- Ted Miller, ESPN Staff Writer
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Before we focus forward, we're going to look back with team-by-team season reviews.
We continue today in reverse alphabetical order.
OREGON STATE (9-4, 6-3)
MVP: Receiver Markus Wheaton ranked third in the Pac-12 in receiving yards per game (95.7) and second in receptions per game (7.0). His 11 TD catches tied for second in the conference, and he also had two rushing TDs -- 142 yards on 20 carries overall. Wheaton put up numbers that earned him first-team All-Pac-12 honors with USC's Marqise Lee, despite the Beavers having a QB carousel with Sean Mannion and Cody Vaz. An honorable mention goes to CB Jordan Poyer, who led the Pac-12 with seven interceptions.
What went right: Going from 3-9 in 2011 to 9-4 in 2012 is a dramatic transformation. In fact, it’s the biggest improvement in wins in Oregon State history. The six-win improvement is tied for the best in the nation in 2012 with Middle Tennessee (2-9 to 8-4) and Ohio State (6–7 to 12–0). That's the ultimate measure of the season's success, and that's important to hold on to because the season ended in a way that bothered many Beavers fans. The Beavers posted a number of quality wins: Wisconsin, UCLA, Arizona, BYU and Arizona State. They played well on both sides of the ball, but most notably on defense, where they ranked second in the conference and 22nd in the nation in scoring defense (20.6 points per game) and third in the conference and 30th in the nation in total defense (354 yards per game). Wheaton, Poyer and DE Scott Crichton earned first-team All-Pac-12 honors. It's impossible to not call the season a success after the Beavers posted losing records the previous two years.
What went wrong: This season would have been an A, despite the odd QB situation, if the Beavers had simply taken care of business in the fourth quarter against an inferior Texas team in the Alamo Bowl. The Beavers blew a 10-point lead that should have been 20, and there were a variety of odd coaching decisions in that game that had fans fuming, starting with coach Mike Riley not giving Mannion a chance to avoid getting sacked when Vaz clearly couldn't figure that out. Or ... the Beavers just could have kept running the ball against a defense they were pushing around when not backpedaling in pass protection. We thought about giving the Beavers a major deduction just for the bowl game and giving them a "B-plus" but the six-win improvement prevailed. Other disappointments: Another blowout loss to rival Oregon and a flat performance at Northwest rival Washington, which ended a 6-0 start. Further, there were plenty of "What could have beens" in the loss to Stanford. The bowl performance and the QB questions will cause the Beavers to be dropped in the 2013 preseason top 25.
2013 outlook: The Beavers have some nice players coming back and some big questions heading into 2013, starting with the Vaz-Mannion question at QB. Going back and forth between the two doesn't feel like a recipe for taking another step forward in the Pac-12's North Division. Further, the Beavers must replace their best two players -- Wheaton and Poyer -- and their two most underrated players in 354-pound DT Castro Masaniai and DT Andrew Seumalo. When you toss in the loss of MLB Feti Taumoepeau, the up-the-middle defense is a huge question, one that can't be answered in the offseason by the "We've got a bunch of JC guys coming in!" that seems like a popular refrain among hopeful fans. Again, that means nothing until we see them hit someone. On the plus side, WR Brandin Cooks looks like an All-America candidate, there are four starters coming back on the offensive line and Storm Woods broke out as the first choice at RB. On defense, there's experience in the secondary coming back, as are ends Crichton and Dylan Wynn and outside linebackers D.J. Alexander and Michael Doctor. That's a nice core group. If the questions at QB and DT get answered, this team will be a threat to win 10 games and finish in the top 15.