Oregon State-Arizona: Why the Beavers Must Win-Out to Save the Pac-10

Todd BoldizsarAnalyst IOctober 9, 2010

EUGENE,OR - DECEMBER 03:  Head coach Mike Riley of the Oregon State Beavers watches play against the Oregon Ducks at Autzen Stadium on December 3, 2009 in Eugene, Oregon.  (Photo by Tom Hauck/Getty Images)
Tom Hauck/Getty Images

As we've seen in recent years, the Pac-10 Conference seems to be loaded with talent, yet they are somewhat absent in the national scene and AP Top 10 rankings. The main reason why? They are destroying themselves.

There hasn't been a clear-cut Pac-10 champion since the early 2000s when USC was the dominant force in the conference. Sure, the Trojans have been at the top for the better part of the decade, but it has been a close horse race since Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush left for the NFL, with USC still winning by a nose or tying until Oregon smelled roses last season.

In the last few years, the trend in the Pac-10 has been for one ranked program to knock out another ranked Pac-10 opponent, only for the victor to fall weeks later.

Believe it or not, for the Pac-10 to overcome the apparent "West Coast bias" and begin receiving legitimate national attention, there needs to be a clear cut champion, with a few ranked teams following in the shadows.

It's likely there are only two possible scenarios for this to happen in the Pac-10 this season: First, the University of Oregon will have to win every Pac-10 game it plays. So far, so good, but as we've seen in recent years, it's no small task.

The second option is one of the other highly ranked teams winning out, and Oregon fading. This is the more difficult plan, but it is possible.

For that team to rise in Oregon's fall, they would have to win early, and win continuously. If Oregon State pulls off the upset against Arizona this weekend in Tucson, they would owe the conference continued success. A surprise dominant force in the conference would attract plenty of media attention, on a much larger scale than Boise State in the Western Athletic Conference (WAC). 

Imagine if Boise State played in a power BCS conference (which everyone is already thinking about), and they won out over teams like Ohio State, Alabama, or Oklahoma. There would be zero discussion regarding the Broncos ranking. 

Such is the case for teams like Oregon and Oregon State. Currently the Ducks are receiving plenty of attention in the national rankings and media, having gone undefeated to this point. But the Pac-10 schedule is still infantile, only three weeks in and the Ducks have only faced Stanford, then ranked No. 9 in the country.

Granted, the Ducks won large, but it just takes one or two matchups with talented teams that have done their homework, and the situation repeats itself.

Getting back to Oregon State, the program has played spoiler time and time again in years past. Their roster still features players that were on the team that defeated then-No. 1 USC at Reser Stadium in 2008, and in 2009 knocked out the Cal Bears. 

This season will have to be an enhanced story for the Beavers, as another 8-5 finish is nice, but may hurt the Pac-10 in terms of rankings and stature. 

It may not be the Beavers, it may even not be the Ducks, but the Pac-10 needs a clear-cut champion again. If Oregon State upsets Arizona, and they do stand a chance at it, they will have the responsibility of representing the conference, while already having two losses on national television.

The progression of sophomore QB Ryan Katz is encouraging, and running back Jacquizz Rodgers will have momentum entering Saturday, but this game may come down to Mike Riley's defensive line applying pressure on Arizona QB Nick Foles.

The game, and the remainder of the Pac-10 season may just hinder on this game as it floats largely under the radar.

Catch the matchup this Saturday, Oct. 9 at 6:00 pm ET on Versus.