Over 150 years ago, the Union and Confederacy clashed for freedom in the American Civil War. The Civil War only lasted six years, but there is still a Civil War going on in the United States of America, and it's at it's peak at this very moment.
When Oregon State goes into Autzen Stadium to do battle with the Ducks of Oregon on Thursday night, it will be an epic showdown for the ages. It might not punch either team a ticket to the National Title game, but it will punch a ticket to the second biggest bowl there is—the Rose Bowl.
Besides this weekend's SEC Championship game between Alabama and Florida, there is no bigger game than the 113th edition of the Civil War (the best rivalry name in college football). In fact Oregon-Oregon State might be the second best college football game all season long. Let's take a look at the two teams, shall we?
Oregon is 9-2 with only one of those losses coming in the ultra deep Pac-10 to Stanford and the other to undefeated Boise State.
Oregon State, on the other hand has three losses—two in the Pac-10 to USC and Arizona. Their other loss? To undefeated Cincinnati.
As one can see, both teams have gone through pretty brutal schedules, only losing to other top conference teams and undefeated non-conference foes.
Both teams feature explosive young and small running backs in reigning Pac-10 player of the year Jaquizz Rodgers for the Beavers and LaMichael James for the Ducks.
James has barely been out-rushed by Rodgers this season, although Quizz was already a household name. When LeGarrette Blount (I guess the Ducks like recruiting players with "La or Le" in front of their name) was suspended, somebody had to step up for Oregon. James has done that and more.
Jaquizz has proved himself, yet again, to be one of the nation's top running backs. The 5'7" speedster is nearly impossible to tackle and has a knack for the big play. Oregon State will need to control the clock against the Ducks, and Rodgers will help them do that.
The teams are about equal at running back, and quarterback is no different. Jeremiah Masoli will probably be the quarterback when the All-Pac 10 team is announced, but Sean Canfield has had an impressive season in his own right.
Canfield is very mistake proof and is playing like a man possessed as of late. He and Jaquizz's brother James have great chemistry, so expect a full helping of the older Rodgers brother in this game. Canfield will be finding him early and often.
Masoli on the other hand, is more of a game changer than Canfield. Not only can Masoli make things happen through the air, he can also do a lot of things with his feet. He had a spectacular game in his last performance at Arizona, accounting for three touchdowns through the air and on the ground. That's six total touchdowns.
When Masoli is on he's great, but he's also fallen apart a few times this season. Oregon State's weak secondary shouldn't kill him on Thursday, but Masoli does have a tendency to make mistakes as well as being a great player. If the Beavers can force him to give the ball away, Oregon will be greatly hurt.
The X factor on offense in this year's version of the great Civil War will not be be the younger Rodgers brother Jaquizz, but the elder, James. Both of the brothers were missing in last year's thrashing of Oregon State. Now with one of the best backs in the country and one of the top receivers in the country actually at 100 percent, the Beavers have a good chance on knocking the Ducks off and punching themselves a ticket to the Rose Bowl.
James will be the X factor just because he is the only truly consistent pass catcher in this game. Both teams have talent, sure. But James performs on a weekly basis and his knack for the end zone and the big play are spectacular. Not only can he hurt Oregon catching the ball, but James returns kicks and punts as well as getting carries on sweeps at least five or six times a game. He hasn't broken one in a while, so t's about time.
Oregon State's defense is peaking at the right time as well. They have improved as the season has progressed, just like every year, and have now turned into a defense that is slightly above average after beginning the season as a below average defensive unit. Oregon, whose defense was once their strength, is now giving up points in the bunches and is fading at the wrong time to be facing an explosive offense like Oregon State.
So who will win this showdown for the ages?
This is definitely a game that could go either way. Oregon has the home-field advantage, but the Beavers are playing better. Oregon has struggled recently, but Oregon State has been playing weaker competition, possibly damaging their preparation. Oregon has the history, including winning 62-38 last year, but Mike Riley's group has the revenge factor of last year's game, plus having their two biggest play makers that they were missing from that game.
The prediction? As much as I hate to say it, the Ducks will once again get the better of Oregon State. There is a reason that Oregon State hasn't been to the Rose Bowl since 1964, they have horrible luck. That's what this game will come down to. A lucky play here, a bad call there and the Ducks will be playing in Pasadena on New Year's.
Oregon 35, Oregon State 31