Tuesday, September 12, 2006

State of Beaver Nation

Note: This post is the 1st part of a multi-post look at the the current state of Oregon State football. Part 2 is here, Part 3 is here, and Part 4 is here.

There has been a lot of discussion in the aftermath of Boise State's thumping of Oregon State about the fate of this year's squad and the future employment of Mike Riley. I feel obliged to weigh in on this topic.

First, people who thought that OSU was just going to stroll onto BSU's Blue Turf and have an easy victory like OSU's game against Eastern Washington don't know much about Boise State, or how tough they play Oregon State. The past two times they have played in Corvallis, Oregon State has won with scores of 26-24 in 2003 and 30-27 in 2005. The last times we have played in Boise have also been eerily similar; Oregon State rushes out to a big lead, Boise State comes roaring back and wins convincingly. This happened in 2004 as well as last Thursday. I am convinced that Boise State, if it played in the Pac-10, it would consistently finish in the upper half of the division.

Second, there is a question of what adjustments will coach Riley make. People especially would like to know if Riley is ever going to bench Matt Moore. I would say no, mainly because Riley has never benched a starter before. People point to the 1998 game against Washington where Jonathan Smith threw for 469 yards as the turning point in the programs history. But remember Jonathan Smith was only in the game because Terrance Bryant was injured. Even when Derek Anderson (remember him) was being booed at home, Riley refused to bench him. If there is a single consistent criticism of Riley as a head coach it is his inability to make adjustments. His refusal to bench QBs is a reflection of that. My belief is that Matt Moore is going to have to be injured before Riley will turn the reins of this team over to Sean Canfield.

Third, should Mike Riley continue to be the head football coach at Oregon State? In the interest of full disclosure, I didn't think that Riley should have been re-hired in the first place (why is a topic for another day). But, as they say, the proof is in the pudding. Riley's teams have consistently underperformed, have had several high-profile brushes with the law (at least in Corvallis), and have had problems keeping themselves academically eligible. This coming from a coach who, when he was hired, stated that he would clean up the "thug image" that surrounded the team. I am not one who believes that Oregon State will ever become a program that is mentioned with the 'elite' programs in college football (i.e. Notre Dame, Ohio State, Florida, USC, etc.), and that is fine with me. There are many obstacles facing Oregon State from becoming an 'elite' program, the major ones being: lack of tradition, size of campus, location and weather. However, I do believe that OSU can become a program that can consistently challenge for the Pac-10 title. OSU's Athletic Director Bob De Carolis at the press conference announcing the hiring of Mike Riley stated what he was looking for in a coach was:
The ability to transition this team, because it was a good team, a team that is poised to contend for the Pac-10 Championship and the Rose Bowl. The ability to keep the momentum going for Raising Reser, which is vital to the success of this program and to continue what we’ve already started with the maximization of the student-athletes athletically, academically and in social responsibility. Those were all keys that we were looking for.

I think that history shows that Riley has not done the things that he was hired to do very well.

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