oregon footbal

OSU's million-to-one shot

The Beavers get a rare chance for historic glory Saturday against Oregon
Nov. 26, 2014 / By Cliff Pfenning, Oregonsports Journal

Corvallis is plenty off the beaten path in the college football world, so it's hard for the Oregon State football team to get a lot of publicity. But, that won't be true Saturday, so it's as big an opportunity to make an impact in front of the nation's fans and incoming recruits as the program is going to get.

The Beavers get to play in-state rival Oregon at home and on national television with the Ducks needing only win by any margin to continue their path toward the College Football Playoffs.

Oregon State, meanwhile, is playing for its football life - especially its seniors. The Beavers have five wins and need a sixth to become bowl. So a win Saturday extends the season by a month. And, a sixth win qualifies coach Mike Riley for a bonus of more than $1.5 million as it would add another year onto his contract for winning six games.

Riley has never seemed like someone motivated by money (and his contract already runs through 2021), but the game is being played at Reser Stadium, and being on national TV with the win moving his team to a bowl game, it might just be what his staff needs to produce what would be one of its biggest upsets.

There's plenty of elements in place for Saturday, too.

First, it's at home. The Beavers just seem to be a different animal at home. Almost all of their big wins are at Reser these days, starting with USC. OSU hasn't beaten USC in Los Angeles since 1964, but it's owned the team in the past decade at Reser, regardless of the Trojans' rankings.

Two weeks ago, the Beavers beat No. 7 Arizona State at Reser, 35-27.

Saturday is the final home game for seniors, led by quarterback Sean Mannion.

Second, the Ducks are ranked No. 2, and have beaten the Beavers six straight times - so they should win. The betting line is by nearly three touchdowns, too. This is one of the best elements an underdog has available - surprise, even if the Ducks publicly say they're fully ready. In Oregon's lone loss - to Arizona on its home field, it was rated a 23-point favorite.

And, Oregon has shown it's available for a big loss, too. At Utah, the Ducks were on their way to being down 14-0 when fate intervened in the form of a historic "Not Top 10" play. Even then, the game was 30-27 in the second half.

Third, it's on ABC. If there's a way to pump up a group of seemingly overmatched football players, just put some cameras in their faces and tell them every play they make has the potential to be a national headline.

Oregon is already in the Pac-12 Conference Championship Game, so it realistically only needs to win by one point, which it did last year, 36-35 at Autzen Stadium. That's going to be in player's heads throughout the game.

Oregon Stat's best chance is a dominating start, especially on defense. And, it's performed well on defense. Against ASU, the defense gave up only 20 points as one of the Sun Devils' scores was on a fumble return.

Saturday's game looks like a blowout on paper - for Oregon fans, and maybe the world. But, it's one of the biggest wins the Beavers can ever have, one the program will celebrate for decades, and that opportunity doesn't come along very often.

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