Oregon State Football: Beavers Have To Crawl, Walk and Swim To Redemption
Things aren't going as planned in Corvallis, but it isn't over yet. The Beavers of Oregon State find themselves out of the AP Top 25 and the BCS picture yet again, but there are six games remaining on the schedule.
The Beavs only have one Pac-10 loss, and while the rest of the conference defeats itself, it leaves the door open for Oregon State to stay relevant.
With that in mind, here are three steps Oregon State must take to reach the Rose Bowl, and make 2010 a benchmark in school history.
1. Win Every Game Against Unranked Pac-10
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If the Beavers plan to stay at the top of the pack, they cannot afford losses to unranked conference opponents. Upsets like their 29-27 win over Arizona are what the pollsters are looking for, and BCS officials notice, as we saw last week when the Beavers were once again in the AP Top 25 with two losses.
However, the double-overtime loss to the unranked Huskies dropped the Beavers out of every poll, and evened their season record at 3-3 with a 2-1 conference mark. There is a major difference between 3-0 and 2-1, so games like Saturday's must be avoided.
Oregon State only has two more ranked conference foes on the schedule (Stanford and Oregon), and they are the last two games of the season. The team finally has a break in their schedule, and taking advantage of it by winning until Stanford would put them at 7-3, and likely in BCS talks for the Rose Bowl.
Additionally, if Oregon remains unbeaten, the stand a solid chance at going to the BCS National Championship. This would open up the Rose Bowl to the second place team, where Oregon State would stand before facing Stanford and Oregon.
Five of the ten Pac-10 schools already have two losses in the conference, so OSU would be spotted a slight lead if they win out until facing the Cardinal.
2. Wide Receivers Step Up in Rodgers' Absence
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Something was missing against the Washington Huskies in Seattle on Saturday, and that something was James Rodgers. Done for the season with a knee injury, Rodgers is sorely missed and it shows.
Sophomore QB Ryan Katz seemed out of sync with his receivers, throwing three interceptions and failing to connect on a TD in the last quarter and a half of regulation.
Receivers Markus Wheaton, Jordan Bishop, and Tight End Joe Halahuni now have the task of filling in the gaps, an assignment they failed to cover in the loss to Washington, with the climax being a tough drop in the end zone by Halahuni.
The Beavers haven't won a game by more than a touchdown all season, with a combined winning margin in three games of just 12 points.
Katz will have to work with these receivers before this Saturday's game with Cal, or a repeat may be forthcoming.
3. Defense, Defense, Defense!
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The Beavers haven't allowed fewer than 21 points all season, and remain at 94th in the nation in points against average.
The defense surrendered 479 yards to the Huskies, and almost got away with it had the offense picked up one more score before overtime.
However, that just will not cut it in the Pac-10, and it has been the team's Achilles heel all season. What has gotten the Beavers by has been the increased play of QB Ryan Katz, who has provided just enough offense to squeak by the struggling defense.
The defensive line is the strong point for the Beavs, but their linebackers and secondary are simply in a rebuilding year. If the offense gets passed the first line of defense, they stand a solid chance of getting a big gain.
It may be too late for adjustments, but then again it may not. The defense should hit the tapes hard this week, and prepare for the ground attack of a struggling Cal Bears program.