Oregon St. returns to Autzen Stadium for the first time since the "Civil War for the Roses" in 2009. (Photo by Andy Wooldridge)
Oregon St. (3-8, 3-5) visits #9 Oregon (9-2, 7-1) today in the 115th Civil War. The last time the two teams met in Autzen Stadium, it was the "Civil War for the Roses", with the winner heading for Pasadena. It was a bitterly cold night, with temperatures in the teens, but the action on the field was hot. Eventually, the Ducks rallied for a 37-33 win, and the Beavers were relegated to the Maaco Las Vegas Bowl.
Both would lose their bowl games, but since that night, Oregon went 21-3 until last weekend's 38-35 upset home loss to USC. Oregon St.'s loss started the Beavers on a skid that had them going 7-17 until last weekend's 38-21 upset home win over Washington.
When Alejandro Maldonado missed a game tieing 37 yard field goal, it meant this game isn't a tune up, its a must win for Oregon in order for the Ducks to host the initial Pac-12 Championship Game. An Oregon St. upset will send the game down the road to Palo Alto, as well as assure the conference won't get a second team into a BCS Bowl.
When Ryan Murphy intercepted Keith Price's pass on the one yard line, and Sean Mannion drove Oregon St. the length of the field, setting up Jovan Stevenson's third touchdown run of the fourth quarter, the thought that the Beavers might be able to break their 3 year losing streak to the Ducks, was suddenly far fetched, but maybe not impossible after all.
The season is already almost over. Not having a game in December, or a bowl game (again) really makes for a short season.
The odds makers made an assumed to be motivated Oregon team a 29.5 point favorite, but something must have impressed them, as the line has dropped to a mere 28 points.
The disappointment of last week's loss, and the fact that it probably means Oregon won't get the avalanche of help they would need to get back to the National Championship Game, probably means the Ducks start a little slow/flat/unsharp. Especially given its an early start.
The Civil War by itself does not mean as much to a team that not only has dominated the series of late, but is comprised mostly of out of area players who did not grow up in the culture of the rivalry.
The Civil War does mean a lot more to a healthy percentage of both fan bases than it does to a healthy percentage of both teams.
It means that Oregon St. has a reasonable chance to do some business early, especially if they bring the energy level they had against the Huskies to this game.
At some point, the realization that a trip to a BCS game, in this case the Rose Bowl, will sink in, though, and the Ducks will make their run. The Beavers will put up some resistance, not unlike last year.
But Oregon has a lot more athletes than Washington has. And Oregon St. certainly isn't USC. Emotion and effort only go so far when confronted with talent and depth.
The game will have some fun moments for both teams. Probably enough for the Beavers to buy the current Oregon St. staff some more time, coupled with the wins over the Cougs and Huskies. But the Ducks will have the most fun, once their team realizes they can play and win another home game (the Pac-12 Championship game) AND play in the Rose Bowl, OR they can play in the Alamo Dome.
And that drive back north on I5, which is going to be a long slow one, will be almost surreal, as the finality of the premature end to the college careers of too many seniors, stars like James Rodgers and Joe Halahuni, and some obscure trumpet player or career backup alike, all of whom have given us their all, and a lot of enjoyment, sinks in.
Oregon is probably the toughest matchup for the Beavs out of any team in the country just based on scheme. With a weak run defense for OSU and possibly the best running back in college football, it's hard to see OSU winning this game.BB12's Keys to the Game:
1. Stop the Run. It's been the same thought for weeks, but now it's a little different. The run attack of the Ducks is much more dynamic than most teams. It seems like Darron Thomas has kept the ball much less this year, but just giving the ball to LaMichael James, Kenjon Barner, or DeAnthony Thomas is plenty lethal. The linebackers are going to have to get side to side and cannot miss tackles in space, or else Oregon will be off to the races.
2. Long Sustained Drives. What's the best way to stop a great offense? Keep them off the field. The offensive line is going to have to create some running lanes to open up the passing game, the Oregon defense will not play as poorly as Washington did. Oregon State will need to have some double digit play drives, in order to give the defense a chance to breathe.
3. Score touchdowns in the red zone. If OSU makes into the redzone, then the Beavs cannot afford to only get field goals. The Beavs converted red zone opportunities into touchdowns against Washington, and it is even more important to do that against the high scoring Ducks.
At least the Beavs have a little momentum going into this game, so I no longer feel that the Ducks will run for 600 yards, but this game is still going to be tough. OSU could play their best game of the year and still lose; in the end the Beavs will need tons of help to win this game. It is hard to see an OSU victory, but I will always hold out hope for the Civil War.
Robert is on the road, and missing his first Civil War in a long time, so his observations on the cultural event that is annually the biggest event in the state appeared earlier.
Cliff Kirkpatrick over at the Gazette-Times thinks the Beavers will need a complete (if not perfect) game today to upset the Ducks. He doesn't think it will happen.
BTD will be at the game, and back later with full coverage and analysis.