Pac-10 midseason report: Oregon State

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Oregon State certainly has posted spectacular highs and dismal lows, but that's sort of been the Beaver way the past few years -- slow start, fast finish and mostly be unpredictable.

The opening loss at Stanford and the humiliating blowout defeat at Penn State made it appear that the completely rebuilt defensive front seven wasn't the match of past crews that led the Beavers aggressive gap-cancellation scheme. And the offensive line looked overmatched.

Then, following a dominant but mostly under the radar win over Hawaii, the Beavers shocked the nation with a 27-21 victory over top-ranked USC, controlling the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball in the process.

The euphoria was short-lived, though, after the Beavers grabbed defeat from the jaws of victory at Utah, giving up 11 points in the final two minutes to lose 31-28 to the 15th-ranked -- and extremely grateful -- Utes.

Offensive MVP: True freshman running back Jacquizz Rodgers is on track for first-team All-Pac-10 and All-America consideration. He leads the conference and ranks 10th in the nation with 119.7 yards rushing per game and has scored eight touchdowns. His 186 yards on 37 carries against the vaunted USC defense will never be forgotten by Beavers fans.

Defensive MVP: Free safety Greg Laybourn isn't the best-known Beaver but he's been the consistent leader of the defense this season. He leads the team with 50 tackles -- his 8.3 stops per game rank third in the conference -- and he's also recovered two fumbles and grabbed two interceptions, one of which iced the victory over USC.

What's next: While the season-opening loss at Stanford means the Beavers don't technically control their own fate, if they win out against their Pac-10 slate, it's a near certainty they would play in their first Rose Bowl since 1965.

(We can probably assume Stanford won't win all its remaining games and, in the process, notch a second consecutive upset of USC, right?)

That might sound far-fetched, but Oregon State's schedule is the most favorable in the conference: Arizona State, California and Oregon each come to Corvallis, while trips to Washington, UCLA and Arizona look doable.

A lot of work, yes, but not inconceivable, particularly with a win over the Trojans in the bank.

To make it happen, the Beavers will have to stay healthy, avoid turnovers and hope kicker Justin Kahut (4 for 8 on field goals) regains his mojo.