By T.J. Mathewson
Contributor, 750 The Game
It was only a few weeks ago that I penned here that things were falling apart at the worst possible time for Oregon State Football following the departure of Jonathan Smith. Safe to say, I’ve been quite surprised by how positive the results have been in the opposite direction over the past few weeks.
I think many people expected a mass roster exodus even if the Beavers made the (seemingly) obvious decision of promoting Trent Bray to head coach. There’s been some turnover, but even I’ve been surprised how stable the roster has been since.
In total, Oregon State has only seen seven notable players enter the portal. In the grand scheme of things, that’s really not that many.
There’s some really important guys in that group: Aidan Chiles, DJ Uiagalelei, and Jack Velling’s departures sting. Now-USC Trojans Easton Macarenas-Arnold and Akili Arnold, along with freshman corner Jermod McCoy leave sizable holes on the Beaver defense. Those guys will go off and make a significant impact in other places while getting a good chunk of change to do so. Good for them, they deserve it.
If that’s the worst of the transfer exodus, alongside the five players the Beavers have added in the portal, I’d say Oregon State is in pretty decent shape with plenty more offseason to come.
The recruiting is certainly helped by a 2024 schedule that came out this past week, a slate that certainly seems like a best-case scenario for how the last few months have unfolded. Getting Oregon back on the schedule is a monumental win for the program, the university, and the state. Not only does it keep the centuries-old rivalry alive with the Ducks off to the Big Ten, but the most important data point for a Beaver team that has stated its’ 2024 goal is the College Football Playoff.
With the six Mountain West games (UNLV, SJSU, Colorado State at home, Air Force, Nevada, and BSU on the road), and other Power Conference games against Cal, Purdue, and WSU, the goal of a playoff appearance is possible if the Beavers go 12-0 in dominant fashion.
Potential automatic bid aside, there’s not much precedent for the Beavers to work with. In 2023, the highest-ranked G5 champ (who as of now, earns an automatic bid into the expanded playoff) was 13-0 Liberty at 23. AAC champ SMU, who finished at 11-2, slotted at 24.
SMU’s schedule is the best current case study I can find with what the Beavers will be up against in 2024. The Mustangs lost both P5 games they played (@ Oklahoma, @ TCU) by double figures, then ripped off nine conference wins in a row, only two by less than a score. If SMU beats either TCU or Oklahoma, they earn the NY6 bid over Liberty and its 119th-rated SOS. If the playoff had expanded for the 2023 season and said scenario played out, SMU would’ve been in. If they found a way to beat both P5 teams, they would’ve had a solid case for top-12. That’s the 2024 path for Oregon State, and they’ll get twice as many power conference oppourtunities.
There’s still a ton of offseason left, players to add, bowl games to play, and rosters to be finalized. Oregon State has taken more hits over the last month than any program ever, it feels like. After all the dust has settled, things seem to be doing just fine, given the circumstances. Breathe a little bit, will ya?