This Saturday in Corvallis marks the 114th meeting between the Oregon Ducks and the Oregon State Beavers in the Civil War.
But the look of the game is much different that in recent years. The Ducks, having one of their best seasons ever, are 11-0 and ranked No. 2 in the BCS standings. All they have to do is win over unranked Oregon State and their bid to the BCS Championship will assuredly be punched.
For the Beavers, they have yet another conference foe favored to win by at least two scores, and thus far Arizona stands as the only ranked team to play victim to the Black and Orange.
It hasn't been an easy year for OSU by any stretch of the imagination. The Beavers started the season in Dallas, taking on TCU's high-powered offense with a plethora of offensive weapons. The game was close, as both teams were still working out the kinks from the off-season. TCU would pull away after a snap miscue, and little did they know, the Beavs had set the tone for the rest of the season.
After a victory over Louisville in another close contest, OSU would travel to meet Boise State. Although BSU recently lost to Nevada, they were in the AP Top 5 when the Beavs rolled to the blue turf. It appeared as though the Oregon State offense, led by Sophomore QB Ryan Katz and Junior RB Jacquizz Rodgers, would keep pace with Kellen Moore and the Broncos, but eventually the defense yielded the game.
As Pac-10 play began, the Beavers chipped Arizona State by a field goal before holding off Arizona in Tucson. The upset of the Wildcats could have been a turning point for the better, but an injury to Senior WR James Rodgers was foreshadowing for the Oregon State.
Losses to Washington, UCLA, dismal Washington State and perhaps BCS bound Stanford leave the Beavs in no-man's land, a game away from becoming bowl eligible with a mountain to climb.
The bright side for Oregon State: USC is ineligible for a bowl berth due to NCAA sanctions levied in the wake of recruiting violations. The huge win over an already-defeated Trojan squad helped the Beavs a lot, but Oregon may be too powerful this season.
The Ducks will feature a premiere running back by the name of LaMichael James, whose 1,548 rushing yards have gained him significant Heisman Trophy attention. Oregon ranks fifth in the country in rushing yards, averaging 300 YPG. Their offense also ranks tops in the nation in points scored.
It figures to be that the Ducks will run the ball frequently in this Civil War, with several mis-direction plays and runs to the outside, utilizing James' speed and down field vision.
The counter-attack from the Beavers will be led by Senior DT Stephen Paea, the vocal and statistical leader on the defensive line. Linebackers Dwight Roberson and Keith Pankey will have their hands full, and must execute their assignments as the Ducks bring the ball to the outside.
Senior Cornerback James Dockery will likely be more helpful preventing the long run on the outside than in pass coverage. But don't sell the Ducks short there either. Through 11 games, 242 YPG isn't anything to sneeze at.
There are no statistical avenues to approach this one giving the Beavers the edge. They will have to play their best defense of the season, perhaps the decade if this game is going their way. No team knows the Ducks better than the Beavers, but it may not be enough this time around in Corvallis. The game is sold out, OSU has their faithful fans behind them, but get ready for a difficult match-up in the fog.
ESPN's College GameDay is coming to Corvallis for the first time ever, and they are coming to see the visiting team. There will be plenty of fuel to the fire for the Beavers. They have the chance to knock off their rival and dash their BCS Championship hopes in front of ESPN and the rest of the nation. Expect both teams to bring their A-Game, but expect Oregon State to have their hands full.
The No. 2 Oregon Ducks, 11-0 will take on the Oregon State Beavers, 5-6 at 12:30 PT in Corvallis, OR this Saturday.