Best case-worst case: Oregon State

August, 17, 2012
8/17/12
4:00
PM ET
This is the fourth in a series looking at potential dream and nightmare scenarios for all Pac-12 teams.

Understand: These are not predictions. They are extreme scenarios and pieces of fiction. You can read last year's versions here.

We're going in reverse order of my post-spring power rankings (which might not be identical to my preseason power rankings).

You can see previous best case-worst case posts here.

Up next: Oregon State

Best case

Oregon State makes sure there will be no FCS surprise this go-around, rolling up a 35-0 lead on Nicholls State before halftime and coasting home.

"I didn't have to remind them what happened last year," coach Mike Riley says. "And I don't have to remind them what happened last year against Wisconsin."

The Badgers take the opening kickoff 80 yards in 10 plays to go up 7-0.

"Gemuetlichkeit!" a Wisconsin fan says. "We beat these guys up pretty good last year and look to do it again, don'tcha know."

"Ohh, yaaa...yoo betcha," a second Wisconsin fan says. "I need a beer and a brat, but first I'm going to find me a bubbler. Why don't 'ya come with?"

While the Wisconsin fans are gone, Jordan Poyer returns the ensuing kickoff 100 yards for a score.

"Cripes sakes! What happened?" Wisconsin fan No. 1 says. "These guys might be fair-to-middlin'."

Scott Crichton sacks Badgers QB Danny O'Brien, who fumbles. D.J. Welch picks up the ball and runs 35 yards for a TD.

"Oh, no," says Wisconsin fan No. 1.

"Yah, heard dat," says Wisconsin fan No. 2.

Beavers upset the 12th-ranked Badgers 33-30, forcing four turnovers.

"I think we did a good job against Montee Ball, holding him to 4 yards a carry," Riley says. "I really like how we had nearly as many rushing yards as them. Running the ball and stopping the run have been issues for the Beavers the past two years."

After a bye, the Beavers play flat at UCLA and lose 28-24. They bounce back with a 40-30 win at Arizona, nip Washington State in overtime and Sean Mannion throws four TD passes in a victory road over BYU.

The Beavers, at 5-1, are ranked 24th.

Post on BeaverBlitz.com: "You know how we were all saying that Mike Riley's 'aw shucks' thing was getting old and were ripping his coordinators? It's possible we were wrong."

The Beavers slip Utah at home 28-24, but then they lose sloppy at Washington, a late unsportsmanlike conduct penalty keeping the Huskies game-winning drive alive.

A stern-faced Riley enters the locker room.

"Jimminy Christmas, guys, is that our best? Is that who we are?" he says. "You know, a lot of coaches would come in here and yell and scream and curse. That's not me. I'm not going to fake that hard-case routine. You are young men and I will treat you with respect. But let me say this. Those of you who can even imagine playing like that again, you can get the hell out of here. Take Sunday to think about what you want from the season. We're in full pads Monday."

After a spirited week of practice, the Beavers drub Arizona State 44-20. Wheaton catches two TD passes from Mannion, and Storm Woods and Malcolm Agnew both eclipse 100 yards rushing. They lose in triple-overtime at Stanford but bounce back to beat California 30-21.

Up next: The Civil War. Unbeaten, second-ranked Oregon is coming to Corvallis.

Team meeting on Monday. Mannion stands up.

"Coach, we had an informal players meeting and talked about what it would mean for us to beat Oregon. Only the fifth-year seniors even know what that's like. I know what it would mean for all of us and our fans, but we also know what it would mean to you. I know you've taken a lot of heat from the outside. But we love you. You're the reason we're here. You built this program, transformed a loser to a winner and did it with class. So we thought it might be nice to come up with a thought of the week. Something you'd approve of. Markus, will you lower the curtain."

A lowered curtain reveals a sign with 10-foot tall lettering: "Fudge Oregon!" it reads. Laughter erupts from the coaches and players.

That phrase is repeated a thousand times the following week. It keeps things loose and focused. The Ducks spend the week calling Oregon State a nameless, faceless opponent, and the Beavers spend the week lavishly praising Oregon -- all the while requiring each player to use the word "fudge" at some point in the interview.

"Fudge, what was I going to say!" Poyer says. "Yeah, Chip Kelly is a great coach and a great guy. May want to cut back on the fudge, though." Poyer gets extra points for the double-use.

Riley gathers the Beavers in the pregame locker room.

"Play hard, play fast, have fun. Believe in yourselves," he says. "We've prepared as well as any team ever has. Enjoy this. Those guys have no idea what's about to happen."

Oregon State takes over on its 20 with 1:10 remaining, down 35-32. On third and 10, the Beavers run a double-reverse pass and Wheaton finds Brandin Cooks on the Ducks 40. Mannion scrambles out of bounds at the Oregon 29 with five seconds left.

Trevor Romaine lines up for the 46-yard field goal. Kelly uses all three time outs to ice him. The snap. The kick.

No... the holder flips the ball to Romaine, who rolls to his right. It's a fake. And Wheaton is running alone toward the end zone. Romaine lofts a pass that his grandmother will later tease him about.

At the last minute Ducks safety John Boyett tips the ball away.

And into the hands of Cooks. Touchdown. Beavers win. The crowd erupts. And begins to chant.

"I think they're chanting, 'Fudge the Ducks,'" Oregon State color man Jim Wilson volunteers. "That's a new one. I will consult with the Pac-12 blog on what that means."

The Ducks get drubbed 45-7 by USC in the Pac-12 title game.

The Beavers beat Texas in the Holiday Bowl and finished 10-3 and ranked 11th. Oregon is bombed by TCU in the Alamo Bowl, finishes 10-3 and ranked 15th.

On Jan. 15, the NCAA docks Oregon 15 scholarships and gives it a one-year postseason ban.

Kelly is hired by the Dallas Cowboys.

Thomas Tyner and Evan Voeller switch their commitments to Oregon State.

"Does Oregon State have any interest in becoming an Under Armor school?" company founder Kevin Plank asks Beavers AD Bob De Carolis.

"We're happy with Nike," De Carolis says.

"What if we build you the Taj Mahal and call it a football office?" Plank replies.

"Hmm," De Carolis replies. "I'm starting to like you."

Worst case

Oregon State avoids another FCS humiliation against Nicholls State, but it's not so lucky with Wisconsin, which again takes the Beavers to the woodshed.

Three interceptions from Sean Mannion in a loss at UCLA gives coach Mike Riley a QB controversy. He sticks with Mannion, who leads the Beavers to a win at Arizona. But then things get ugly.

A couple of injuries on both sides of the ball expose a lack of depth. Oregon State -- again -- can't run the ball and can't stop the run. The losses pile up: Washington State, BYU, Utah and Washington. At 1-6, an editorial in the Corvallis Gazzette-Times says Riley needs to finish strong to keep his job.

The Beavers rally for a win over Arizona State, but get pushed around by Stanford and then California.

Riley announces that he will resign after the season.

"We've done some great things here," Riley says. "We've proven the Beavers can win. I will always be a Beaver. But it's probably time for some new blood to come in and take the program to the next level."

In the Civil War against unbeaten, top-ranked Oregon, Chip Kelly takes his starters out midway through the third quarter in an effort to not run up the score. The Ducks win 40-3, and all the news reports afterwards praise Kelly's class.

"It's about time someone considered whether Chip Kelly deserves the Nobel Peace Prize," writes the Pac-12 blog.

Oregon goes on to beat USC for a second time in the Pac-12 championship game. The Ducks then win the national championship, whipping Alabama 38-17.

Kelly signs a lifetime contract after the NCAA announces the whole Willie Lyles investigation was "just a big misunderstanding." Nike boss Phil Knight finds $100 million in his sofa. He gives it all to Oregon, which then provides spaceships for its players to fly around campus, a move given the NCAA's stamp of approval because it feels bad about asking Kelly so many questions "and taking up his valuable time."

Joss Whedon announces he will make a film about Oregon football and how cool it is. "It will be like 'The Avengers,'" he says. "Only more of a blockbuster. And cooler."

George Clooney gets the role of Chip Kelly.

"I'd like to introduce the coach who can make Oregon State the best football program in the state," De Carolis says. "Ladies and gentlemen... John Mackovic."

Ted Miller | email

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