An introduction to Oregon State football

It’s probably fair to say that over the years, Maryland fans have given little, if any, thought to the Oregon State football program, and certainly vice versa, but that’s about to change: The Emerald Bowl on Dec. 28 in San Francisco will pair the two teams in their first-ever meeting.

To give an overall breakdown of Oregon State, The Oregonian’s Paul Buker was kind enough to answer questions regarding the Beavers. You can read Buker’s blog, 'Behind the Beavers Beat', here.

1.) So somehow a 6-3 record and third-place Pac-10 finish equaled the Emerald Bowl for Oregon State. How did Oregon – a team the Beavers defeated – sneak into the Sun Bowl (which is supposed to be the destination for the Pac-10’s third-place team)?

Oregon State DID beat its lame-Duck rival (Oregon) 38-31 in the Civil War game Dec. 1, but the BCS chaos on that day shook up the bowl pairings. West Virginia and Missouri lose, Hawaii wins to earn a BCS berth, and all of a sudden co-Pac 10 champ Arizona State is left out of the BCS. That dropped ASU to the Holiday Bowl - where the "San Diego! San Diego!'' chanting Beavers thought they were headed. ... OSU was in the Sun Bowl last year (39-38 thriller over Missouri) and OSU fans (and players) were not enamored with the idea of going back. ... the Sun Bowl committee was wise in voting to kick in its no-repeat clause and choose Oregon - even if it looked a little silly that the Pac-10's No. 3 team changed places with the Pac-10 No. 4 it had just beaten head-to-head.

 2.) Were the Beavers bitter at the apparent bowl snub?

The Beavers were not bitter. They thought it kind of stunk that an Oregon team that lost three straight to finish the season was REWARDED, while a team that won 6 of its last 7 was DROPPED in the bowl pairings. But it is more of a reflection on the Pac-10's lousy bowl arrangements. ... the comment I heard the most was ‘thank God we're not going back to El Paso.’ The people were friendly, but it was BORING!

3.) Maryland fans were amused by this quote – attributed to Beavers center Kyle DeVan – in your Dec. 3 story: "I don't even know where Maryland is. Could somebody point it out to me?"  First, how does OSU’s geography program rate? Second, do you think the Beavers are overlooking the Terps, possibly due to their 6-6 record?

OSU center Kyle DeVan is a character who often throws out funny lines because he knows the media loves it. Is DeVan really that clueless about U.S. geography? I'm not sure. Then I started thinking about, and I wondered if I could point out Maryland on a map myself. It seems so far away, although I was in College Park once on a Trail Blazers road trip and I remember how delighted Buck Williams was at returning to his alma mater.

I can tell you, the Beavers ARE NOT overlooking the Terps. Granted, they probably don't know a thing about the Terps, but they will get there.

The last time OSU played an "East Coast'' team, the Beavers were thrashed 34-3 at Cincinnati. This is a blue-collar group from humble beginnings (OSU started 2-3) and not the type that gets full of itself.

4.) What's the reputation of the ACC on the West Coast? Do you think the Pac-10 gets overlooked nationwide? Is there an East Coast bias?

I don't think the ACC registers with these guys in football. Not one iota. ... now if you're talking BASKETBALL, that's different. But football? Might as well be invisible here. ... nationwide, I think the Pac-10 is perceived as a six-on-six passing league in some circles, more skill than toughness. ... of course, if you actually play a team like USC (or even OSU, which has a very physical defense and O-line) then it's different. ... East Coast bias? Yes, we believe in that 'East Coast bias' as fervently as a six-year-old believes in Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy.  ... to prove my point, I'll bet Fridge had never heard of Lyle Moevao (OSU starting QB) until recently. ... on the other hand, many West Coast fans were in the same boat.

5.) There seem to be quite a few similarities between Ralph Friedgen and OSU coach Mike Riley (spent time with the Chargers, turned sad-sack programs into perennial bowl teams, sons of coaches, etc.). What's Riley like as a coach and as a personality?

If we're talking 40-yard dash times, Mike Riley has it all over Ralph Friedgen. ... mixed martial arts? I'm taking the Fridge over the smaller, lighter Riley. ... seems like a great matchup here. Both guys are considered to have keen offensive minds. Both had fathers who were lifer coaches. Both worked for the San Diego Chargers (is that a plus?)
I get the sense that Friedgen is more DEMANDING... I know Friedgen is more paranoid, with his closed practices and such. ... Riley is generally an open book, too nice to everyone to be believed almost. .. his idea of really swearing is "Jiminy Christmas!'' ... his practices are normally wide open to media, fans, and anybody off the street. ... he can get riled up, and he's taken a beating around here on occasion for giving troublesome players too many second and third chances, but he is far less uptight than, say, Oregon coach Mike Bellotti. ... he has been given a lot of love recently for his team's fast finishes in the last two years, and the 2007 teams ability to bounce back from several major on-field and off-the-field calamaties.

6.) How has quarterback Sean Canfield looked in his first season as a starter, and will he be ready to go in the Emerald Bowl?

Canfield has his ups and downs and at one point was leading FBS schools in INTs. He dinged his shoulder Nov. 3 in the 24-3 loss at USC and hasn't played since.
Moevao, the backup, doesn't have the classic look of a Div. I quarterback (he looks more like an inside linebacker at 5-11, 225) but he's 3-0 as a starter since Canfield went down. Riley said Monday that Moevao will start the Emerald Bowl, even if Canfield (who returns to practice this week for the first time since the injury) is ready.

7.) Running back Yvenson Bernard seems to have gone from unknown to underrated to forgotten in the span of four years – at least from a national perspective. How has he done this year? Is he still being overlooked?

Maybe I'm biased, but I think Bernard is very, very good, and will make somebody's NFL team next season even if his speed is suspect. He runs, he catches, he is a terrific pass-blocker. ... but he's been banged up for much of the season, and missed the Civil War game with a knee injury. He had the knee scoped the Tuesday before the Oregon game and hasn't practiced since. He was still walking with a limp on Monday and Tuesday. He promises he will be ready on the 28th, but who knows? ... the shocker came when back-up tailback Matt Sieverson, a former walk-on, had 142 yards rushing vs. the Ducks. .. .but Bernard is a HUGE part of the OSU offense. He had 237 carries, 1,037 yards and 12 rushing TDs this season. ... should have been first-team all Pac-10, but the coaches voted in Cal's Justin Forsett instead.

8.) How about the OSU defense? What are their strengths, weaknesses?

I think coach Friedgen and his staff would agree on this. The OSU defense is very good. A nine or 10-man rotation up front, good speed on the edges, good athletes in the secondary, a vicious hitter in safety Al Afalava.

The media that cover the Pac-10 seem to agree that OSU is just below USC in terms of overall defense, and better than the Trojans at some positions. The overriding attribute of this group is speed.

I think Maryland fans will be very impressed with OLB Derrick Doggett, who might be the best pure athlete on the team. Doggett is one of the fastest OLBs in the country. He is projected to be a safety in the NFL.

9.) Any prediction for the game?

Hard to say. After a month layoff, who knows what we will see at AT&T Park? All I know is, with a month to prepare, Mike Riley and Ralph Friedgen will have something up their sleeves that the other guy doesn't know about.

From this viewpoint, we keep saying that the Pac-10's No. 3 shouldn't lose to the ACC's No. 5 or No. 6. This is an interesting game, simply because an Oregon State and a Maryland would normally never get within 2,000 miles of each other.

I think OSU wins this game 30-21 if Yvenson Bernard plays. If the Beavers are without their starting tailback, I think it gets a lot closer.