It’s not quite the battle of the unbeatens we were all hoping for, but it’s still the biggest game of the season for these two teams.
If Oregon State wins, they move to 9-2 on a season in which people predicted them to finish last in the Pac-12; it’d be the perfect cap on a phenomenal year.
If Oregon wins, they move one step closer to a second Pac-12 championship and Rose Bowl bid in two years; but, they also need a Stanford loss to stay alive.
Gotta love Civil War in Oregon!
Matchup: Oregon (5) vs. Oregon State (16)
Venue: Reser Stadium (Corvallis, OR)
Game Time, TV: 12:00 (PT), Pac-12 Network
Date: Saturday, November 24, 2012
Weather: 55 High, 46 Low, Rain
Team Records: Oregon (10-1) Oregon St. (8-2)
This will be the 116th Civil War, which stands as the oldest rivalry game in the Pac-12. It is also just the fourth time both teams have come into the game ranked.
Oregon leads the series 59-46-10, and have won the last four in a row. The longest win streak in the rivalry is eight, shared by both teams (OSU from ’64-’71, UO from ’75-’82).
A team has not won the Civil War five years in a row in over 20 years.
Over the last four years, the Civil War has determined two Rose Bowl entries, one BCS championship entry and a Pac-12 championship entry.
That streak of importance is broken this season, since entries do not rest solely on the game—only a Stanford loss combined with an Oregon win lets the Ducks win the North.
What to watch: Oregon
How do they shake off that loss?
For 11 weeks of the season, Oregon looked invisible. They dominated every opponent they came across. Their biggest challenge was USC, and they topped those guys 62-51.
Then the speeding bullet hit the break wall, and in Week 12 Stanford did the impossible.
Now Oregon no longer controls their own fate. They can’t just win this game to win the Pac-12 North, they need a Stanford loss. And they’re facing a team that plays defense a lot like Stanford, and offense a lot like USC.
The Ducks can’t look ahead, nor can they dwell on the past. If they want to win this game, they have to play some of their best football this Saturday—and not let that loss get to them.
What to watch: Oregon State
How do they stop that offense?
Since Chip Kelly took over in Oregon, the Beavers have had a hell of a time stopping that Ducks assault. Over the last three contests, the Beavers have been outscored 74-123 in the Civil War.
It’s generally been the complex option game that has confused Riley and crew.
But this is a different season, and defensive coordinator Mark Banker is doing some of his best coaching. His defense is playing it’s best football, and has topped several option based teams on the season.
With that said, the Ducks are a different beast. Banker will have to pull out all the stops for his squad to shutdown the Ducks.
Beav’s O vs. Duck’s D
While defense will be crucial, the offensive game could be the real difference maker. If you can’t shutdown the Ducks, you have to outscore them. You also have to burn as much clock as possible, so your defense can get some rest.
After last week, that looks possible. The Beavers hung up 62 points on Cal, while putting together 559 total yards of offense.
Sean Mannion looked poised in his return. After shaking off a bit of rust, Mannion finished his night completing 24 of 34 passes for 325 yards and four touchdowns.
But the real difference makers are going to come down to Markus Wheaton and Terron Ward.
Wheaton is an offensive catalyst for the Beavers, and Mannion’s safety net. He should have no problems shredding a thin Oregon secondary with his speed (he’s actually beaten De’Anthony Thomas before). Over his last two seasons, he’s averaged 15 yards per catch against the Ducks.
Ward—who is still considered OSU’s “backup” running back—has been on a tear lately. After accumulating 32 yards and no touchdowns in the first seven weeks of the season, he has 281 yards over the last three with four trips to the endzone.
Ward has come alive at the right time, and his physical running will be key to long sustained drives that give the defense some rest. Oregon gives up a lot on the ground, and they’ll have to slow down the Beavers.
Ducks O vs. Beavs D
Stanford’s defense beat Oregon in a myriad of ways.
They were disciplined and stayed on assignment. They stuck to fundamentals and tackled well. And they used their speed to protect the edges.
Oregon State can do all of those things, except protect the edges. Their linebackers aren’t particularly fast, and it will be up to the corners to protect the sidelines. This is how Oregon can win.
Attack the sides of the field, and use speed to open things up.
But to do that, Oregon has to get Kenjon Barner going again. The electric running back has been held to 66 yards a game over his last two, despite averaging 130 per game on the season.
Oregon can’t expect to lean on Marcus Mariota to open things up. He wasn’t particularly dominating against Stanford (22-38, 202 yards, one TD one INT) and the Beaver’s secondary is better than the Cardinal.
Kelly will need his run game at it’s best—against another run stifling defense—if he hopes to win this game.
It’s funny how similar both these teams are.
Both have speed on offense with a marquee style of play (Oregon’s run, Oregon State’s pass). Both play tough defense, using an athletic balance of speed and power.
Arguably, both teams should be undefeated right now.
And if because of that evenness that I think this going to be the best and most exciting game both teams have played all season long.
But I can’t doubt Oregon’s track record or speed. Even though it kills me, it will become the difference maker.