Bill Oram: Oregon State can put itself on the national football map with a win over Florida

Take a look around college football now. If he doesn’t select the player to prepare for the NFL Draft, it looks like he’s likely to be in the transfer gate. Gee, it’s almost like winning a bowl game that isn’t worth what it used to be.

Unless Oregon.

The Beavers were in Las Vegas last week in preparation for what might be the program’s most important game in over a decade.

Do not believe me? Beavers 9-3. The show has only published two 10-win seasons. Ever. They have never defeated a team from the Southeastern Conference.

For a program still establishing national credibility, checking those two boxes at the Las Vegas Bowl on Saturday would go a long way.

No, Florida isn’t exactly doing its best with so many splits.

“Everyone understands our team dynamic,” coach Billy Napier said Friday. “We will play without a few (men).”

seriously. If another player chooses, the Gators may have to start the server from the shorter left tackle.

But that shouldn’t change anything for Oregon.

It should not underestimate the meaning of winning here for the Jonathan Smith programme.

And Oregon is still building something. Even as Smith has released a group of seniors that includes Jack Coleto, linebacker Jaydon Grant, and offensive lineman Brandon Kipper — men who helped raise the program from the ashes of the Gary Andersen tenure — the Beavers are on an upward trajectory.

Running back Damian Martinez is a star. The defense is among the best in the conference and coordinator Trent Bray recently signed him to an extension. The offensive line loses only one of its five starts. It is a program created to carry the success of this season into another year.

But she needs help.

And with Wednesday marking the start of the early signing period, a win over the Gators looks like it could send an important message to any potential transfers in need positions.

Say, quarterback.

Ben Gulbranson has led the Beavers to victory in six of his seven starts. But he struggled throwing the ball, especially against Oregon.

And with the gate loaded with key players, including Clemson’s DJ Uiagalelei and Coastal Carolina’s Grayson McCall, there may be a chance for Oregon State to move up in the position both Smith and offensive coordinator Brian Lindgren know best.

Perhaps no one bases major life decisions on the result of the Las Vegas Bowl, but nonetheless it looks like an opportunity for Smith to make a good impression on anyone considering a move to Corvallis.

The Beavers are the favorites by nine points against the Gators. As I wrote earlier this week, Oregon State is 10-2 against the spread this season — the second best mark in the country. That should give you a degree of confidence in the beavers.

But for all of Oregon’s momentum and with all that seems to be working against Florida, the achievement it will be to win this season by defeating the Gators cannot be overstated.

This is, after all, still Florida.

Even at the age of 6-6, the barriers are formidable. They were one of the best rushing teams in the country behind Montreal Johnson Jr. and Trevor Etienne.

Consider the caliber of players enlisted in Florida. How many former Gators signings are on the field at Allegiant Stadium?

It’s guaranteed to be more than the Beavers, who have never attracted a five-star recruit.

Ask the Ducks fans who watched Georgia pancake Oregon in the opener about the physical disparity between the Pac-12 vs. the SEC.

Saturday will be a test of the SEC contests against coaching, chemistry, and momentum.

What a win it wouldn’t be for this Beavers team, but the program.

When was the last time beavers had such a big chance? Beating Oregon three weeks ago was massive, but that was for a 10-win season.

Hosting USC this year was almost huge, but the Beavers lost.

To find a game as seemingly important as this one in Oregon State, you might have to go back to 2009, when the Beavers and Ducks trip to the Rose Bowl met on the line.

The stakes in the Las Vegas Bowl on Saturday may not be as tangible as that, but given where the program is — and where it’s still trying to go — they’re almost as important.

– reported Bill Oram from Las Vegas | Twitter: @employee

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