Beavers, Bearcats have been impressive in recent seasons
CORVALLIS — Cincinnati and Oregon State have come a long way in the two years since they last met.
The No. 17 Bearcats raised their profile in a state dominated by another program up the road with last season's 11 wins, Big East title and Orange Bowl appearance.
The Beavers, meanwhile, brought national attention to Corvallis when they toppled top-ranked USC last season, all but scuttling the Trojans' chances for a national championship.
Now both teams are 2-0 and vying for a win today that could help advance their pursuit of national prominence.
"We're both trying to break through. Both of us want to move up the echelon, and these are the kind of games you want to play," Cincinnati coach Brian Kelly said.
In 2007, Oregon State traveled to Cincinnati and left embarrassed by the Bearcats, 34-7. For a few of the Beavers, the memory still stings.
Quarterback Sean Canfield — then a sophomore — suffered his first loss as a starter, throwing three interceptions. Canfield, expected to back up Lyle Moevao this season, got the nod as Oregon State's starter when Moevao did not progress from rotator cuff surgery as quickly as hoped.
While running back Jacquizz Rodgers and brother James, a flanker, are the flash to Oregon State's offense, Canfield is the calm. He has a completion percentage of 78.6 percent, which leads the nation, hitting on 33 of 42 passes for 356 yards.
He has thrown three touchdown passes and has yet to be intercepted.
"I think the team is excited to get some redemption," he said.
"It's still with me," echoed James Rodgers. "I want to go out there and do well. As far as the other teammates, they do, too."
Cincinnati, playing under new defensive coordinator Bob Diaco, returned only one starter on defense. But they shut down Rutgers in a 47-15 season-opening victory and allowed only a field goal in last weekend's 70-3 win over Southeast Missouri State.
Now, in addition to Canfield, the Bearcats' defense will have to deal with the Rodgers brothers, who have scored six of the Beavers' seven touchdowns this season and combined for 597 yards of total offense.
But for as good as Oregon State's offense appears it can be, Cincinnati looks to have the edge.
Receiver Mardy Gilyard scored four touchdowns during the win over Southeast Missouri last weekend. He became the first Bowl Subdivision player to score on a punt return, a run and a catch in the same game since UCLA's Maurice Drew (now Jones-Drew) did it in 2005.
Gilyard was named the Big East's special teams player of the week.
The Bearcats have scored 117 points so far this season, just a point less that top-ranked Florida. Tony Pike, who only played in the first half last week, has completed 77.2 percent of his passes for 591 yards with six TDs and one interception.
Gilyard is among those who considers today's game significant.
"We know we're going to get a lot of national attention toward this game," he said. "They're a good team at home. They beat USC last year ... It's not going to be a walkover."
Through the first two games of the season, Oregon State has allowed 28 points and an average of 330.5 yards a game. Cincinnati has allowed just over 234 yards.
Not to be overlooked is the Beavers' 26-game winning streak over nonconference foes at Reser Stadium. Oregon State has also won five of its last nine games against AP-ranked teams.
But even though it carries potentially bigger implications for both programs, Kelly says only one thing really matters in the moment: a win.
"I think all your nonconference games — when you have Oregon State, Illinois — those are all important measuring sticks for your program in terms of how you look at Cincinnati football," he said. "But I don't know if we have anything to prove as much as it's just a big game."