The Beavs are replacing their defensive front seven and a stalwart running back but Riley says Oregon State, as a program, is at a point they can now be considered legitimate contenders to the throne.
And that includes this year.
"We are very capable of making a run to win the conference championship," said Mike Riley on a Seattle area radio station recently. "You look historically at our league and.. (several teams challenge for the title). Now 'SC has changed that in the last five years. But I think the Beavers are very capable of making that run in a cycle where they can win this championship.
"In the meantime, a very common goal of success in our league is to be up in the top three in the conference and got to a good bowl game..but our goal is to make a run at the conference championship."
STILL, NOT MANY are picking USC to finish anywhere other than atop the Pac-10 this year. It's too early for most of the preseason polls but both Lindy's and Athlon magazines have preseason polls out and USC checks in at No. 2 and No. 4, respectively, in the national rankings.
Of course, projections on paper often bear little resemblance to reality at the end of the season. After being universally lauded as having a voluminous amount of Parade All-Americans at running back prior to last season by just about every reporter with a mic, USC then went out and failed to produce a 1,000 yard rusher in '07.
And Riley pointed out that Southern Cal does have two conference losses each of the past two years -- Stanford and Oregon last season, and Oregon State and UCLA the year before.
The Trojans return only four starters on offense and must replace their quarterback plus four offensive linemen. They do return seven starters on what was a stout defense last year but among the missing are the two All-Americans on the d-line.
"They have lost some games in our league and we've been involved in one of those losses... Every game is important in our league," said Riley.