Oregon State is one win away from becoming bowl eligible for the first time since 2013.
It’s been a long journey for the program, but Jonathan Smith has brought some credibility back to his alma mater. For nearly a decade the Beavers have been cellar dwellers in the Pac-12, and now they’re raising eyebrows all across the league.
Smith is having a lot of success in his fourth year on the sidelines and his team has an identity. The Beavers are getting it done with a punishing ground attack. Not to mention Oregon State is averaging 35.1 points per game, which ranks first in the Pac-12.
It’s mind-boggling, considering Smith has operated with less talent than USC, Utah and Washington. However, he has defeated all three this fall and has more victories. When Smith was hired in 2018, no one even took a second look. All of the focus was on Texas A&M’s Jimbo Fisher, Nebraska’s Scott Frost, Florida’s Dan Mullen and UCLA’s Chip Kelly.
Smith is proving all of the naysayers wrong and has already exceeded expectations. Sophomore quarterback Chance Nolan has provided Oregon State’s offense with consistency at the position, which the unit hasn’t had for quite some time. He threw for four touchdowns in the victory at USC and added two more in last week’s win over Utah.
Junior running back B.J. Baylor has emerged from the shadows as arguably the Pac-12’s best rusher. The former three-star prospect is coming off four-straight 100-yard games, plus he leads the conference in rushing yards and touchdowns on the ground.
On defense, the Beavers have one of the best defenders in the country in linebacker Avery Roberts. He was a former Nebraska recruit under Mike Riley. Now Roberts has blossomed into a tackling machine and he’s the heart and soul of Oregon State’s defense.
The Delaware native leads the Pac-12 in total tackles, and he’s third in the FBS.The Beavers have also been a stingy bunch against the run and rank second in the league in rushing yards allowed.
With those key ingredients on both sides of the ball, it’s no mystery Smith has established a mentality that his Beavers are going to run on teams and not let anyone run on them. That recipe has worked and will need to continue as Oregon State (5-2) approaches its’ remaining five games.
The schedule is very manageable, considering the Beavers only have two opponents with a winning record left on the slate. Oregon State has the talent, experience and production to be in every game and it won’t be a surprise if Smith puts together an eight-win campaign.
Although Smith doesn’t have the Beavers to the promised land yet, the fans are believing again. And that’s what matters when a coach is trying to build a program from the ground up. The Beavers have momentum. The team continues to play with confidence, which will be key down the stretch.
It all speaks volumes to the kind of work Smith been putting in. The rest of the Pac-12 has taken notice, and in hindsight, it seems like Smith is just getting started.