The last we saw of Oregon State, the Utes were running all over the Beavers in a 27-8 beatdown last October at Rice-Eccles Stadium. It was pretty clear then which team was on the rise and which was at its low point.
But the times have changed.
While Utah and Oregon State won't play again for another month, it's now equally apparent which team is trending in which direction. The Beavers are 2-0, with both wins coming against ranked opponents (Nebraska and UCLA). Sean Mannion, the quarterback who the Utes repeatedly beat up on, is showing poise and precision in the passing game. Receivers Brandin Cooks and Markus Wheaton look like all-conference performers if they can stay consistent.
Oregon State debuted at No. 18 in the AP Top 25 this week after a 28-21 win at the Rose Bowl last week. Now, we're not reactionaries enough to suggest that Oregon State will be making a return to that venue in January.
However, the resurgent Beavers are, in fact, thinking Rose Bowl, a dream which is aided by the fact the Beavers don't play USC this season.
“That bond we created in the offseason, it’s definitely helping on the field,” senior receiver Markus Wheaton told The Oregonian. "We came into the season with one goal and we still have that goal. People will probably think it’s far-fetched, but if we stick together, anything is possible. We’re working to get there.”
The Beavers are far and away the darlings of the early Pac-12 season, partly due to coach Mike Riley's nice guyness. After the win at UCLA, he stayed true to his promise and treated the entire team to In-N-Out burgers (no word on if the Beavs will swing into the American Fork In-N-Out if they win in Provo in three weeks).
In some ways, the Beavers are overshadowing the neighboring Oregon Ducks, who are ranked No. 2 in the country, but have a lot of questions going into week 5.
The Beavers are only 2-0, and has had two weeks to prepare for each of its two opponents, and advantage that can't be overstated. Saturday's game at Arizona will be a clearer barometer of where Oregon State is going.