The 116th Civil War will play out in Corvallis, Oregon on November 24. That's a long time from now, but that looming contest has started to take on bigger significance than what was at once first thought.
Both the Oregon Ducks and the Oregon State Beavers are undefeated, but one team is a Cinderella while the other is a three-peat Pac-12 champion. It's quite possible they both could be undefeated when they face each other in the battle for the North division.
No one saw this coming.
Last year the Beavers finished at 3-9. To give you an idea how bad Beaver football was last year consider this: The Washington State Cougars and the Arizona Wildcats had a better record (4-8) than the Beavers. Those 4-8 records saw both head coaches Paul Wulff and Mike Stoops, respectively, get the boot.
Only the Colorado Buffaloes had a worse record (3-10) than Oregon State in the Pac-12 last year and that's only because Colorado played Hawaii; the NCAA allows a team to schedule a 13th regular-season game if Hawaii is on the schedule.
Beaver head coach Mike Riley may have pulled a Bill Snyder—albeit short term—by turning around an awful team into a very good team. At least it appears that way.
No. 8 Oregon State's rush defense is stingy as hell. The Beavers are yielding an average 70 rushing yards per game. Their passing defense, however, is atrocious.
Oregon State's pass defense yields almost 292 yards per game; only eight FBS teams have worse pass numbers than the Beavers and two of them reside in Tucson, Arizona and Boulder, Colorado.
The Oregon Ducks will undoubtedly take advantage of that soft pass defense with an aerial attack, and you would think that this would end this discussion.
But it doesn't.
The Ducks' offense operates in a spread, but it's a running attack, not passing attack. Numbers don't lie. Oregon's pass offense is barely ranked in the top half of all FBS passing offenses; it's ranked No. 56. The Ducks will ostensibly rely on their running game against a top-ranked rush defense team because the formula works and quarterback Marcus Mariota has made a few—but not many—bad decisions.
But what about the Beavers' offense against the Ducks' defense?
So are these numbers accurate or inflated?
According to Sagarin's ratings, Oregon's numbers are inflated. The Ducks' strength of schedule is ranked No. 93 so far this season. In other words, the Ducks haven't played anyone yet.
Interestingly, the Beavers' strength of schedule is ranked No. 9. So if the Beavers' defensive numbers are worse than the Ducks' but the Beavers have played a much tougher schedule, doesn't that mean that the Beavers' numbers are under-valued and the Ducks' numbers are inflated?
Perhaps the best way to gauge the quality of a team and its competition is to just watch it play. The Ducks travel to Arizona State, a bubble BCS team, tonight at 9 pm (ET) on ESPN.
Oregon is scary good. The Ducks have rolled over everyone they've played. But so far, not one of the teams they've played is a currently-ranked team in the BCS standings. That will change.
Oregon State is in the same boat; both Wisconsin and BYU were its top opponents thus far but both have taken a free fall from the polls.
Can Oregon State beat Oregon? The Beavers already have faced one of the toughest challenges a team can face and answered it with a resounding, "Yes, we can."
Quarterback Sean Mannion, one of the most productive passers in the country, was injured and will likely be rehabbing from surgery for the remainder of the year. Mannion's replacement, Cody Vaz, played his first game in over a year-and-a-half on the road at BYU and the Beavers came out of Provo, Utah with a 42-24 win.
Oregon State is capable of beating Oregon because it's battle-tested and resilient. Corvallis is also the Pac-12's home for major upsets.
If defense wins championships, then the Beavers may have a slight edge over the Ducks. Then again, the Beavers' defense hasn't faced anything like the Ducks' offense.
This Civil War will have more meaning this year.
And the winner's prize may be more than just bouquets of red roses.