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Scoop Roundup: Beaver uprising in the PAC-12, a 20-play drive for no points, Notre Dame's USC dominance

Oregon State is in command of its PAC-12 North destiny and close to its first bowl berth in 8 years; Notre Dame suddenly owns USC; Billy Napier and Louisiana are methodical
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Oregon State – Yes! Oregon State – controls its own destiny in the PAC-12 down the season's closing stretch.

Show of hands for all who saw that coming. Now drop them, liars.

The Beavers are undefeated at home for the first time since the Obama Administration – 2012, to be precise – and remained thus because they rallied from a 10-point halftime deficit against annual PAC-12 division contender Utah.

Somehow, Oregon State already has wins this season against erstwhile PAC-12 foils University of Southern California, Washington and now Utah.

Perhaps most telling, Oregon State is comfortable in white-knuckle, grip-your-seat theater. A year after playing in an astounding five games decided by six points or fewer, the Beavers are now 2-1 in their past three games – all decided by a single possession.

"This team knows how long college football games are,” Oregon State coach Jonathan Smith said this week, “and (it) knows that there are going to be momentum swings both ways.

“These games, you win them in the fourth quarter. These things aren't over until the fourth, so you know you have to execute for the entire contest."

From 2001 through 2013, the Beavers as a program went to 10 of the school's 17 all-time bowl games. They went 6-4 under Mike Riley in those contests, but Riley left for Nebraska and Oregon State was left to meander through its evergreen wilderness.

The Beavers are on the cusp of clearing the woods. They now sit 5-2, and if they win out, they win the PAC-12 North and would make their first-ever appearance in the league's championship game.

OSU coach Jonathan Smith knows first-hand what those formative years were like in Corvallis, Oregon, from his days as a walk-on, four-year letterwinner during the aforementioned Riley's transformation of the Beavers' program.

From 2015-17, losses mounting and interest in the program dwindling, the Beavers managed just seven total wins.

Now, Smith has the program positioned to match or exceed that three-year window in just his third complete season back at his alma mater.

Still on Oregon State's schedule are home games next month against Stanford and Arizona State as well as road tilts upcoming at Cal this week, Colorado the next week and to close the season at Oregon in the 125th edition of the rivalry formerly known as Civil War.

CAJUNS IN COMMAND

It required so many elements that showcased a superbly coached football team.

Here were the visitors, on the road and opposite a slumping program desperately in need of a foundational moment under its rebranded, first-year head coach, having played nowhere near a complete game.

Possession meant opportunity. And opportunity realized meant victory – one that would give a program its unprecedented fourth-straight season of bowl eligibility.

Billy Napier's Louisiana squad answered the challenge.

From its own 6-yard line, after Butch Jones' Arkansas State squad got a 57-yard punt downed near the Cajuns' own goal line.

It simply did not matter. Louisiana opened with a run; it overcame a holding penalty on second down that pushed it inside the 5, and it converted on third down.

They threw only one pass on the possession.

Eventually, the Cajuns converted three third downs. They executed the only fourth-down attempt they faced when Montrell Johnson took a pitch around left end and plunged ahead for five yards down to the Red Wolves' 2-yard line.

The Cajuns quite easily could have punched in a final touchdown, but they did not need to do anything other than victory formation.

For on this 20-play drive that lapsed 10 minutes and 26 seconds from the game clock, the first 18 plays of which were fraught with suspense in the game's outcome, the final two plays left Arkansas State powerless.

Levi Lewis kneeled once, twice and game over. Louisiana 28, A-State 27.

Bowl eligibility, secured. Still perfect in SunBelt Conference play.

And a showdown looming next month on the road against Hugh Freeze's Liberty squad, also bowl eligible and which will define its season with a November-closing stretch at Ole Miss and in back-to-back home games against Louisiana and Army.

CENTURY MARK

Lindsey Wilson College only restored its football program in 2010, and it since has seen Chris Oliver develop the Blue Raiders into an NAIA program second to none.

In fact, the Blue Raiders are the reigning NAIA national champions following their tour de force through the spring schedule.

Now, they've added another milestone: 100 all-time wins since the program's relaunch.

In Saturday's 31-0 win against Pikeville, LWC improved to 100-33 in the dozen years it has operated in the modern era.

Additionally, the Blue Raiders are winners of 18-straight games, both regular-season and playoffs, and continue to be NAIA's top-ranked team.

RIVALRY FLIPPED

As Southern Cal has meandered through the past decade, ripe with talent on an annual basis but never far from disappointment, cross-country rival Notre Dame has continued to stabilize into one of college football's most consistent winners outside of Alabama, Clemson, Oklahoma and Ohio State.

So last Saturday, as Notre Dame was polishing off the Trojans for their fourth-straight win in the series, it was a snapshot of stability against one of upheaval, with USC again already almost two months into its search for a new head coach.

Asked about the four wins in a row, Irish skipper Brian Kelly quickly also noted “and seven out of 10.”

Indeed, it's Notre Dame's best stretch in the rivalry since a decade of dominance from 1983-93.

"Look, you guys know that I'm not much for talking in terms of what it means other than we've been well prepared, our kids want to succeed and look, we take this game really serious,” Kelly said. “Obviously, it starts at the top. This is an important game and we bring that importance into the building. When it's time to get ready for USC, it's really important. We take it as such."