The Pac-12 conference is undergoing a major shakeup, as 10 of its 12 members have announced their plans to leave for other leagues in the next two years. The only remaining schools, Oregon State and Washington State, are left to face an uncertain future in a diminished conference. But before they part ways with their longtime rivals, they have a chance to make history on Saturday, when they meet in Pullman for a rare matchup of unbeaten teams.
Beavers and Cougars off to a strong start
Both Oregon State and Washington State have surprised many observers with their impressive performances in the first three weeks of the season. The Beavers are 3-0 for the first time since 2013, with convincing wins over Purdue, Hawaii and Idaho. The Cougars are also 3-0, with victories over Utah State, Portland State and USC. Both teams have shown balanced offenses and opportunistic defenses, and have overcome some adversity along the way.
Oregon State has been led by senior quarterback Chance Nolan, who took over the starting job after Sam Noyer transferred from Colorado. Nolan has completed 68.8% of his passes for 674 yards and six touchdowns, with no interceptions. He has also rushed for 110 yards and two scores. His favorite targets are wide receivers Trevon Bradford and Tyjon Lindsey, who have combined for 25 catches, 373 yards and four touchdowns. The Beavers also have a potent running game, featuring BJ Baylor, who leads the Pac-12 with 299 rushing yards and five touchdowns.
Washington State has had a more tumultuous quarterback situation, as three different players have started under center. Jayden de Laura began the season as the starter, but was suspended for the second game after violating team rules. He returned to lead the Cougars to a stunning upset over USC last week, throwing for 340 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran for 111 yards and another score. However, he suffered a concussion late in the game, and his status for Saturday is uncertain. If he can’t play, the Cougars will turn to either Jarrett Guarantano or Cammon Cooper, who have both seen action this season. Whoever plays quarterback will have plenty of weapons at his disposal, such as running back Max Borghi, who has 253 yards from scrimmage and four touchdowns, and wide receiver Calvin Jackson Jr., who has 14 receptions for 234 yards and two touchdowns.
A historic opportunity for both teams
Saturday’s game will mark the first time since 1957 that Oregon State and Washington State will face each other as undefeated teams. It will also be the first time since 2001 that both teams will enter the game with winning records. The stakes are high for both teams, as they look to make a statement in the Pac-12 and beyond.
For Oregon State, a win would give them their first 4-0 start since 2000, when they went on to win the Fiesta Bowl and finish fourth in the nation. It would also snap a four-game losing streak to Washington State, and give them their first win in Pullman since 2013. The Beavers have not won a conference road game since 2016, when they beat California in Berkeley.
For Washington State, a win would give them their first 4-0 start since 2017, when they also beat USC in their third game. It would also extend their home winning streak over Oregon State to five games, and give them their eighth win in their last nine meetings with the Beavers. The Cougars have not won their conference opener since 2018, when they beat Utah in Salt Lake City.
A showcase for the Pac-12’s remaining members
While Oregon State and Washington State are enjoying their success on the field, they are also facing an uncertain future off it. The Pac-12 conference is set to lose 10 of its members by 2024, as Washington, Oregon, Stanford, California, UCLA, USC, Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado and Utah have all agreed to join other leagues. The reasons for the mass exodus include dissatisfaction with the Pac-12’s leadership, revenue distribution and media rights deals.
The departure of these schools will leave Oregon State and Washington State as the only remaining members of the Pac-12. The conference will likely try to add new members from other regions or divisions to survive, but it is unclear how attractive it will be to potential candidates. The Beavers and Cougars will also have to decide whether they want to stay in the Pac-12 or explore other options.
In the meantime, Oregon State and Washington State have a chance to showcase their programs on Saturday, as they play in one of the most anticipated games of the week. The game will be televised nationally on Fox at 1:30 p.m. PT / 4:30 p.m. ET. It will also be streamed online on Fox Sports Go. Both teams will try to prove that they belong in the conversation of the best teams in the country, and that they can thrive in the changing landscape of college football.