By T.J. Mathewson
Contributor, 750 The Game
At the week eight bye, the Beavers sit at a bowl-eligible 6-1 record (3-1 Pac-12) and ranked No. 12 in the latest AP poll. Despite all the preseason hype surrounding the program with transfer quarterback DJ Uiagalelei, a defense flourishing under second-year defensive coordinator Trent Bray, and one of the best head coaches in college football, the Beavers’ have easily met expectations, if not exceeded. They are one bad half on the Palouse from a 7-0 record and a spot in the top ten.
Oregon State gets this week to reset, refocus, and get ready for the stretch run. The next six weeks could very well be the six most important weeks in program history, chasing their first Pac-12 title since 2000 on top of finding a home for the 2024 season. Let’s take a look at what the next month and a half has in store, and how the Beavers end up in Vegas for the first weekend in December.
THE REST OF THE SCHEDULE
@ Arizona Oct 28th
@ Colorado Nov 4th
vs. Stanford Nov 11th
vs. Washington Nov 18th
@ Oregon Nov 24th
The Beavers will go four weeks between home games, believe it or not. The trip down to Tucson looks like a tougher endeavor now after the Wildcats dismantled Washington State on the road 44-6. On the flip side, the visit to Boulder the week after has lost some luster after the Buffaloes blew a 29-point lead to Stanford on Friday night. Oregon State should be a multi-score favorite in both games. The Beavers return home to a struggling Stanford team, and then the real fun begins.
A lot can happen in the month before the Beavers host Washington and visit Oregon, but let’s lay it out as it looks right now. Washington is a bona fide top-five team and national championship contender after beating the Ducks in a thriller this past weekend. I would put Oregon in that same category despite the loss. I don’t know if the Beavers would be favored against Washington at home. I know they would be about a touchdown underdog on the road in Eugene. If the Beavers run the table and win those two games, they’re a win in Vegas away from a spot in the College Football Playoff.
HARDEST GAME REMAINING: AT OREGON
I don’t need to tell you the difference between playing at Autzen Stadium vs. Reser Stadium. I definitely don’t need to tell you the importance of that game if both teams enter 10-1. The Beavers have looked like a totally different team on the road in the Pac-12 season, and haven’t won in Eugene since 2007. The Ducks were a fourth-down conversion away from beating Washington on the road, and are one of the most complete teams in college football averaging 7.2 yards per play on offense (No. 5 nationally) and 4.4 yards per play allowed on defense (No. 12).
REST OF THE CONFERENCE
USC: 6-1 (4-0) | NEXT: vs. Utah, @ Cal, vs. Washington, @ Oregon, vs UCLA, BYE
The Trojans were just clobbered by Notre Dame in South Bend on Saturday, and have the hardest Pac-12 schedule remaining. The odds of USC making it through those five games undefeated are slim to none. It would be a miracle if they make it through with just one loss. Utah will be without Cam Rising, though the offense showed some life without him against Cal. Looking past that, The Trojans Pac-12 Championship fate comes down to beating one of Michael Penix Jr. or Bo Nix, with a sneaky good matchup with the UCLA defense the week after. Good luck.
Washington: 6-0 (3-0) | NEXT: vs. Arizona State, @ Stanford, @ USC, vs Utah, @ Oregon State, vs WSU
Like USC, if Washington is to make the College Football Playoff and play for a national championship, they’re going to have to earn it. The Huskies should handle Arizona State at home and then Stanford on the road. The Huskies very well could lose one of those final two road games against the Beavers and at USC, but will be favored at home vs Utah and WSU. Washington is my favorite to finish the regular season with the best record in the conference.
Oregon: 5-1 (2-1) | NEXT: vs. WSU, @ Utah, vs. Cal, vs. USC, @ ASU, vs. OSU
With a conference loss already on the docket, the Ducks have zero room for error the rest of the way if they plan to make it to Vegas. The two toughest games, USC and Oregon State, are at Autzen Stadium. The Ducks cannot overlook those those two road games, though. Arizona State has beaten the Ducks the last two times they played in Tempe, and even without Cam Rising, the Ducks need to be on high alert vs. a great Utah defense.
Utah: 5-1 (2-1) | NEXT: @ USC, vs. Oregon, vs. ASU, @ Washington, vs. Arizona, vs. Colorado
The Utes have managed without Cam Rising, but with a loss already in conference to the Beavers, it’s hard to see a path for Utah winning out against the likes of Caleb Williams, Bo Nix, and Michael Penix, all in the span of four weeks. Utah should still manage a solid bowl game, but in a conference of elite QB play, the Utes are lacking any on their end.
Final six weeks
Oregon State wins out: Finishes 11-1, 8-1 in Pac-12
USC: 3-2 with losses to Washington and Oregon: Finishes 9-3 (7-2)
Washington: 5-1 with a loss at Oregon State to finish 11-1, 8-1 Pac-12
Oregon: 5-1 with a loss vs Oregon State to finish 10-2 (7-2)
Utah: 3-3 with Losses USC, Washington, and Oregon (8-4, 5-4)
PAC-12 CHAMPIONSHIP GAME: Washington vs. Oregon State.