OSU rocketing up the polls and becoming of college football's biggest stories has caught just about everyone by surprise. This was the same team picked to finish dead last in the Pac-12 North, after all. The same team that received not a single vote in the preseason polls.
The same team that is now ranked No. 14 in the nation.
Even before the end of last year's disappointing 3-9 season, and coming on the heels of a losing season in 2010, multiple media outlets examined the possibility of Mike Riley potentially being in trouble down in Corvallis. USAToday listed Riley among 10 coaches on the hot seat. The Oregonian had a poll: "How many games does Mike Riley need to win next season to save his job?" An ESPN article ranked Riley last in job security in the Pac-12, said it was true that he was on the hot seat and floated the possibility Riley would need to get rid of some assistants.
CBS Sports ranked Riley at 3.0 at the start of the year -- "On the bubble, feeling pressure." A website, coacheshotseat.com, ranked Mike Riley at No. 2 at the start of the season.
A number of media outlets, if they didn't write something new on their own, referenced and attributed all of the above reports and more – kind of a passive-aggressive approach if you will.
BUT COLLEGE FOOTBALL is about the big picture, too. OSU suffered these past two seasons in the win column, true. But the Beavs, as anyone can now plainly see through the first three games, were also building as they were losing.
Sean Mannion last year struggled mightily at times. A growing number of fans and pundits wanted Riley didn't go back to Ryan Katz on several occasions. But it was clear Riley had a plan, and that was to stick with Mannion because of the belief that far more dividends would be realized down the road.
That road is being traveled earlier than even the most supportive of Riley dared believe, here and now in 2012.
Mannion isn't the only one – look at what the offensive line and defensive lines are doing this season. They weren't capable of performing at this consistent a level in 2011. But by going though the tough times last year, they are now.
Look at Rashaad Reynolds and Tyrequek Zimmerman and Markus Wheaton and D.J. Welch. Regardless of whether they're redshirt freshmen, like Storm Woods, or seniors like Jordan Poyer, at multiple other positions on both sides of the ball, OSU is playing at a high level and greatly factoring into that is the turns and trials they encountered in 2011 (and in some cases 2010 and 2011).
You have to tip your hat to Riley. If he's not too busy on that hot seat, that is.
Say, is Riley still on the hot seat?
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