- Kevin Gemmell, ESPN Staff Writer
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Every game counts. But some games count more. Or tell us more.
We're going through the Pac-12 and picking out one game that seems most important -- or potentially most revealing -- for each team from our vantage point today.
We're going in alphabetical order.
Most important game: Oct. 6 versus Washington State
Why it's important: Oct. 6 could be the turning point for Oregon State's entire season -- mostly because there are any number of scenarios that could happen to the Beavers leading up to that game. Assuming they get past Nicholls State in the opener (if they lose to an FCS team in back-to-back years, well, that's an entirely different story) and chances are they'll be heavy underdogs at home to Wisconsin. That likely takes them into a bye week at 1-1 before back-to-back road games at UCLA and Arizona. They could return home with a record of 1-3, 2-2 or 3-1.
So lets's look at each scenario. If they are 1-3, this will be the game that could sink or salvage the season. Staring up at 1-4 makes it awfully difficult to achieve a bowl game. But 2-3 seems a lot more manageable -- at least psychologically.
If they are 2-2 heading into WSU, a win puts them halfway toward a bowl game and matches last season's win total. Achieving that by the fifth game of the season would be a major confidence boost looking to the second part of the schedule.
And if they are 3-1 and pull off the victory, four wins in five games will go a long way because the Beavers have a difficult stretch closing out the season. They finish out at Stanford and then are home to Cal and Oregon -- three very difficult games. That leaves at BYU, home to Utah, at Washington and home to ASU sandwiched in between to find one or two more wins.
If the Beavers are going to wrap up a postseason spot, they are going to have to pick up the wins -- and some confidence -- early in the year. The Washington State game could be the tipping point in either direction.