No. 5 Oregon at No. 15 Oregon State
Saturday, 3:00 PM, Pac-12 Networks
Line: Oregon -9.5
The stakes have lowered significantly for this year's edition of the "Civil War," but a reward for Oregon is still there if they win this game. The Ducks, even after losing to Stanford last week, can still make it back to the Pac-12 title game with some help from, oddly enough, their potential opponent. If UCLA beats Stanford, and the Ducks beat the Beavers, the Ducks host UCLA for the second straight season at Autzen Stadium with the Pac-12 BCS berth on the line. Also, a very slim chance for a BCS Title game shot is at play for Oregon.
Oregon State has a chance to play spoiler, and there is nothing better than playing spoiler against your archrival. Oregon State has lost four straight games in the series, so this senior class for the Beavers is aching for a win and to bring the rivalry trophy (The Platypus Trophy) back home.
For Oregon to win: Get the lead out early. Go fast. Use your best weapon (tempo) early and often to score early and often. The Ducks actually don't go all out all the time, contrary to popular opinion. The offense actually has nuance to it, as they have about three or four different speeds out of their no huddle set. Oregon might want to just run to set the tone on their first couple of drives. Come out with a basic play that should gain a few easy yards, and then hit the gas to snatch momentum early and silence the home crowd.
For Oregon State to win: Manage third and fourth down. Oregon was 4-19 combined on third and fourth down last week in the loss to Stanford (0-2 on fourth down). Oregon's kicking game is unreliable at best, and if the Ducks are in typical "field goal range" at this point, you have to expect them to go for it. If you, as the Oregon defense, can manage to hold on these two downs, then your chances of securing a victory (and a maple carved platypus) will increase.
Key Player, Oregon: Kenjon Barner, running back. The senior running back has had a good career and a good season, but the last two weeks, facing two stout rushing defenses, he has been bottled up. Barner has 41 carries for 131 yards (3.2 ypc) and no touchdowns. It didn't matter against Cal, but his lack of production had to have hurt the Ducks last week. When you're a running team that doesn't milk the clock, you need to get more out of your feature back than 66 yards in 21 carries. That is simply not going to get it done, and it didn't. The Beavers are pretty tough themselves on rushing defense, allowing only about 108 yards per game on the ground. Will Barner struggle for a third straight week, or can he break through and give his team a chance to win another division and conference title?
Key Player, Oregon State: Sean Mannion, quarterback. It's been a bit of an up and down season for the sophomore signal caller. He's played well at times, looked bad in a spot or two, and also has missed time due to a knee injury that required in-season surgery. Mannion looked good in his last start, a total demolition of Cal, throwing for 325 yards and four touchdown passes (all in the first half). If Mannion can be steady like that instead of how he appeared in the Washington game (throwing four interceptions), then the Beavers have more than a fighting chance.
Key Stat: 1894. The year the rivalry began. The date of the first matchup between the University of Oregon and Oregon Agricultural College (now Oregon State) is unlisted, but the team now known as the Beavers won, 16-0. Oregon leads the all-time series (to date) 59-46-10, including the infamous "Toilet Bowl," a 0-0 tie in 1983. It was the last scoreless tie ever in college football. The Civil War is the seventh most played rivalry game in college football.