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Chris Dufresne's preseason college football top 25: No. 16 Oregon State

The Beavers play championship contenders TCU and Boise State, as well as Louisville. It's a risky schedule for Mike Riley's team.

August 17, 2010|Chris Dufresne

The Times' Chris Dufresne unveils his preseason college football top 25, one day (and team) at a time.

No. 16 Oregon State

This ranking is more a program achievement award than a realistic expectation the Beavers can stay here for the duration.

Or, in case you haven't heard, this was the year Oregon State decided to play two non-conference games, away from home, against top-10 schools that could win the national title.

What other program that has already "made it" puts itself in this kind of precarious position?

Mike Riley's Beavers are taking on the kind of paycheck games usually reserved for hyphened schools from lower-tiered leagues.

It's the kind of schedule that can get you noticed — or get you killed.

Oregon State, which was one Civil War victory from playing in the Rose Bowl each of the last two seasons, is opening against Texas Christian in a "neutral" site game at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington.

Three weeks later, the Beavers play at Boise State. In between, Oregon State will play host to Louisville, another school from a major BCS conference.

One thing for certain is that Oregon State is going to have a say in the national title race, with a chance to doom or enhance the campaigns of TCU and Boise State.

After the non-conference, it's on to the Pac 10 to play a few more top-level teams: USC, Oregon, Stanford and, this year, maybe Washington, Cal, Arizona and UCLA.

The Beavers will attempt this depth-defying trick with a new quarterback, Ryan Katz, who replaces steady Sean Canfield.

Katz isn't being thrown to the wolves, but he's being thrown to the Frogs.

"He is pretty much unflappable, so I don't think he'll be intimidated by anything," Riley said of his sophomore, perhaps not having seen the decadent features of Jerry Jones' new stadium.

Riley sounds pretty unflappable for a coach facing such a challenge, but he's brought the program to such a consistent level you figure the Beavers will find some way to go 8-4 and get to a respectable bowl game.

It helps that Oregon State returns a dynamic duo in brothers Jacquizz and James Rodgers.

Jacquizz is the junior scatback, a multifaceted talent who rushed for 1,440 yards and 21 touchdowns and also caught 78 passes for 522 yards last season.

"Quizz" isn't the fastest guy in the league, but no one is better at darting out of nowhere from behind the line and handing the ball to the official after scoring a touchdown. USC will never forget Rodgers after a Thursday-night loss in Corvallis two years ago.

James Rodgers, a senior flanker, is very fast and has made a highlight reel running the "fly sweep." Rodgers also returns punts and kickoffs and finished with 2,328 all-purpose yards last season.

The defensive line caught a big break when physical freak Stephen Paea decided to put the NFL on hold and return for his senior year. Paea is only 6 feet 1, but his strength at 311 pounds — he can bench press 225 pounds 44 times — may lead opponents to put out 911 calls for help.

Riley's teams have a knack of starting slow and finishing fast, so don't despair if the Beavers are 1-2 coming out of non-conference. The Beavers are usually in the season for the long haul, although this one could be the longest.

The countdown so far: 25. Washington; 24. Navy; 23. Utah; 22. Houston; 21. Pittsburgh; 20. USC; 19. Stanford; 18. Auburn; 17. Arkansas; 16. Oregon State.

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