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Monday, September 5, 2011
Consoling the state of Oregon

By Ted Miller

Say the Oregon fans: At least there's Sacramento State. Thanks Hornets.

Say the Oregon State fans: At least there's LSU. Thanks Tigers.

Chip Kelly
Oregon's high-powered offense has averaged 17.8 points per game in Chip Kelly's four nonconference losses at the school.
Otherwise, either Ducks or Beavers fans would be crowing at the other's expense this week. As it is, both are miserable.

And they should be.

Oregon laid an egg instead of taking advantage of a major opportunity against LSU. The loss, naturally, inspired more of the same talk about the present leader of the Pac-12 not being able to physically keep up with an elite SEC team.

We went that route, too. But let's pause for a moment and wonder how that game might have gone for the Ducks if the teams had the same number of turnovers and penalties. You know: What if the game happened the way Oregon wanted it to instead of the way it actually did.

That same approach, which all unhappy football fans use the day after, is surely being employed by Oregon State adherents.

Beavers, yes, you are now on the ignoble list of FBS teams that have lost to FCS teams. In fact, you are on the list of FBS teams from BCS AQ conferences that have lost to FCS teams. Put all those letters together and they spell, "Embarrassing."

But we come not here to bury fans from the state of Oregon but to console them!

First, you have this: These defeats did nothing to damage your Rose Bowl chances. There are 11 games left. The only fact as of today is the best you can do in the regular season is go 11-1.

Oregon, you might have played yourself out of the national title chase. Or you might not have. Fair to say, it will take a lot of losing all over the country and impressive winning from the Ducks to get pollsters to rank the Ducks Nos. 1 or 2.

Oregon State, you might have a little embarrassing left to do. You are going to Wisconsin on Saturday. Did you watch the Badgers against UNLV? One word: Gulp. Hard to imagine that being a pleasant trip, though Beavers fans surely will enjoy one of the nation's great college towns.

But Beavers, you aren't whole. You are without your big front teeth and wonderful paddle tail: receiver James Rodgers, cornerback Brandon Hardin, defensive tackle Kevin Frahm, defensive tackle Dominic Glover and tight end Joe Halahuni. That's a lot of quality starters to be missing.

Many of those guys will be back at some point: Frahm this week, Halahuni by the Sept. 24 game with UCLA. Rodgers ... hopefully sometime.

But let's be honest Oregon State: This is a team with issues. Coach Mike Riley said as much during the preseason. Sure injuries have been brutal, leading to 14 players making their first career starts and a school-record eight true freshman playing. But even without the injuries, this team didn't look like a threat in the Pac-12 North Division.

That said: Slow starts are often a staple of good seasons in Corvallis.

The 2000 team that went 11-1 nearly lost its opener to Eastern Washington. The 2004 team started 1-4 but went 7-5. In 2006, the Beavers got bombed at Boise State but went 10-4. In 2007, they got stomped at Cincinnati but went 9-4. In 2008, Penn State delivered the beatdown, but that team went 9-4.

In fact, the Beavers best seasons seem to have featured multiple early defeats -- in many years bad ones -- which likely will be the case after the trip to Madison. So maybe this is just the unhappy required part of a pattern for success?

Just like Oregon, which has now lost four consecutive marquee nonconference games to A-list foes with extra time to prepare. That pattern, nonetheless, has been imposed upon the two-time defending conference champions, not exactly a struggling program.

Ducks, Beavers: It's Labor Day. Let it go sometime around 10 a.m. PDT. Find a fan of opposite color and rib him or her, and take it back good naturedly.

It's a long season. But you don't know that it's going to be a looooooong season just yet. Eleven more games to turn those frowns upside down.