The 116th Civil War took on a different look when Stanford upset Oregon last week, creating not only a number of combinations for how the Pac-12 race could shake out, but also raising new questions about how Oregon St. might attack the Chip Kelly system that has proven so difficult to overcome in the recent 4 game winning streak in the rivalry.
The Beavers possible landing spots come bowl season literally range all the way from the Fiesta Bowl to the Las Vegas Bowl, and the Ducks could still wind up in more than 1 BCS bowl, or in San Antonio or San Diego as well. And neither controls their own destiny. But both can help themselves considerably with a win today, in only the 4th Civil War where both teams are ranked. Its the recipe for a wild one. And potentially a very memorable one, in a series that's seen more than its share of games for the ages.
Stanford dusted off the "Boise blueprint" for beating Oregon; while breaking down the tape I couldn't help but think I was watching the Boise St. wins all over again. Defensive ends Ben Gardner and Henry Anderson are probably the best pair in the conference, and almost without exception, when they got up-field, hemming in Kenjon Barner and hurrying Marcus Mariota, the Cardinal "won" the play. When they didn't is when almost all the Ducks' good plays happened.
Scott Crichton and Dylan Wynn are the next best pair of defensive ends in the Pac-12, and Oregon hasn't really seen as good a set in some time. They haven't played Utah, and they haven't faced a non-conference foe with a pair of DEs that you automatically fear lately. Stanford's linebackers are better than the Beavers, but Oregon St.'s secondary is superior, including at run support. The key isn't getting to Mariota and Barner, though doing so at least some of the time does help; its containment and pressure without getting gashed up the middle.
So there is a now proven to be portable plan for attacking Oregon's speed that happens to be a good fit for Oregon St.'s personnel. Oregon St. has a gap-filler in Castro Masaniai who hasn't been healthy by the time the Beavers faced the Ducks the last 2 years, but he should clog up the middle better than anyone Oregon St. has had in a while. And Andrew Seumalo and Mana Rosa have been doing a good job of at least sealing up the middle, the success BYU had with the shovel pass to a running back not withstanding.
It doesn't have to work all the time, but if it does often enough to keep the Ducks from getting 40-50+ points, then the game could become about containing Markus Wheaton and Brandin Cooks, and that's a matchup that has favored the Beavers every time out. It will be interesting to see if Oregon St. can make this happen, but unlike in recent games against Oregon, there is at least a game plan one can envision that has a chance to counter the overall speed advantage the Ducks have over the Beavers, and make the matchups that do favor the Beavers be the most important ones.
Beaver Believer Believes:
To say this will not be an easy game is an understatement, but the Beavs absolutely can win. The Beaver defense has speed on the edges, which they will need to contain the rushing attack of the Ducks. That will be the biggest challenge of the game, just stopping the run, if that is done, then it is up to the secondary to cover on those third downs forcing Mariota to throw it away.
The Beaver offense needs to score a lot either way. What Stanford did to the Ducks last week is unlikely to happen again, it was quite a defensive performance. The Beavs need to light them up like USC did. The fire power is there with Cooks and Wheaton through the air, and Woods and Ward on the ground.
BB12's Keys to the Game:
1. Tackle in Space. The Cardinal stopped the Ducks last week in part by not missing tackles when they were in position. The Beavs must do the same, when opponents have scored against the Beavs lately it has been primarily because of poor tackling. If we miss a tackle against the Ducks, then they will be gone for a big gain.
2. Stay disciplined on defense. The Ducks offense also takes advantage of overly aggressive defense, running lanes will emerge if defenders do not control the gaps. This especially applies to rushing the quarterback, where Mariota is quick and if the pass rushers leave him space to run, he will make the Beavs pay.
3. Convert for touchdowns on drives. The Duck defensive front is beat up, which should help the Beaver run game, which matters especially in the red zone. With a threat to run inside the twenty, it is much harder to defend then watching purely for the pass. This leaves OSU with an opening to score, and against a Duck offense that should be upset the Beavs will need to score.
I believe that the Beavs can and will defeat the Ducks, 41-38 Beavs.
It's quite disappointing that there isn't more on the line in this one. This was supposed to be for the roses, but Stanford had something to say about that. So it's a Civil War for the Duck's National Championship and Pac-12 North chances. And a Civil War for the Beavers'...some bowl chances.
Frankly, I don't think the Beavers can win this one. It'll be close, until the 4th, when Oregon State's tired defense can't stop the Ducks, and they win by two scores. In the end, it will be a good effort, and there's nothing wrong with losing to a top-5 team.
Okay so we are coming off a big level smack down of the California Golden Bears and going into a huge game against the top five ranked Oregon Ducks. What does this all mean? Well I have some more extended "personal" thoughts posted in the piece Civil War 2012 Edition: Time to Get Personal but here are some additional final thoughts:
As for the win over Cal I think there is a lot to take away from this game from Mannion finding his form, the running game in full control, and the defense exerting their solid influence once again. At the same time of course Cal is not Oregon. But before this win over Cal (and the Stanford win over Oregon) I would have said the Beavs would need to bring something wild and crazy like SC did against Oregon. In my mind now though, and maybe famous last words (!), I say the Beavs need to just keep going with their game plan to date. Oregon is Oregon and this is easier said than done I know. But I don't know just seeing how OSU put it all together against Cal, and how Stanford was able to beat the UO I just have this feeling that the Beavs need to be themselves and hold true to their game plan (with some here and there applying the Cardinal plan from last week!).
As I noted in my longer Civil War 2012 Edition piece, I think this year's team is as good as we have seen against a Kelly team. I would like maybe a bit more work on the time/ball control on offense to keep the defense fresh, and keep the UO offense off the field. But again, I liked how well Stanford matched up against Oregon last week, and OSU plays similar defense and personally I think we have a better offense than the Cardinal.
Is it the Beavs time this year? Honestly I do not know, but one thing I do know is that I feel better about this year's Beavs team coming into this game than I have in a good while.