With the loss to the Huskies, OSU now faces a do-or-die game with the ducks in the Civil War, and not just in terms of bowl eligibility — but also the possibility of two straight seasons of six or fewer regular season wins. While many disagree with the state of the team, here is what I do know:
1. Money is not flooding into the program. With two capital projects on the horizon, one that is desperately needed in terms of the Valley Football Center renovation, losing fan and donor interest in the program is the toughest hurdle the athletic department has right now. OSU is financially in debt and is using its TV money to pay off debt, while other Pac-12 teams are using it to better their programs. OSU has the lowest paid staff, the lowest recruiting budget, and has visibly shrinking attendance.
2. Recruiting needs to pick up. The last two classes might have some very amazing players, but in terms of star ratings, OSU has finished 8th or lower in the Pac -12 the last four years. There is a very star-studded group of high school seniors coming to the game this weekend. Should three of the half dozen players decide to go with the Beavers, it will be the first class in more than a decade to finish in the top half of the conference rankings, according to Rivals. If they don’t, then the Beavers are in danger of another 8th-ranked class. Should that happen, that would mean that seven of the teams OSU plays every year will have an entire team of players ranked higher than the Beavers. While the ASU game shows that doesn’t always mean that the Beavers are going to lose all those games, it does mean they have to play far better than their opponents week in and week out.
3. The Civil War series needs to change. The Beavers are going to be odds-on underdogs in this year’s edition of the century-old series. It will be the seventh straight loss for OSU if it happens. That one game is the game that means the most to every fan. It is the one game that forgives all the previous sins of the season, and it is the only way that OSU can lay claim to the few fans within this state who are poachable away from the dark side. This state cannot support an 80,000 seat stadium for either school. Both institutions have about 35,000 die hard, game-attending fans. Then there are about 20,000 fans that they fight over.
The last six years, there has not been much of a fight. With student attendance at Oregon State overshadowing the ducks by about 1,000 students a year, there are more and more Beaver fans being created every year. And they need a win. They need to remember what it is like to be kings of the state. They need to remember what it is like to answer every retort with one simple word:
So how do we do it? How do we get more money, get better recruits, and win the Civil War? That is the $64,000 question. We all have ideas, from a clean sweep of all coaches, to a few new tweaks, to even just a “wait and see” approach because we are so close. I have my ideas that I will go over after the season.
What can’t be stressed enough is this: If Mike Riley wants to keep his staff and his team as it is, he needs to win this week. Watching the Husky game, I honestly feel like it has nothing to do with talent this week. There is enough talent on the Beaver team to win. It is about what team comes the most prepared. What team is ready to play and who makes the fewest mistakes. Outside of the ASU game, that has not been the Beavers as of late, and that is on the coaches.
A Civil War win clears all of that up and gives Mike Riley the time to figure out on his own what he wants to do. A loss, and I am afraid that the fans will decide for him, one way or another. So it is another big week, and Mike has his back against a wall. As many top-10 teams will tell you, Reser is a very dangerous place to be when Coach Riley has an ultimatum game plan.
So hopefully, he pulls another rabbit out of his hat, gets his team ready for the challenge of their lives, and the players respond. Otherwise, next year could be one with more changes than we have seen since the new millennium .