Oregon State's world was turned upside down in Pasadena last weekend, as a slum match between the Beavers and Bruins turned off poll voters while providing a massive uncertainty wedge to the Beavs' bowl hopes.
As a match-up with the dismal Washington State Cougars approaches, it is clear OSU must win, and win big, to stay relevant in bowl discussions. The Beavers should be able to look past WSU to USC, but with losses to unranked schools like Washington and UCLA, nothing is a sure-thing.
Each game seems like a must-win for Oregon State, as they remain two games away from bowl eligibility. In the next four games they will face WSU, as mentioned before, followed by USC, Stanford and Oregon.
Undoubtedly, 2010 has been a rough schedule and the Beavers will have faced five Top 10 teams (Arizona was no. 9 when the Beavs' topped them in Tucson). Relatively close losses to TCU and Boise State had the Beaver-faithful thinking their program was ready to compete for a possible Rose Bowl berth.
However, a double-overtime trip-up against Washington, and a pitiful low-scoring loss to the Bruins are set backs the program just can't afford. The Beavers will now be attempting to salvage the season; and suddenly a victory over Washington State is vital.
For sophomore QB Ryan Katz, Washington State represents a chance to balance out. Katz has shown flashes of Heisman-caliber athleticism and precision, but has also shown his inexperience in key moments.
A preseason Heisman candidate, Jacquizz Rodgers has been looking for that break-out game, which thus far has been illusive. Washington State ranks near last in most defensive categories, so the QB and RB should have big numbers.
Strangely, the Beavers have something else working for them too: unranked opponents are fairing much better against the Cougars than teams ranked near the top. While Arizona and Stanford escaped by a combined 27 points, teams like Arizona State and USC blew them out by an average of 38 points each.
Finally, for the Beavers, the next two games figure to be their best chances at victories. Washington State is in the midst of one of the most unsuccessful eras in the program's history, while USC has lost its edge. Add in the upsets of the Trojans at the hands of OSU in recent years, and it appears the Beavers still have a small chance at a decent bowl.
No predictions for this week, as past predictions have proved to be a bad luck charm. Oregon State needs a blowout, but nothing is for granted this Saturday.
Catch the Beavers in action from Reser Stadium on local broadcast only, Saturday at 1 pm PST.