All fans can look at their teams’ schedules and identify the stretches that will likely determine whether the season will be a success.
That’s our objective as we examine the schedules of all Pac-12 teams and attempt to identify the toughest two- to-four-game stretches of 2016 for each club.
Up next: Oregon State Beavers
Toughest stretch: Oct. 1-15 (at Colorado, vs. Cal, vs. Utah)
Why: The Beavers’ schedule is back-loaded pretty heavily and Gary Andersen’s team isn’t quite at the point yet when it can imagine handling a Stanford-UCLA-Arizona-Oregon stretch in the final month of the season.
But fear not, Oregon State fans. The first three conference games of the season are going to offer a chance for this young team to possibly maintain any momentum it created in nonconference play and give the Beavers their first Pac-12 victory under Andersen.
Traveling to Colorado to kick off the conference slate is a good way to gauge where exactly Oregon State is when compared to other lower-level conference opponents. The Buffs snuck away with a 17-13 victory in Reser Stadium last year, but with a more consistent passer in Darell Garretson and a heavy emphasis on run defense in Corvallis this offseason, the Beavs have a chance to return the favor to Mike MacIntyre & Co.
If Oregon State can pick up a road victory in Boulder, the Beavers will return home to face Cal and Utah, which could both be very challenging -- but possibly winnable -- games for the Beavers.
Cal lost quarterback Jared Goff as well as its top six receivers and its star defensive player, linebacker Hardy Nickerson Jr., transferred away to Illinois this offseason. So, the Bears are in a bit of a state of flux and coming off -- what could be -- a tough road trip to Arizona State. It’s far from a gimme game for the Beavers, but they certainly have a chance and if they were to pick up consecutive victories in their first two games of the conference season, they’ll have a lot of momentum moving forward into their matchup with Utah.
The game with the Utes would likely be the toughest of these three games, but never underestimate the power of confidence if Oregon State were to have two Pac-12 victories at this point.
From there, the Beavers’ schedule gets much tougher, and because their bye week comes during Week 2, they won’t get a chance to relax their legs and bodies once they really get going. In order to show the progress they’ve made in the Pac-12, these three October games will be hugely important and the key to their season.