Oregon St. coach Mike Riley will need one of his best days today. (Photo by Andy Wooldridge)
Civil War zeal aside, it seems unlikely that Oregon St. can join Cal as the only team that has slowed down, much less come close to derailing the Ducks on their run to the BCS National Championship Game. The Beavers at their best, as seen against Cal and USC, can play at the level to compete, and that's even without James Rodgers. But Oregon coach Chip Kelly knows that, and he also knows his system works when he gets his players to play to their potential against Oregon St, as seen in the last two Civil Wars, when the Ducks dumped the Beavers' Rose Bowl hopes.
Oregon St. coach Mike Riley will need one of his best days, both in terms of scheme and adjustment. Throwing a headset might not hurt either. The responsibility lies largely with those that are under Riley on the organizational chart, but leadership starts and ends at the top, and the Beavers will need a healthy dose of it today.
Except in Berzerkley, where Oregon always struggles, they have without fail at some point in the game simply found another gear no one else has in their transmission, and pulled away. At the same time, a combination of pace and conditioning has worn out their opposition, producing a series of fourth quarters where almost no one has even scored, never mind making a late run at a comeback.
That's even more impressive than being the nation's leading offense, and having the nation's leading rusher in LaMichael James
It doesn't mean the Beavers can't win, and there are two ways it realistically could happen. One is if Oregon quarterback Darron Thomas should go down with the game still in question. With NO experienced backup quarterback (backup Bryan Bennett is a true freshman that has never been in a college game, and Kelly is trying to keep it that way to save his redshirt), an injury to Thomas could end Oregon's run just as quarterback injuries have before in Kelly's run as offensive coordinator and head coach.
It could happen too; no Oregon quarterback has made it thru a season without getting hurt, and missing a start, in the Kelly era, as a coordinator or the head coach. And Nate Costa, who filled in for Thomas earlier in the year, has already been knocked out for the season. Further, Oregon St. has already ended Cal quarterback Kevin RIley's career, and sent USC's Matt Barkley hunting for crutches, out for a couple of weeks, and the Trojans to a couple of losses.
Also, remember Isiah Stanback, and what happened at Washington a few years back?
The other obvious way Oregon, or anyone, could fail is if the game is a turnover-fest for them. Remember how bad Oregon St. looked just a week ago? When they suffered 5 turnovers, and had a touchdown pass dropped on another drive? If the Ducks do something like that, they will look just as bad.
Still, it's hard to see how the Beavers can score enough to make Mike Hass's prediction as Oregon St. was winning the Nike Toga War over Oregon come true. Hass called for a 51-49 OSU win in double overtime, which delighted the Beaver student body, but set a pretty lofty target for Jacquizz Rodgers, and especially Ryan Katz.
Katz will have to connect early and often, and get Jordan Bishop and Aaron Nichols, not just Marcus Wheaton, well involved. He couldn't find consistent accuracy in Palo Alto, and it allowed the Cardinal to concentrate extra defenders on 'Quizz.
Oregon's Joey Harrington predicted a lower scoring affair, with Oregon winning 34-17, but if Oregon St. can hold the Ducks to 34 points, it will give the Beavers an opportunity.
I don't see Oregon St. getting enough pressure up the middle, even if Brendan Olander returns and can effectively help Stephen Paea, to keep the pressure off of the Beavers' cornerbacks. compounding the problem, Mark Banker's defensive system is almost room service for Kelly's offense.
Even the emotion of playing for a bowl berth of their own, in the uniforms that throw back to the original Giant Killers, won't make up for the mismatches Oregon creates. Prediction: Oregon 48 Oregon St. 27.
An opportunity like this only comes around once in a very long while. The chance to ruin your rival's hopes and dreams, and make up for all the suffering they have caused you in the past. The setting couldn't be better. College GameDay, ABC, Erin Andrews, a sold-out Reser Stadium, retro uniforms, and bowl-eligibility will all be on the table. Part of Oregon State's problems this season have been not getting up for games. There should be no problem in getting pumped for this one.
On Offense, Ryan Katz will be the key. You know that Oregon's D will be keying in on Jacquizz Rodgers all day long, so it will be Ryan's job to open up the ground game by taking advantage of the good, but sometimes immature play of Cliff Harris. If the Beavers are to have a chance in this one, there can't be any turnovers. So Katz has to make ultra-sure that every throw is safe and is kept out of Oregon's hands.
On Defense, I pray that Mark Banker has figured out something.
Overall, I think that the Beavers will keep the Ducks on their toes throughout the game, but it's going to be incredibly tough to take a lead and maintain it. I see the game being tied at Halftime and the Beavers only trailing by a touchdown after the 3rd Quarter, but the final period is ruled by the defenses and a last-minute Oregon State drive falls short. Prediction: Oregon-31, Oregon State-24
RVM's Insight: This season has been long, disappointing, and bizarre and it comes down to this. Underdogs again, odds against the team in a big way, no reason to think after what we have seen from these two teams that the Beavs have a chance, and so on.
I think we've been here before, and will be here again I assume in the future, so let's get this game on! Go Beavs!
So there you have it, it's Civil War time. We know what at least some of these guys (on both sides) are capable of. We have seen it. Today will be remembered. How it will be remembered is what we are interested to see. Time to cinch up the chin strap and get it on!