Countdown to Oregon State 2023 football camp: Season’s worst-case scenario

Oregon State football vs. No. 15 Utah
What if the defense isn't close to the 2022 unit, or the quarterback position doesn't improve? There's a chance the Beavers finish below .500 in 2023. (Randy Rasmussen)Randy L. Rasmussen for The Oregonian/OregonLive
By Nick Daschel | The Oregonian/OregonLive
Counting down the days to the start of Oregon State’s 2023 preseason football camp on Aug. 3.
Here is the third of 10 countdown topics: The Beavers’ worst-case scenario for 2023.
Previous: Best road trip, best case scenario
Coming off the third 10-win season in school history, Oregon State is hoping to continue the program’s momentum in 2023. To some, that means an appearance in the Pac-12 championship game. At a minimum, a better bowl game than Las Vegas.
But what if there’s stark reversal in 2023?
The worst-case scenario, of course, is 0-12. But for anything close to that to happen – even, say 3-9 – it would take an unforeseen glut of injuries. That’s unpredictable.
OSU isn’t going to fall off the map. But is it possible the Beavers end the season with a losing record and no bowl?
Absolutely. Like yesterday’s best-case scenario for Oregon State, this is not our prediction. Just a possibility of what could happen.
It starts with defense. What if the replacements at cornerback are nowhere the caliber of NFL-bound Rejzohn Wright and Alex Austin? Or the Beavers aren’t as productive with their newcomers at inside linebacker. Or for all the talk of an improved pass rush, it’s a dud.
Compared to the rest of the Pac-12, Oregon State’s receiving corps is ordinary. It could be better than average. But what if it’s average, or worse? The Beavers can’t continue to heavily lean on the running game, can they?
One area of health we can address is the offensive line. Oregon State’s line has been remarkably healthy the past three years. What if averages catch up in 2023, and the Beavers are patching holes with unproven second and third-year backups?
Then there’s the quarterback. With the addition of Clemson transfer D.J. Uiagalelei, an improved Ben Gulbranson and wonder freshman Aidan Chiles, it’s presumed the Beavers can’t be worse behind center than 2022. But what if Uiagalelei hit his ceiling as a Clemson freshman? What if Gulbranson is just a game manager? Chiles isn’t ready?
If several of these become true, then 4-8 or 5-7 is a possibility.
It’s difficult to envision anything other a three-game sweep of the non-conference schedule. But openers are always challenging, particularly on the road. In 2020, San Jose State went 7-0 during a COVID-shortened regular season. Last year, the Spartans threw a scare at Auburn before losing 24-16.
Oregon State’s conference season begins Sept. 23 at Washington State. The Beavers haven’t won in Pullman since 2013. OSU is 0-2 under coach Jonathan Smith at WSU; each game was a victory until the Cougars snatched it away in the final seconds.
Beating Utah on Friday, Sept. 29 in Reser Stadium will be no easy task. An 0-2 start to Pac-12 play and a 3-2 overall record, perhaps even 2-3, is out there.
Three of the next four games – California, Arizona, Colorado – are on the road. While even under the worst-case scenario it’s difficult to envision Oregon State losing all three, dropping two isn’t a stretch. Sandwiched in that stretch is UCLA, which could be anything from a bottom four Pac-12 team to a title contender.
Two of the final three games are at home. It doesn’t seem possible that Oregon State will lose to Stanford at Reser. But Washington on Nov. 18? The Huskies are a viable CFP contender. No one would be surprised if that one is an L. Or the following week at Oregon in Autzen.
Again, this is not our prediction of Oregon State’s 2023 fate. But you can’t entirely dismiss the possibility, either.

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