Sun Bowl remains likely for Oregon State, Smith gets a contract extension: 10 takeaways from Beavers’ 38-10 win over Cal

Here are 10 takeaways from Oregon State’s 38-10 win over California, which improves the Beavers’ record to 7-3 with two regular season games remaining:

Oregon State’s bowl picture doesn’t change

The Sun Bowl and Oregon State are almost assured to be reunited after a 14-year absence. With Oregon and UCLA losing Saturday, odds are lengthening against the Pac-12 getting a CFP berth or two NY6 bowl games. That means the Pac-12′s bowl pecking order is Rose, Alamo, Holiday, Vegas, Sun, LA and ESPN-created bowls is intact.

Five teams are currently ahead of Oregon State in the Pac-12 standings. That’s unlikely to change barring a collapse of Oregon and/or UCLA during the final two weeks. Even at that, the bowls have some flexibility in picking teams, if they’re within one game in the standings. If UCLA, Oregon or Washington are in the mix with Oregon State for a bowl berth, the bowls are almost always going to go with the larger TV market (Washington, UCLA) or brand (Oregon) over the Beavers.

Then there’s the issue of a repeat bowl appearance. Last year, OSU went to the LA Bowl, Washington State to the Sun. Bowls don’t like back-to-backs by the same school, if it can be avoided.

Our latest bowl odds for Oregon State:

Sun: 95 percent

All others: 5 percent

The Sun Bowl is Dec. 31 in El Paso against an ACC opponent. The Beavers’ two previous Sun Bowl appearances were 2006 and 2008.

2. Beaver defense soaring statistically

After holding California to 160 yards – the lowest total by a conference opponent vs. OSU in 13 years – the Beavers are prominent among Pac-12 and national leaders defensively.

How Oregon State stands:

Rushing defense: 107.1 yards per game | 1st Pac-12 | 15th in FBS

Pass efficiency defense: 112.64 rating | 1st Pac-12 | 10th FBS

Total defense: 336.1 ypg | 2nd Pac-12 | 28th FBS

Scoring defense: 21.6 points per game | 3rd Pac-12 | 36th FBS

3. Solid game by Ben Gulbranson

Evaluating a quarterback is subjective. But from this vantage point, an argument can be made this was Gulbranson’s best performance of his five starts.

Gulbranson, now 4-1 as a starter, didn’t post blow-away numbers statistically. He was 15 of 23 for 137 yards and two touchdowns. Gulbranson also ran four times for nine yards. Each run was effective.

Gulbranson didn’t need to be great against California. OSU’s defense made sure of that. But other than a bad handoff exchange that led to Cal’s only touchdown, and a few sloppy throws, the third-year freshman was sharp. Perhaps Gulbranson’s best throw of the game was a third-and-goal pass to Tre’Shaun Harrison. With the ball at the Cal 7, the Bears rushed three and dropped eight into coverage. There weren’t a lot of seams available for OSU receivers. Gulbranson eventually chose Harrison, who was double teamed at the goal line. He threw the ball to a place where only Harrison could catch the ball, and he did.

4. Waiting on Oregon State’s injury news

Saturday’s win was probably the costliest of Smith’s five-year tenure in terms of injuries. Lost during the game were offensive linemen Taliese Fuaga and Heneli Bloomfield, running back Jam Griffin, linebacker Jack Colletto, receiver Jesiah Irish, safety Jaydon Grant and cornerback Alex Austin. In addition, running back Deshaun Fenwick and linebacker John McCartan didn’t dress for the game.

Coach Jonathan Smith said afterward he hadn’t heard that any of those players were lost for the season. But it’s early. By Monday, we should get a clearer picture on health heading into the final two games. Of most concern is Grant, Austin and Colletto. The loss of Grant and/or Austin for a game or more would be a blow to Oregon State’s secondary. Grant is the defense’s leader, and Austin is a three-year starting cornerback. Losing Colletto eliminates a strategic offensive piece that is vital for the Beavers.

5. Welcome back Trey Lowe

With OSU’s running back room starting to thin due to injuries, the return of Lowe against California was a positive sight. Lowe hasn’t played since the season opener against Boise State. Lowe took only a handful of snaps, but if he’s healthy, expect that number to increase during these final two games. Particularly if Fenwick and Griffin have injury issues.

Lowe filled a solid role a year ago, and was in the mix for serious time during 2022 preseason camp. He is OSU’s best option as a receiver out of the backfield. Lowe is also a boost if Colletto is sidelined for any length of time.

6. Smith earns an additional contract year

With the season’s No. 7 win, Smith has earned an additional contract year. A clause in Smith’s contract adds another year if OSU wins at least seven games during the fifth, sixth or seventh year of his tenure. This takes Smith’s contract through the 2028 season.

According to the salary and non-salary terms in Smith’s contract, his pay for the new year (2028) is $4.75 million. It’s an increase of $200,000 from his 2027 year.

As for remaining 2022 bonuses, Smith earns an additional $25,000 if OSU beats Oregon and $50,000 if the Beavers participate in a bowl game, and $25,000 if he’s Pac-12 coach of the year. If OSU wins exactly eight regular season games, Smith earns a $50,000 bonus, and nine regular season games, $75,000.

For those worried that Smith might leave for greener pastures, his current contract buyout is $3.5 million.

7. Brian Lindgren shows off his playbook

A week after getting heavy outsiders criticism for play-calling against Washington, OSU offensive coordinator Brian Lindgren showed he still has it. Not that we ever thought Lindgren lost it, or that he paid one second of attention to the UW criticism. But Oregon State showed some high-level stuff with formations and playcalling during the first half that led to a nice separation on the scoreboard.

Among the beauties:

  • Colletto and Damien Martinez were about to run a shift on a fourth-and-2 play during the opening drive. Cal called timeout. The Beavers pivoted. Colletto instead took the snap, faked a step forward, rocked back and threw a 37-yard strike to Anthony Gould. “Colletto dropped a dime to him,” Gulbranson said.
  • On the second drive, Gulbranson shifted from quarterback to wide receiver, with Jam Griffin taking over at Wildcat quarterback. The confusion did just enough to allow Griffin to pull off a nice six-yard gainer.
  • On OSU’s second touchdown, Oregon State ran a power sweep where virtually every available blocker pulled to the right, paving the way for Griffin to make it into the end zone.

8. Kudos to Tristan Gebbia

As the beat reporter, we’re not supposed to root for the team. You can still be be happy for someone. It was nice to see quarterback Tristan Gebbia get a little action during the fourth quarter. It’s been a long road back for Gebbia since he suffered a horrific hamstring injury nearly two years ago against Oregon. After more than year of rehab, Gebbia fell from starter to third string. But Gebbia has kept his chin up, and there’s little doubt he’s a popular teammate, having been selected as a team captain in 2021 and 2022.

Gebbia, a sixth-year senior, is deserving of a meaningful series against Arizona State, Oregon or the bowl game. Not that I’m telling the coach what to do. OK, I guess I am.

9. Pick, but no pick six

Kyrei Fisher-Morris was thrilled with his first career interception, a pick of a Jack Plummer pass during the first quarter at the Cal 31.

But it could have been so much more. As soon as Fisher grabbed the interception and made a turn to sprint to the end zone, he ran flush into teammate Kitan Oladapo. The collision caused both players to fall to the turf.

“Oh man, me and KT are already laughing about that. He’s already saying how sorry he is for tackling me,” Fisher-Morris said. “We still got the interception and we still scored on offense. So it all works out.”

Oregon State linebacker Kyrei Fisher-Morris (8) intercepts a California ball during the first half of an NCAA college football game against California on Saturday, Nov 12, 2022, in Corvallis, Ore. (AP Photo/Amanda Loman)

Oregon State linebacker Kyrei Fisher-Morris (8) intercepts a California ball during the first half of an NCAA college football game against California on Saturday, Nov 12, 2022, in Corvallis, Ore. (AP Photo/Amanda Loman)AP

10. Oddsmakers bring good news

Oregon State opened as a seven-point favorite over Arizona State for Saturday’s game in Tempe. It’s good news in that the Beavers are 7-0 this season when they’re favored, and 0-3 when they’re the underdog.

The Beavers are 8-2 against the spread this season, losing only in games against Utah and Stanford.

–Nick Daschel | | @nickdaschel

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