Back in August, I picked Oregon State to Þnish the regular season 8-4 and to close with a win over Oregon. This prognosticating business is easy, right?

But I couldn't have foreseen the Beavers' dominance over the Ducks. OSU's defense was the hammer, but give OSU's offensive line full credit. After three dismal performances to start Pac-10 play, in part because of injuries, the offensive line got it together, protected Derek Anderson and opened holes for Steven Jackson. Four wins in the last Þve games wouldn't have happened without the interior Þve, plus tight ends Tim Euhus and Jermaine Jackson.

Dennis Erickson's teams routinely get better in the second half of the season. He practices his Þrst-team offense against the No. 1 defense for short periods every Tuesday and Wednesday to keep both sides sharp. His coaches do a nice job adjusting to weaknesses and preparing for opponents.

The fear here is that the Beavers are going to be the team holding the short stick among teams tied at 4-4 in Pac-10 play and will wind up in the Silicon Valley Bowl on New Year's Eve. Just one more win would have guaranteed them a much better bowl. Such is life in the Pac-10.

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