There is no doubt the state of Oregon has become prominent in college football, with Oregon State Football just inside the Top 25 and perennially in Top 25 discussions and major bowls. However, the Beavers are currently on the outside looking in at the Oregon Ducks, a program that is currently ranked No. 5 in the country and receiving all the hype.
So with the Ducks in the national spotlight, how will the Beavers prove they are in the ranks of their bitter rivals? It's simple, but complicated: Win games against potential BCS schools.
Oregon State came up just short in their season opener against then-ranked No. 6 TCU. The nation has undoubtedly noticed the Beavers, since they are winless this season but have sneaked back into the AP Top 25, so one can only imagine how high they might be ranked if they had upset the Horned Frogs. After Week 3, the Beavers will again take on an elite BCS team with the Boise State Broncos on the blue turf.
Meanwhile, U of O opened its season by drubbing the New Mexico Lobos 72-0, and followed that with a convincing victory against a major, historical college football program in Tennessee, 48-13. Not only did the Ducks dominate the Lobos, but they held the Volunteers scoreless in the second half of Week 2.
TCU is now ranked fourth in the country, with the Ducks right behind them. Nothing short of a blowout will do for Oregon State if the Beavers plan to make a legitimate run at a BCS berth. Pile a difficult conference schedule and some noteworthy non-conference foes on top of the mountain, and the Beavs have an Everest-sized mountain to negotiate.
OSU has the Louisville Cardinals in Week 3, a program looking to return to national attention. The Beavers will have the advantage as the matchup is their home opener. This Saturday could be the perfect time for the Beavs to make a statement.
For the Oregon State football program, the schedule is somewhat reversed from the Oregon Ducks. While the Ducks played the weaker Lobos in Week 1, the Beavers were taking on TCU. Then Oregon played a tougher Tennessee, while Oregon State takes on Louisville.
To impress the poll voters, the Beavers will have to come up with an offensive performance that mirrors the Ducks against New Mexico. To do this, sophomore quarterback Ryan Katz will need to be far more accurate in the passing game. Katz completed just nine of his 25 pass attempts. A large part of what made the Black and Orange so successful last season was the passing accuracy of departed QB Sean Canfield.
Head Coach Mike Riley appeared to seem uncertain with playcalling for the offense against TCU, leaning heavily on Katz after "Quizz" was held to small yardage early.
Another area of concern will be the ground game. Jacquizz Rodgers was held to 18 carries and only 75 yards against the Horned Frogs. Look for the Beavers to use him in a larger role on September 18 in Corvallis.
Defense is certainly a strong point for Oregon State this season, having a strong performance against a Top Five team. OSU's young linebacker core will once again be tested against Louisville. The Cardinals are averaging 175 yards a game on the ground in a balanced offense style. Louisville is decent on offense, averaging 350 yards a game, so they are no pushover when it comes to moving the ball. Coming off a narrow loss to the Kentucky Wildcats, the Cardinals will be hungry for a major rebound.
The keys to success remain the same for Oregon State: An inexperienced QB must learn and improve quickly. The Heisman Trophy candidate needs to show the nation why he deserves to have his name in the discussions, and the linebackers need to shrink the number of rush yards against this week.
What makes Oregon so successful is its running game, which ranks fifth in the nation in yardage at 307 yards per game. The Ducks defense is also strong, ranking sixth in the country while averaging under a touchdown per game. It's this type of near-flawless football the Beavers will have to play.
No. 25 Oregon State Beavers versus Louisville Cardinals is set for Saturday, September 18 at 2:30 pm PST at Reser Stadium, Corvallis, Oregon.