Lack of preseason Top 25 suits OSU just fine

THE BEAVERS ARE the Pac-10's second most winningest program behind USC the last two seasons. And while being ranked in the Top 25 is mundane business to the USCs and Oklahomas of the college football world, it is quantifiable evidence of a Beaver program on a dramatic upturn. Because the ranking isn't just about the year on the field, it's also about the strength of a program.

And Oregon State had a long ways to go to get here. It's the first time in a generation the Oregon State football team finished in the Associated Press Top-25 back to back -- No. 25 in '07 and No. 21 in '06.

OSU is not, however, ranked in the preseason USAToday/ESPN Coaches Poll that was released late last week. But they did receive votes placing them in the "Others" category, checking in at No. 35.

FOR A TEAM that is replacing their entire starting defensive front seven, to even receive votes at all speaks volumes about how others perceive the OSU program -- it shows that Mike Riley's peers are paying attention to his Beavs' success the last couple of seasons. After all, they weren't picked to do much of anything in the preseason.

Some fans may complain that the "Others receiving votes" category shows a certain lack of respect, but it is the perfect place for the program to be slotted in August.

Every year around this time, Riley talks about establishing an identity. And while a team identity changes and is forged on a year to year basis, Riley and his players have done a great job hammering out the Oregon State program's identity - a hard working, blue collar, often overlooked group that can beat any team on any given Saturday.

And that is why No. 35 is just right.

IT IS bulletin board material. And motivational material as well. It's an early and familiar reminder that the prognosticators are underestimating the team once again.

It's motivation to stay after practice and catch more passes, to crank out a few more repetitions on the bench, to push through the pain and run one more flight of stairs.

From a practical standpoint, it also makes it just a bit easier to climb the rankings ladder should OSU start the first half of the season with more wins than expected by the pollsters.

The Men in Black should have finished in the USAToday/ESPN Coaches Poll Top 25 last year but just missed out, winding up at No. 26. They've only completed the season ranked there twice since 1982 -- No. 5 in 2000 and No. 22 in 2006.

But despite returning just 12 starters, including some who started in 2006, many feel the Beavers have a solid chance of finishing the season in the Coaches' Top 25 for the third time since 2000. Why? Because Oregon State rotated to such a high degree last year -- many guys will be new starters, but they are not necessarily unproven.

But the schedule is daunting, one that is generally regarded as one of the hardest in the nation with four opponents in the preseason Top 25 and another two just lurking outside of college football's elite.

On the Beavs' schedule, USC at No. 2, Arizona State at No. 16, Oregon at No. 20 and Penn State at No. 22. Utah also received votes, coming in at 28 while California checks in at No. 32.

It's a tall task, that's for sure. But it's also a challenge that's right up Oregon State's alley.

BeaverBlitz Top Stories