it forces the Beavers to become a three-loss team that hasn't defeated a ranked team since Week 3.
So how do they overcome this obstacle?
For starters, they need to defeat California.
Cal is a three-loss team and not too intimidating on paper, but they nearly took down the undefeated Ohio State Buckeyes in Week 3, so they possess upset capabilities.
If the Beavers take care of business in that game, they move on to the gut check. And there's no two ways about it—they must take down Oregon.
It's unlikely they'll accomplish that objective, but it's the defining point of their season. Everything they've worked for comes down to this game.
It will determine whether or not they're merely an improved team that finishes in the middle of the Top 25, or whether they're a fierce competitor that demands respect throughout the NCAA.
Top-notch teams must obtain top-notch wins. For Oregon State, that win has to be against the Oregon Ducks.
If that happens, a Top 10 finish is practically guaranteed as long as they win their other remaining games.
If not, the 2012 Beavers will be considered an improved team, but not particularly memorable in any way.