- Kevin Gemmell, ESPN Staff Writer
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Record: 5-0, 3-0
The Oregon State Beavers -- perhaps more than any other school in the Pac-12 -- have played the most complete football. The West Coast offense continued to evolve in efficiency and potency as quarterback Sean Mannion matured in the scheme.
The running game is significantly better -- still not up to coach Mike Riley's standards -- but better than it was last year and Markus Wheaton and Brandin Cooks have emerged as one of the best receiving duos in the country. After a weird start to the season, that included just one game in the first three weeks, the Beavers are 5-0, ranked eighth in the BCS standings and off to their best start since 1939.
When Mannion went down with a knee injury, head coach Mike Riley displayed utter confidence in backup Cody Vaz. And his faith was rewarded with a win over BYU last week, showing that with the players OSU has -- and an offensive line that has come together much quicker than expected -- the Beavers can absorb a major injury and still find success.
But for as good as the offense has been, the defense might be better. The Beavers boast the top rushing defense in the conference -- by a fairly large margin -- and they are one of only two teams in the league that is allowing fewer than 100 rushing yards per game. They also have the top third-down conversion defense (teams are converting just 26.9 percent of the time) and they are tied for the conference lead in turnover margin at plus-six.
Even in Ted Miller's wildest dreams, he could not come up with a better scenario for the way the Beavers have started the season.
Offensive MVP, Markus Wheaton: Mannion could be on this list, as could Cooks. But Wheaton gets the nod because he's been such a diverse playmaker. Whether it's a quick hitter, a deep ball or a wide receiver end-around, Wheaton has been one of the league's most explosive players and arguably its top wide receiver with 41 catches and six touchdowns.
Defensive MVP, Scott Crichton: Very tough call here between Jordan Poyer and Crichton. Both are deserving. But we're leaning toward Crichton simply because he's been an absolute monster in the trenches with 11 tackles for a loss and eight sacks. The Beavers have the best rush defense in the country and Crichton is a huge reason why.