Ivan Maisel's Northwest tour continues at Oregon State, where the Beavers are trying to bounce back from their first losing record in five years.
The offseason hasn't been kind to Mike Riley's squad -- lots of injuries to key players, most notably WR James Rodgers -- but Riley is always a glass-half-full guy, even as nearby rival Oregon has climbed to the top of the college football world:
Oregon State football is the guy who lives down the street from the guy who won the lottery. Oregon used to be a regular Joe, too. The two schools used to never stray too far from one another in the basement of the league.
The University of Oregon, just a half-hour or so from Corvallis, has become the heartthrob of college football. America can't wait to see what it wears every Saturday, much less how it plays. The Ducks have benefited from the largess of former Ducks track athlete Phil Knight, who has lavished his swooshed millions on his alma mater.
Maisel also points out the unprecedented success for Riley in his hometown of Corvallis, as well as how Riley makes it work.
He couldn't be much more successful, either. Riley has a record of 69-54 in his 10 seasons at Oregon State (1997-98, 2003-10). If the Beavers win six games this fall, he will have more victories than any coach in the school's history. That's as good a description of the uphill nature of Oregon State football as any. Bob Stoops has won 75 games since he picked up his last dealer car.
Riley wins at Oregon State, like others haven't, because he can look at the unnoticed recruit and see the NFL player within. In an era in which the marquee programs no longer redshirt, Riley continues to swear by it. "This program is a development program," he said. "We love those redshirt years. ... We're not going to get the ready-made guy with five stars beside his name.
When those players come out the other side, Oregon State has older players playing against younger ones. And they're pretty good, too. Two years ago, the NFL drafted seven Beavers, which made Oregon State second only to USC.
And what of the Beavers' prospects this season? Of course, Riley is optimistic.
"This team is going to have to be a great 'team.'" Riley said. "People are going to have to step up. I told the team this [on Tuesday]: This team, almost to a man, has improved noticeably from last year."