Oregon State upsets No. 15 Oregon, delivering a blow to Pac-12's remote playoff chances

Sam Cooper
·4-min read

The highest-ranked team in the Pac-12 is no longer unbeaten.

Entering the weekend, Oregon was 3-0, ranked No. 15 in the College Football Playoff rankings and one of the few Pac-12 teams to play all of its games. Now, Oregon is 3-1 and might fall out of the CFP rankings altogether after losing to rival Oregon State on Friday night in Corvallis.

Oregon led most of the evening, but allowed the Beavers to stay within arm’s length. The Ducks have had some turnover issues so far this season, and an interception by Tyler Shough opened the door for Oregon State to take its first lead of the game — a 34-31 advantage at the 12:23 mark.

But the Beavers would need to reach the end zone one more time to upset their rival. Oregon quickly retook the lead at the 8:27 mark, setting up a wild finish.

Oregon State first turned it over on downs deep in Oregon territory, but got the ball back after forcing a punt. From there, the Beavers marched back into Ducks territory and eventually reached the 1-yard line.

It appeared that quarterback Tristan Gebbia had given his team the lead on a second-down quarterback sneak, but he was controversially ruled short.

After some confusion about the clock, Gebbia again tried on third down, and was stopped short of the goal line yet again. Not only was Gebbia stopped short, he was injured on the play. That put backup Chance Nolan into the ballgame on fourth-and-goal for his first snap as a Division-I college football player.

Nolan, a junior college transfer, did his job and pushed his way into the end zone for the go-ahead score with 33 seconds remaining — despite the pressure-packed situation.

All that was left was a defensive stop, and that soon came and gave Oregon State a huge upset. It was just the second win for Oregon State in its last 13 meetings with Oregon. Oregon State last beat the Ducks in 2016, but it’s the first rivalry win for the Beavers under head coach Jonathan Smith.

Smith, who played quarterback for Oregon State from 1998-2001, is in his third year coaching his alma mater. He has done a great job. The Beavers won a combined seven games from 2015-2017, but Smith got them to 5-7 last year.

So far in 2020, Oregon State is 2-2 with an upset over its rival, a win over Cal and a near-upset over Washington. The Beavers also have one of the most underrated players in the country in running back Jermar Jefferson.

Jefferson rushed for 226 yards and two scores in the win, including an 82-yard touchdown on his first carry of the night. In all, Oregon State put up 532 yards of offense.

Oregon State running back Jermar Jefferson (6) runs past Oregon cornerback Mykael Wright (2) and into the end zone for a touchdown during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Corvallis, Ore., Friday, Nov. 27, 2020. (AP Photo/Amanda Loman)
Oregon State running back Jermar Jefferson (6) runs past Oregon cornerback Mykael Wright (2) and into the end zone for a touchdown during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Corvallis, Ore., Friday, Nov. 27, 2020. (AP Photo/Amanda Loman)

What does this mean for the Pac-12?

The loss is a crushing blow for Oregon’s College Football Playoff hopes. Those chances to reach the CFP were already remote considering the Ducks were ranked No. 15 in the first batch of rankings from the CFP selection committee. Now a loss to Oregon State will push the Ducks even further down the rankings, and possibly out altogether next week.

USC, at No. 18, is the only other Pac-12 team ranked in the CFP’s Top 25. And the Trojans had to cancel their game vs. Colorado due to COVID-19 issues. The Pac-12 already started its season later than all of the other Power Five conferences.

The shrinking number of games the conference has been playing is going to leave it on the outside looking in when it comes to playoff consideration. That’s especially true when you compare the Pac-12’s top teams to teams that could be on the fringe of the top four as the weeks progress. There won’t be much of a case for the Pac-12 to make.

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