Despite last week’s loss to Stanford, Oregon still has a chance to play for the Pac-12 Championship. However, the Ducks first have to take care of their business against in-state rival Oregon State. Oregon needs to win on Saturday and hope for a Stanford loss at UCLA later that night to clinch the North title.
Although the Beavers can’t win the North title, they still have a shot to play in a BCS game. With a win over Oregon, Oregon State would be 9-2 and should have an easy victory over Nicholls State next week. And of course, there’s always extra motivation when it comes to keeping your rival out of the Pac-12 title or even national championship. Considering what transpired last week, it’s too early to count Oregon out of the BCS title game. If Oregon State knocks off the Ducks, there’s no chance of Oregon getting back into the national championship picture.
Oregon has dominated this series over the last four years. The Ducks have won four in a row and only one matchup was decided by less than 17 points. Oregon State won back-to-back games in 2006-07 but has struggled against its in-state rival in recent seasons.
When the Oregon Ducks have the ball:
After getting shut down by Stanford, the Ducks’ high-scoring attack looks to get back on track this week. However, that’s easier said than done against Oregon State’s defense. The Beavers rank 14th nationally against the run and are giving up just 18.6 points per game.
In order for Oregon to find its rhythm on offense once again, the rushing game has to get going. Running back Kenjon Barner had only 66 yards against Stanford, while De’Anthony Thomas chipped in 43 yards on seven attempts. The Beavers have held nine out of their 10 opponents in 2012 to under 175 rushing yards, with much of the credit due to an active defensive line. End Scott Crichton is a lock for All-Pac-12 honors and has nine sacks and 15 tackles for a loss. It’s nearly impossible to keep Oregon’s rushing attack in check for 60 minutes, but Oregon State has to win the battle at the line of scrimmage and prevent the Ducks from breaking many big plays.
Even if the Beavers hold Barner and Thomas in check, they still have to contain quarterback Marcus Mariota. The redshirt freshman has thrown for 2,371 yards and 29 touchdowns this year, along with adding 605 yards and three scores on the ground. The Ducks don’t have a clear No. 1 go-to target but there’s plenty of depth in the receiving corps. Tight end Colt Lyerla and receiver Josh Huff has combined for 13 scores this year, while Thomas leads the team with 40 receptions. Although Oregon State’s secondary ranks 61st nationally against the pass, it has allowed just 11 passing scores.
It may seem simple, but Oregon State has to prevent Oregon from hitting on big plays and make the Ducks drive the length of the field.
When the Oregon State Beavers have the ball:
With Cody Vaz suffering an injury against Stanford, Sean Mannion reclaimed Oregon State’s starting quarterback spot. Mannion played well at the beginning of the season but struggled after returning from a knee injury against Washington. The sophomore was sharp in last week’s win over California, throwing for 325 yards and four touchdowns.
With a banged up Oregon secondary coming to town, Mannion’s performance in last week’s win is a good sign for the Beavers. Brandin Cooks and Markus Wheaton form one of the nation’s top receiving duos for Oregon State, with each catching over 58 passes this year. The Ducks rank 54th nationally against the pass and depth at safety is an issue after losing John Boyett and Avery Patterson for the season due to injuries. Even though Oregon State doesn’t want to get in a 50-47 type of shootout against Oregon, the Beavers have the passing attack to give the Ducks a lot of problems.
Although Oregon’s secondary has taken some hits through injuries, the front seven seems to be getting healthy. Although the Ducks won’t talk about injuries, the defensive line and linebacking corps was running thin on bodies against California. Dion Jordan and Taylor Hart both played in last week’s game against Stanford and their presence will be crucial to slowing down Oregon State.
The Beavers don’t have a dynamic rushing attack, but Terron Ward and Storm Woods are a solid one-two punch. And both backs should have some opportunities to find rushing lanes against a defense that is allowing 151.8 yards per game on the ground. Establishing the run will be crucial for Oregon State, especially as it hopes to wear down Oregon’s defense and keep its offense on the sideline.
Expect a motivated Oregon team this Saturday. The Ducks can’t control what happens in the Stanford-UCLA matchup later in the day, but a victory over Oregon State should lock them into a BCS bowl. The Beavers’ defense will hold Oregon’s offense in check early on, but Mariota and Barner make just enough plays in the fourth quarter to keep the Ducks’ Pac-12 title hopes alive.
Prediction: Oregon 38, Oregon State 34
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