Oregon State’s 2022 place in history, final ranking, shame on Billy Napier: 10 takeaways from Beavers’ 30-3 win over Florida

Reviewing Oregon State’s 30-3 Las Vegas Bowl win over Florida, as well as a quick review of the 2022 season and what’s ahead with xx takeaways:

1. Where do the 2022 Beavers rank in OSU history?

It’s too simple to say the top three teams in Oregon State history are the 10 or 11-win teams. Others must be included in the discussion, given that most Oregon State teams did not play 12 or 13 games. The 1956, 1964 and 1967 Beavers finished the season ranked among the final national top 10. The 1956 and 1964 teams won conference championships and played in the Rose Bowl. OSU’s 1967 Giant Killers went 2-0-1 against the country’s No. 1 and 2 ranked teams (Purdue, UCLA, USC). In 1962, Oregon State was 9-2, had a Heisman Trophy winner, beat two top-20 teams and won its bowl game.

If we’re in agreement that the 2000 Beavers are the school’s best-ever team, given the performance and talent firepower, then where does 2022 fit? This year’s team did not claim a championship, or win a game in which it was an underdog (OSU was 10-0 as a favorite, 0-3 as an underdog). But the Beavers finished the season winning seven of their final eight, including a win over top-10 Oregon. Winning a championship should mean something, which makes 1956 and 1964 relevant. The 1967 team, although it didn’t win a league title, was special. How I’d rank them:

2000

1964

1967

1956

1962

2022

2006 (a 10-win team)

2. Oregon State’s final ranking The Beavers are No. 14 in the College Football Playoff poll, No. 16 in coaches and No. 17 in AP. The CFP poll is complete, while the coaches and AP polls will produce final rankings after the bowl season.

How high could the Beavers finish? Let’s stick with the coaches’ poll, since OSU is 16. Obviously, it depends on how many teams ahead of the Beavers lose. In their favor are many head-to-head battles among the top 20. Oregon State should pass any team ranked No. 8-15 – USC, Kansas State, Utah, Clemson, Washington, Florida State, Oregon, LSU – if they lose their bowl game. Even No. 7 Penn State is in range if Utah beats the Nittany Lions in the Rose Bowl. I think at least three teams lose. Oregon State finishes No. 13 in the final poll.

3. Where this bowl performance ranks in Oregon State history

Sensing a theme here with the rankings? OK, we’ll stop after this. This was the 19th bowl in OSU history. If we toss the losses, then it’s top 12. But it’s much higher than that. Oregon State completely dominated Florida, and beat an SEC team for the first time in school history. It’s a top five performance in OSU bowl history. Where in the top five is debatable. No. 1 in the hearts of many is the Beavers’ 41-9 win over No. 10 Notre Dame in the 2001 Fiesta Bowl. No. 2? Probably OSU’s 20-16 1942 Rose Bowl win over previously unbeaten Duke. The 1962 Liberty, played in horribly cold weather conditions, was a 6-0 OSU win where the only score was a 99-yard touchdown run by Baker, the Heisman winner. That’s probably No. 3, just because of the record-setting run. No. 4 is either Saturday’s win over Florida, or the Beavers’ 2004 Insight Bowl performance, resulting in a 38-21 win over Notre Dame.

4. Florida’s decision to kick the field goal

Took some criticism on social media, mostly from Florida fans, for laying into Gators coach Billy Napier’s decision to kick a 40-yard field goal with 37 seconds left and ruin Oregon State’s shutout. Here’s what they’re missing: what it means in historical terms.

The Beavers getting a shutout? Great, but 30-3 or 30-0 is a rump roasting, regardless. And maybe the Gators feel a little better getting on the plane not having played in a shutout. OK. None of that matters. What does is Florida’s NCAA record 436-game scoring streak. It cheapens the record. Kick that field goal in the middle of the third quarter? No big deal. Maybe it gets some momentum going. But 37 seconds left? It’s a pathetic attempt to keep a record alive. I hope when Napier met OSU coach Jonathan Smith at midfield after the game, he apologized for the lame decision. But probably not.

5. What this team looks like next year

This is likely a foolhardy exercise, given how college football rosters turnover from year to year. But many readers have asked, so I’ll give it a shot. Offensively, the good news is that four of the five starting offensive linemen return, and there’s decent depth at the position. The top five at running back, led by Damien Martinez, are back, although it wouldn’t be surprising if someone at this position looks elsewhere. Tight end, where headliner Jack Velling returns, is promising. The position most in flux is receiver, as seniors Tre’Shaun Harrison and Tyjon Lindsey leave. Anthony Gould and Silas Bolden are back, as is John Dunmore Jr., who emerged late in the season. OSU will need to hit the transfer portal to find replacements. Quarterback? We know where it starts, in Ben Gulbranson. But incoming freshman Aidan Chiles will be here by spring, and perhaps a transfer as well. Prediction: if Oregon State brings in a difference maker at receiver, and figure out how to compensate for the loss of Jack Colletto, this offense will be better.

Defensively, there are significant losses, particularly in the secondary. Safety Jaydon Grant and cornerback Rejzohn Wright are gone. If cornerback Alex Austin and safety Kitan Oladapo decide to test the NFL draft, that means four of the five secondary starters are gone. The defensive backfield isn’t without hope, though, as safety Alton Julian and Ryan Cooper Jr. return, as do cornerbacks Jaden Robinson and Skyler Thomas. OSU is likely to land a transfer or two as well. The situation is less fluid among the front seven. The only certain losses are defensive end Simon Sandberg and linebacker Kyrei Fisher-Morris, both seniors. Linebacker Omar Speights and defensive end Isaac Hodgins are mulling a return. There is opportunity for promising youngsters such as linebackers Easton Mascarenas-Arnold, John Miller and Mathias Malaki-Donaldson. Prediction: Leaving it open for possibility next year’s defense could approach 2022 levels, but it depends on leadership and talent infusion in secondary.

6. Is Ben Gulbranson the solution at quarterback?

As O columnist Bill Oram opined after the Las Vegas Bowl, the answer to Oregon State’s quarterback issues could be the guy currently playing the position. Gulbranson moved into a starting role midway through this season, and had the ups and downs one might expect from a first-time starter. He was fine in 2022. Could Gulbranson take a significant step forward next season? I think he can. The arm strength that so many love to rip on social media/message boards is overblown. Gulbranson had the best arm on the team during preseason camp. He showed some mobility down the stretch. Given a full offseason to own the position, Gulbranson might be the answer. But Oregon State can’t afford to take that chance. The Beavers must add a portal quarterback that is every bit as good, if not better than Gulbranson. The hope is that one of the two makes the position better, and Chiles can sit and learn.

7. Defense made a case for MVP honors

Gulbranson won the Las Vegas Bowl MVP honors, as is often the case when a team wins by a convincing margin. It’s the quarterback, stupid. I thought at least five others were legitimate contenders as MVP. In fact, I voted for Colletto, which was perhaps a nod to his season-long impact more than his fingerprints on the game. Which were sizable: Colletto was a catalyst during OSU’s third-quarter uprising that put away the game with a successful fake punt, and blocked punt.

Fisher-Morris was every bit as impactful as any Beaver. The senior linebacker had 11 tackles, including three for losses, and a sack. Jaden Robinson, making his first start at cornerback with Wright sideline, was second in tackles with seven. Defensive end Sione Lolohea was dominant up front. Running back Deshaun Fenwick spelled an injured Martinez by running for 107 yards.

8. Andrew Chatfield Jr. remembers

Of Oregon State’s 11 tackles made behind the line of scrimmage, the most notable was Andrew Chatfield’s sack of Florida quarterback Jack Miller III. Chatfield figured to be motivated Saturday, facing the school that signed him out of his high school. Chatfield, who transferred from Florida to OSU in 2021, came from the backside to dump Miller. He immediately popped up and celebrated by giving a Gator “chomp” sign toward Florida’s sideline.

9. Allegiant Stadium is not a good venue for a college game

In the run-up to Saturday’s game, Oregon State coach Jonathan Smith referred to Allegiant Stadium as a “big-time venue.” Which it is. But it’s best suited for an NFL game, not college. Unless the Las Vegas Bowl figures out a way to attract 60,000 spectators to its game, it’s too antiseptic and lacking atmosphere for a college game. It was particularly striking when the bands played. It sounded like taped music rather than the real thing. This is where we’re at with bowls in the West, however. Outside of the Rose Bowl, Western United States bowl games simply do not attract large crowds. Oregon State probably had 8-10,000 fans in Las Vegas, and Florida something fewer, which isn’t bad. But the Las Vegas locals have little interest in attending a game that doesn’t include their own.

10. Buy and sell, Beavers and Cougars edition

Remember not that long ago when it felt like Oregon State and Washington State were about even in terms of ability and win potential? Those days feel as though they’re in the rearview mirror. The future is bullish on Oregon State. The Beavers return a fair number of significant performers in 2023, have several up-and-comers on the roster, a solid recruiting class and only need a few wins in the transfer portal to make a run at another 10-win season. Washington State, which lost Saturday to Fresno State 29-6 in the LA Bowl, feels like the next Colorado. The Cougars lost a ton of talent to the transfer portal or NFL draft opt-outs. The recruiting class is less than meh, and there are many holes to fill. Maybe Jake Dickert is up to the challenge, but he doesn’t have a track record. The Cougars are my way too early pick for the Pac-12 cellar in 2023.

–Nick Daschel | ndaschel@oregonian.com | @nickdaschel

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