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September 22, 2008Thursday night is a big night Beaver Nation. The number one team in the land is coming to town and the Beavers would like nothing more than to show the world what they are made of, both as a football program and a University.
Yes, all of the talk has been about how great USC is, and how this may be Pete Carroll's best team ever. The national media continues to pound away that the PAC 10 is having a down year this year and it is USC and the nine dwarfs. Maybe, just maybe, heads will be turned on Thursday night.
It was noted that Sammie Stroughter used a motivational David and Goliath speech prior to the 2006 contest to get the team ready for the upset of the then #3 Trojans, however Coach Mike Riley said that the Beavers will do nothing different this week than any other week in their preparation.
"This week we're trying to build up their confidence and arm them with a good game plan," said Riley. "What I want is for our players to compete. Just go compete. Play to win."
The Beaver team knows they can compete with the Trojans, as they beat them in 2006 and almost pulled off the upset in the "Fog Bowl" of 2004, so what must the Beavers do to make what they know, a reality?
Riley boiled it down to two things: first, establish a consistent running game and second, protect the quarterback.
USC will make those tasks tough with a very talented defense filled with future NFL players. Led by linebacker Rey Maualuga, the Trojans currently have six defensive players on multiple post-season honors watch lists.
Even though USC has a ferocious pass rush, Oregon State has weapons on offense that could keep the Trojans on their heels from time to time. One of the biggest differences this season from past Riley-led offenses is the use of short quick passes and the fly sweep which can help the running game and can counterbalance blitzing linemen.
And while the coaches and players map out their best strategy, all the fans can do is gear up, be loud, and at the urging of the athletic department, wear orange. While thousands of students lined up outside of Gill Coliseum this morning, the eyes of the college football world will soon descend on Corvallis and Reser Stadium for this potentially momentous night.
I was reminded this past week of how big of a showcase game this could be for Oregon State while watching the ESPN Thursday telecast of Colorado and West Virginia. Watching that game fired me up and reminded me what college football can be all about. It is about underdogs winning big games. It is about a sold out stadium and a student section that really rocks. It is about presenting your program on a national stage.
ESPN cameras aren't seen in Corvallis (or the Pac 10) often. With the Fox Sports Net contract, there are not many opportunities to view the Conference of Champions on the most watched sports network.
So while it remains to be seen whether Oregon State can pull the upset, the ramifications of the game itself are much bigger. Hopefully the Athletic Department and the University are doing everything in their power to showcase what game day (night) in Corvallis can be like to all of the recruits, potential students, and college football fans out there who will tune in on Thursday.
As Coach Riley leads his team out of the tunnel and tells them to compete and play to win....this goes for fans, University and Athletic Department alike. These chances to make a real impression are fleeting. Take advantage and reap the potential rewards.
Let the world see for themselves what an Oregon State home football game is all about. Showcase the band, organize the students, and hope for the best on the field. Everyone loves an underdog. It's a big opportunity for the program, all the way around.