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GAME THREAD - Running Game is Key

The battle of in-state schools will be determined on the ground

NCAA Football: UCLA at Oregon Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

Last night I had a dream that Jermar Jefferson wasn’t available for today’s game. After waking up in a panic and immediately checking Twitter to make sure it was only my deranged subconscious and not some sort of Thanksgiving coma-related premonition; I found out it wasn’t true. Jermar Jefferson will be active and needs to have a huge game if the Beavers are going to knock off their in-state rival.

It feels odd to be playing the Ducks mid-season, but nothing about 2020 feels normal. Kickoff is scheduled for today at 4:30PM on ESPN. The game doesn’t seem to be at risk of cancellation or postponement, so it looks like the matchup in Reser Stadium is a full go. Looking forward to the matchup it’s clear that both teams rely heavily on their running game. This game will be won by whoever best establishes the run game and wins the battle at the line of scrimmage.

Make no mistake, Oregon is a heavy favorite and winning the battle at the line of scrimmage has not exactly gone Oregon State’s way in previous years (especially on the defensive line), but the Ducks have had their own troubles on defense this season. Last week UCLA racked up 267 rushing yards before narrowly losing 38-35, with their backup QB.

The Ducks have an effective and efficient offense. Lead by running back CJ Verdell and Tyler Shough (pronounced SHUCK) the Oregon offense is averaging 38.7 points per game. Travis Dye is another formidable running back that will get carries. In fact Verdell (241 yards), Shough (197 yards) and Dye (172 yards) all have more rushing yards than the Ducks #1 receiver has through the air (Devon Williams - 163 Yards).

Oregon is 6th in the nation in rush yards per game (as of Nov. 18th). They are obviously going to establish the run early and often against Oregon State. It’s certainly been a set up the run to open up the pass situation for the Ducks. It’ll be a challenge for the Beavers front seven to slow the running game down, but they looked good against the ground game against Cal last weekend.

Jermar Jefferson is having an outstanding season averaging 150 yards per game on the ground. The Beavers desperately want to balance their offense, but until things dramatically improve in the passing game Jermar Jefferson is going to get a lot of carries.

The biggest question for Oregon State is how will Tristian Gebbia look? Oregon’s defense has some good athletes, but they are not as imposing as Washington’s defense. There could be an opportunity for Gebbia to attack the secondary, but can he capitalize? Chance Nolan got a few reps with the starters this week, but the coaching staff doesn’t seem eager to make a switch to the backup QB. Chance Nolan has some running capabilities and Oregon State’s offense would become even more reliant on the ground if Chance took center-stage. I imagine the coaching staff would call plays for Chance like Oregon does for Shough if the Beavers needed to make that switch.

For now Gebbia is the man. Trevon Bradford is the only Beavers receiver with over 100 yards on the season. The tight ends will need to play a big role today. Luke Musgrave (93 yards) and Teagan Quitoriano (77 yards) have had a few nice moments, but I would like to see both of them on field a lot this game. The two tight end set could help establish the run and then set the Beavers up for play-action.

I’m feeling somewhat optimistic about today’s Platypus Bowl. The Ducks are two-touchdown favorites, but I think the Beavers are going to keep it close. Despite the struggles Oregon State has had this year they are going to compete for 60 minutes and be in every game they play. They got over the hump last week against Cal and let’s hope they find their stride against Oregon today. Go Beavs!