Wednesday, April 19, 2006
AN ABSURDLY PREMATURE ASSESSMENT OF: OREGON STATE
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SMQ spins the wheel for a hastily-rendered, too-soon look at a random school's prospects for the fall, sans inevitable academic and criminal suspensions, sudden transfers, debilitating injuries and other miscellaneous misfortunes of the long summer
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Success was a long time coming to Corvallis - is it ending its stay so quickly?
PAST FIVE SEASONS: 33-27 (19-21 PAC Ten) - 2005: 5-6 (3-5 PAC Ten)
STARTERS BACK, ROUGHLY: 16 (9 Offense, 7 Defense)
WHAT'S CHANGED: Bye bye, pie in the sky: the post-Fiesta Bowl honeymoon that followed the team's short-lived peak as BCS power and SI coverboy ended with Dennis Erickson's departure for eminent failure with the San Francisco 49ers, and the grace period for Mike Riley in his second non-consecutive term is about up after the team regressed last year.
WHAT'S THE SAME: The offensive line - all of it. None of the quintet of Adam Koets, Jeremy Perry, Kyle DeVan, Roy Schuening or Josh Linehan is likely to show up on any all-America team, but it does bring 81 career starts to the table.
Also: crushing mediocrity.
HE'S OUR MAN...OUR VERY ERRATIC MAN, BUT OUR MAN NEVERTHELESS: A couple others came close, but only Jordan Palmer was able to match Matt Moore's epic, Foucaultian 19-interception effort last year. So why did he get the chance to throw so many picks? The Beavers averaged a little over 29 points per game in Moore's nine starts, and about two touchdowns less in awful losses to Stanford and Oregon when he went down; Ryan Gunderson used the opportunity to throw four interceptions of his own in the finale. The lesser evil in this case was still good for 261 yards per game.
THE BLACK HOLE: Many of those yards came, of course, courtesy of the human vortex that was Mike Hass, who may not have a record-breaking NFL future ahead but did serve for two seasons as the singularity with a concentration of mass great enough that its force of gravity prevented anything in the Beaver offense past its event horizon from escaping.
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Former OSU wide out Mike Hass
The Beavers do return 77 receptions with Anthony Wheat-Brown and Yvenson Bernard - a bit of a vortex himself, handling the ball one way or another on around 39 percent of the offensive snaps, and even more as the season wore on - and gets back Joe Newton, who had 56 catches and seven scores in 2004 before missing all of last season.
HEY, AREN'T YOU THAT FREAKIN' KICKER... No account of Oregon State would satisfy without recognizing one of the only feel-good type stories in sports yet to penetrate SMQ's jaded armor of cynicism: the redemption of Alex Serna. It was Serna, you will recall, who opened the 2004 season by missing not one, not two, but tres extra points in an eventual overtime road loss against defending co-mythical champion LSU, any one of which would have sealed the upset and caused massive riots across Baton Rouge. Ridiculed and nearly dropped altogether, Serna instead has nailed every ensuing PAT and most field goals, won the Groza Award as the nation's best kicker and achieved heartwarming cuddliness off the field.
He'll still be remembered most, a la Norwood, as that kicker who blew the LSU game. But that's okay.
OVERLY OPTIMISTIC POST-SPRING CHATTER: Hey, not every team yet can go indoor or out at its whim, and thanks to the on-the-ball OSU media relations team, Beaver fans can check daily not only whether the team was in Reser Stadium or the Truax Center, but also who might have been sharing the facilities - as the nationally-ranked Beaver softball team was, thanks to Mike Riley's accomodating nature, Monday. Also refer to its Spring reports for a detailed weather and subsequent spectator fashion reports and itemized rundowns of any and all media present at each practice and, if it's a light day, who they interviewed.
How good do the Beavers look? Well, in back-to-back practices: "Once again the offense looked noticeably better than at this time last year." "People in attendance generally believe this team is miles in front of last year’s team at this time of spring practice." "Miles ahead" - So we're talking eight wins, nine? PAC Ten championship? Ohmygod ohmygod...Fiesta Bowl? Well, maybe not miles.
REASON FOR HOPE: Miller, with a year under his belt and an experienced line in front, could cut the picks in half.
REASON TO BE AFRAID, VERY AFRAID: The three best playeres and leaders - Hass and all-PAC Ten linebackers Trent Bray and Keith Ellison - graduated, and they were only good enough to help the team to 5-6.
IF THIS TEAM WERE ANY POP CULTURAL, HISTORICAL, POLITICAL, LITERARY OR OTHERWISE NOTABLE FIGURE, IT WOULD BE... Any fraternity: the guys seem okay, individually, and they try to dress cool and everything, but get them together and the group is nowhere near the sum of its parts.
HONESTLY, WITHOUT LOOKING AT THE SCHEDULE, SMQ'S THINKING: Six wins, .500, middle of the pack, etc. Not much here to suggest any better or worse any time soon.
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Previous absurdly premature assessments:
April 3: Central Michigan...April 4: Brigham Young...April 6: Kentucky...April 7: Bowling Green...April 8: Southern Cal...April 11: Rutgers...April 12: Marshall...April 13: Florida State...April 15: San Diego State...April 17: Alabama
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