But this is now. This is the night before. And what tomorrow’s games really mean to both programs is that they’re a telltale for the remainder of the season. This is the state of Oregon.
The Beavers are 3-1 against competition that can’t be described as dreadful, but can’t really be described as superior either. They’ve had two shaky wins, a substandard performance in a loss, and a gutsy, pull-up-the-bootstraps and check your disbelief at the door triumph. But even the win against the Broncos of Boise State, with a career performance by Derek Anderson, an iron man presentation by Steven Jackson, and another huge delivery by the Showman James Newson, several questions still linger in the minds of some. Can anyone really look at the Beavers right now and say, “They’ve arrived!”? No, not yet…not really. But a win this week could change that.
Further south, the Ducks are 4-0 after upsetting the former number three Michigan Wolverines, and several fowl friends are already thinking Rose Bowl. Who wouldn’t after a start and a win like that? Who could feasibly be able to say, “Not yet, not quite?” Yours truly. Duckfan, give me a moment to explain before you start compiling your lengthy explanation of how positive you are that in breeding is what’s caused my inability to see what you consider the obvious.
Both teams need a win this week, but when your talking a championship in college football, any team that’s trying to contend has to win every week. The keys to why wins are necessary this particular week are relatively simple.
OSU needs a win to demonstrate steady improvement, and the fact that it’s against a ranked opponent will continue to build that all-important confidence, while solidifying opinions that the Beavers are Top-25 material. Arizona State had been picked by some to win the Pac-10, and if the Beavers win big, it will be a catapult into the national spotlight.
The paradox is that the only team they need to beat in order to win is… themselves. There is tremendous talent on the Beaver roster, but excessive penalties, over 100 yards most games, keep this team from recognizing their potential. Coach Mike Riley has been trying to make disciplined football a priority for his players.
There’s been some talk that officiating in the Pac-10 is overzealous on certain types of penalties, namely celebration, but that’s the environment every Pac-10 team has to play in. Oregon State has to limit mental breakdowns leading to penalties, because that is one aspect they can control. There shouldn’t be any impact on aggressive play, and honestly, I really don’t mind a celebration penalty after a touchdown sometimes. It’s the jumps on the line and the after-the-play shenanigans that are really just mental breakdowns.
Oregon has a different scenario. Many people had written them off at the beginning of the season because of a perceived weakness at quarterback and cornerback. With only a handful of diehard Duck fan’s giving them a chance they stepped it up. The Ducks put a beat down on an eastern powerhouse to a sold out crowd on national television.
Why is a win this week really important? Because it’s against the same Washington State that put the beat down on them last year. Because it’s two Top-25 ranked opponents in two weeks. Because last week’s win put them on the national radar, and a loss this week would relegate that win to a fluke. You don’t have to like it, but you can’t deny it. Sure, Duckfan is always going to believe, but the web footed ones have just gotten the attention of the east coast with that win. A loss means a loss of that too.
Two games for Oregon’s two biggest schools, both a must win. The Ducks having been asking for respect for years, a win would demand it. The Beavers are so close to arriving it’s palpable; beating Arizona State will announce it. That, ladies and gentlemen, is the state of Oregon.
Robert Nesta joined BeaverFootball.com in 2003. The views expressed in his column are not necessarily those of the BeaverFootball.com staff. Nesta can be reached at email@example.com.