By T.J. Mathewson
Contributor, 750 The Game
Oregon State’s 40-8 loss to Notre Dame on Friday sucked, plain and simple. It in no way resembled the team that took the field throughout the 2023 regular season and won’t be the team that Trent Bray takes to battle nine months from now.
With lower-level bowl games becoming more and more irrelevant both to the players and the general fan, tacking that score onto the end of the 2023 season is a little unfair.
What Friday showed is how important the top 10-15 players on the OSU roster are to the success of the team on the field, missing those players made the Beavers look like they didn’t belong on the same field as the Irish. We saw this season that was never an issue against top teams in the conference with a full complement of players.
Jonathan Smith built a roster blueprint that I think Trent Bray can repeat and be successful with as the program heads into uncertain waters.
I cannot overstate enough how important it is for the Beavers to not only nail these difference makers for the 2024 season ahead but zoom out even farther, a larger point looms.
The big picture for the Beavers and Trent Bray is this: Oregon State needs to stay relevant. Exciting. Fun. Coveted. But most importantly, relevant.
We don’t know exactly what the future structure of college football is going to look like, but if there’s one thing we have figured out, the on-field product is important. People like marketable players and winning. Oregon State checked those boxes in 2023, and it made it a coveted product for television and ticket sales.
Even with a step down in competition for the next two seasons, that strategy is realistic and attainable for Trent Bray. His problem is there won’t be a grace period to get there, because the program cannot afford a step back. Oregon State needs to be entertaining and relevant next season, and Trent Bray understands that. He won’t get to wait until his fourth season to have a winning record like his predecessor had.
There’s been a couple of good wins on the recruiting trail already that will help the Beavers get there. Earning the commitment from former blue-chip Missouri QB Gabarri Johnson is a good start, and more should come over the course of the two transfer periods between now and when the next season starts. Having a full coaching staff and a schedule will help, but players like Silas Bolden deciding to enter the portal after the bowl game will not.
While Trent Bray takes care of that on the field, what happens off the field is more important. Florida State’s battle with the ACC and its grant of rights has the potential to change the college football landscape to a scale that we have yet to see. When, yes when, they find a way to break out of that GOR, there’s going to be a cascade of action to follow, and a bunch of teams are going to need a place to play. When those teams become available, the Beavers need to be a viable option.
The faster that happens, the faster the Beavers can have a stable home for the foreseeable future, and that’s the most important thing for this offseason.