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November 15, 2012

Could the Beavers still be smelling Roses?

Sure, the odds are long.

With two weekends left in the regular season, Oregon State's hopes of playing in the Rose Bowl for the first time since 1965 are still alive, albeit hanging by a microscopic thread.

Granted, it will take a fortuitous but not impossible chain of outcomes starting, of course, with the Beavers beating California and Nicholls State and losing to Oregon in the Civil War to close out the regular season with a 9-3 mark.

In addition, Southern Cal must beat UCLA this Saturday in the winner-take-all game for the Pac-12 South title, but then fall to Notre Dame at home on Nov. 24 and to Oregon in the Pac-12 championship game on November 30 in Eugene.

Oregon must run the table and land one of the two coveted spots in the BCS national championship game. Stanford, in addition to losing to Oregon this Saturday, must lose to UCLA on Nov. 24 and finish the year at 8-4, one game behind the Beavers in overall record.

If all that occurred, here is how the Pac-12 teams would line up in terms of overall record:

Oregon 13-0
Oregon State 9-3
UCLA 9-3
Stanford 8-4
Southern Cal 8-5

But even more is required to pave the road to Pasadena for the Beavers. Under the rules governing the BCS, at-large selections must finish among the top 14 teams in the final BCS standings revealed on December. 2.

So, Oregon State (currently No. 16 in the BCS) must hope the wins over Cal and Nicholls State are enough to boost them at least two spots in the BCS standings and any loss to Oregon on Nov. 24 has minimal effect.

"If it played out like that, Oregon State would be the second highest ranked Pac-12 team behind Oregon," ESPN BCS analyst Brad Edwards told BeaverBlitz earlier this week. "That's the one way it (Oregon State getting to the Rose Bowl) could happen. If they're not top 14 in the BCS, they would have to hope there aren't four eligible at-large teams in the top 14 and they would have to expand the field."

Stanford (No. 13), Nebraska (No. 14) and Texas (No. 15) are immediately above Oregon State in the BCS standings, and all face major challenges on their respective schedules in the next few weeks. So, as long as Oregon State finishes with a 9-3 record, they should be able to rise at least two spots to reach the top 14.

Moreover, if Kansas State stays at No. 1 in the BCS standings, the Fiesta Bowl would get the first replacement pick from among all the BCS eligible teams. If that happened, the Fiesta Bowl would surely grab Notre Dame for a possible matchup with an at-large team from the SEC (Texas A&M?).

If all that occurs, Oregon State could be in a position to find themselves in Pasadena on New Years' Day. Even then, one final question looms large. If Wisconsin wins the Big Ten championship (Ohio State is ineligible), would the Rose Bowl be willing to stage an Oregon State-Wisconsin rematch?

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"That's a good question," Edwards said. "The Rose Bowl has had Pac 12-Big 10 rematches. Not many, though. But that is a legit question. If Wisconsin wins the Big Ten, they're there. There is no choice. But because Oregon State would not have won the Pac 12, there is an option. Nothing requires the Rose Bowl to take a Pac-12 team to replace Oregon, even if one is eligible. But most people believe the Rose Bowl would take conference loyalty to the extreme and go with the rematch."

If all the pieces don't fall into place for the Beavers, Edwards believes the Stanford-UCLA winner on November 24 will likely play in the Rose Bowl unless Southern Cal beats the Bruins.

"If Stanford beats UCLA, it will be probably be Stanford," Edwards said.

In all likelihood, Oregon State will land in one of three Pac-12 affiliated bowls: Alamo (San Antonio), Holiday (San Diego) or Sun (El Paso).

Which bowl will they go? First and foremost, it depends on how many Pac-12 teams are taken by BCS bowls (maximum of two). If Oregon is able to maintain their position in one of the top two spots when the final BCS standings are revealed on December 2, the Ducks would play in the BCS national championship gamer in Miami on January 7, 2013.

If that happened, the Rose Bowl could select another Pac-12 team to fill the conference's coveted spot in the 'Granddaddy of them all" that traditionally features the Big Ten champion as well.

This year, that's likely to be the case since the highest Big Ten team in the BCS standings is Nebraska at No. 14.

Once the BCS bowls are done selecting their teams, the six remaining Pac-12 affiliated bowl games begin the process of selecting their teams.

The Alamo Bowl has first selection of available Pac-12 teams, followed by the Holiday, Sun, Las Vegas, Kraft Fight Hunger (San Francisco) and New Mexico bowls.

With plenty of football still left to be played, Oregon State's main competitors for one of the Pac-12's top three non-BCS bowl slots include Stanford, UCLA, Southern Cal and perhaps Washington (6-4 record with final two games against Colorado and Washington State).

Alamo Bowl president/CEO Derrick Fox told BeaverBlitz.com that his bowl game is watching the Beavers closely and monitoring their progress since they haven't been to a bowl game since 2009.

"The fact they have a couple of seasons of not being in the post-season, it seems like their fan base and student-athletes are very excited about the team and the way they're performing," Fox said. "They are definitely on our list."

The Alamo Bowl will have a representative at Saturday's California-Oregon State game at Reser Stadium, and very likely at the Civil War and Nicholls State game as well.

When the BCS games are filled, the Alamo Bowl selects the Pac-12 team with the next best overall record or a team within one win of the best record. Conference records are not given any weight in the bowl selection process.

Oregon State has never appeared in the Alamo Bowl.

"San Antonio is a great tourism town. I'm sure there are some Washington Husky fans from last year that have spread the word in the Pacific Northwest about San Antonio and what a great spot it was to spend the holidays," Fox said. "We look forward to possibly having the Beaver fans down this year and show them all the hospitality San Antonio has to offer as well."

Oregon State's Mike Riley was the head coach of the San Antonio Roughriders of the defunct World League of American Football (WLAF) in 1991-92.

If the Alamo Bowl passes up the opportunity to take the Beavers, the Holiday Bowl in San Diego has the next choice on the Pac-12 bowl ladder.

"There are still so many options available to us right now," Holiday Bowl Executive Director Bruce Binkowski told BeaverBlitz. "If you look at the list of possible teams in our mix, it could be Stanford, Oregon State, Washington, USC, UCLA. But we're very intrigued by the Beavers. Certainly, they're high on our list of possible competitors.

"We've always coveted Oregon State because of their travel potential and dedicated and hardcore fans that like to follow their team. Mike Riley has a great reputation down here in San Diego from his years with the Chargers. We don't know what's going to happen, but Oregon State is one of those schools that will make the final decision very interesting. They're definitely on our radar."

Right now, just three Pac-12 teams have been eliminated from bowl consideration: California (3-8), Colorado (1-9) and Washington State (2-8). Utah must win its final two games against Arizona and Colorado to achieve the minimum six wins, while Arizona State (5-5) can't afford to lose both of its last two games.

"It is wide open," Binkowski said. "I can't remember this many Pac-12 teams being available to us at this point in the season as we have right now. The next couple of weeks will be very interesting. It's a fun time of the year."

Indeed.


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