Oregon State eyes chaotic conclusion to upend Pac-12 in College Football Playoff race

As the Pac-12 bids farewell, the Oregon State Beavers look to disrupt the College Football Playoff picture with a dramatic season finale. (Photo by Ali Gradischer/Getty Images)

PHOENIX – In what can only be described as a fever dream for the Pac-12 in its final year, one of its schools still has the opportunity to create chaos in the College Football Playoff race.

In the first season Oregon State has appeared in the CFP rankings, the No. 11 Beavers (8-2, 5-2 Pac-12) will have the ultimate chance to shake up the playoff hunt during the final two weeks of the regular season.

The Beavers’ schedule for their final two games is arguably one of the most difficult in the country, as they take on No. 5 Washington (10-0, 7-0 Pac-12) and No. 6 Oregon (9-1, 6-1 Pac-12) to close out the season.

Oregon State moved up one place in this week’s CFP rankings after the Beavers’ brutal 62-17 win over Stanford (3-7, 2-6 Pac-12) last Saturday.

The Beavers have yet to lose a game at home and lost their only two games of the season by a combined score of six points against Washington State (38-35) and Arizona (27-24). Reser Stadium will be packed Saturday in their final home game of the season when they welcome the Huskies, who have won 10 of their last 11 games against Oregon State.

For the Beavers to make the College Football Playoff, they would have to win their final two regular-season games, and more than likely win the Pac-12 championship game in a rematch against Washington.

Even though the odds are not great for this season, as the Beavers sit at +7500 odds to make the playoffs according to FanDuel Sportsbook, Oregon State would be in a position to make the playoffs under next year’s new format.

This is the final year of the current four-team model for the playoffs, a system that has been in place since the beginning of the CFP era. The new model consists of 12 teams, which will comprise the highest-ranked six conference champions, plus the next six highest-ranked teams who are not conference champions.

This guarantees that at least one team from a Group of 5 conference will make the playoffs, something that has been a hot topic of debate over the last decade.

The only team from the Group of 5 to make the playoff was Cincinnati in 2021, when it finished the regular season at No. 4, eventually losing to No. 1 Alabama 27-6 in the College Football Playoff semifinal.

If the playoffs started after Tuesday night’s rankings with the new format, No. 1 Georgia, No. 2 Ohio State, No. 4 Florida State and No. 5 Washington would receive first-round byes as the highest-ranked conference champions.

The first round would go as follows: No. 11 Oregon State at No. 6 Oregon, No. 24 Tulane at No. 3 Michigan, No. 9 Missouri at No. 8 Alabama, and No. 10 Louisville at No. 7 Texas.

This would create multiple rematches from the regular season, including the Beavers and Ducks battling once again in the Oregon Classic.

One of the other talking points with the new format is that during the first round, the higher-ranked team actually hosts the game in each matchup. This would give teams that performed better in the regular season a reward for their ranking through natural home-field advantage.

Alabama athletic director Greg Byrne recently spoke about the topic in a Zoom call with Cronkite News, supporting what the revised format can mean for college football, while also pointing out that it does create concerns.

Byrne said the new format gives more teams “hope” of reaching the playoff, later stating that it creates more relevance for the playoff across the country, as teams from more regions and conferences would be involved.

With the expanded format, it also creates a concern for player health and safety, as teams could play a maximum of 17 games during the season if they play in their conference championship and do not receive a first-round bye.

Oregon State will test its continuing success at home Saturday when the Beavers welcome the Huskies, who have struggled on defense during their past few games.

CFP selection chair Boo Corrigan noted the Huskies’ recent defensive struggles during his weekly teleconference shortly after the rankings were released.

“It is a factor,” said Corrigan, who briefly brought up Washington’s close wins over ASU and Stanford as caution points for the committee.

Washington took down Utah last week 35-28, but again the Huskies’ defense in the first half created some worry about their long-term success.

If the Huskies can win at Reser Stadium on Saturday, they may finally be able to claw their way into the current playoff picture by jumping No. 4 Florida State.

The Seminoles have had a weaker strength of schedule than Washington, with that trend continuing this week as they face North Alabama in a late-season non-conference game.

Oregon did not move either in the rankings, and won’t move next week unless one of the teams above it loses. The Beavers have their fate in their own hands, however, because if they win out and defeat Washington in the Pac-12 championship, they would have a resume that would be one of the best for the one-loss teams battling for a spot.

Arizona (7-3, 5-2 Pac-12) moved up to No. 17 after the Wildcats’ close win at home against Colorado, while Utah (7-3, 4-3 Pac-12) dropped to No. 22 after their close loss to the Huskies.

Oregon State’s chances of making the playoffs are slim, but the Beavers may create one of the most chaotic events in college football this season, by defeating two teams that left them and the Pac-12 for dry.

Sports Reporter, Phoenix

Jesse Brawders expects to graduate in May 2024 with a bachelor’s degree in sports journalism and a minor in educational studies. Brawders is a freelance esports commentator.

Sports Digital Producer, Phoenix

Joshua Darling expects to graduate in December 2023 with a bachelor’s degree in sports journalism. He is part of the social media and production team.