Bragging rights and building momentum for next season are basically all that's on the line in the 120th edition of the Civil War. Oregon and Oregon State are locked into a battle for last place in the Pac-12 North. Still, both teams enter Saturday's game on a high note.
Oregon (4-7, 2-6 Pac-12) earned just its second conference victory of the season after stunning then-No. 12 Utah 30-28 last Saturday. The Ducks rolled up 575 total yards on the Utes to rally from a 14-3 third-quarter deficit. Oregon finished off the comeback on Justin Herbert's third touchdown pass – a 17-yard strike to Darren Carrington with two seconds left.
Oregon State (3-8, 2-6) snapped a five game losing streak with a dominant 42-17 victory over Arizona. The Beavers led wire-to-wire while totaling 475 yards on offense. Marcus McMaryion played a near-perfect game at quarterback, throwing for 265 yards and five touchdowns on 16-of-19 passing.
Oregon leads the all-time series 63-46-10. The Ducks have won eight straight Civil War games dating back to 2008. Oregon State is looking for its first home win over Oregon since edging the Ducks 30-28 in 2006 – the first of back-to-back wins for the Beavers in the series.
Oregon at Oregon State
Kickoff: Saturday Nov. 26 at 4 p.m. ET
TV Channel: Pac-12 Networks
Spread: Oregon -3
Things to Watch
1. Can Oregon's defense keep progressing?
Holding Utah's offense to just three touchdowns represented a major breakthrough for the Ducks. Going into the game, Oregon ranked 120th or worst nationally in rushing defense, passing defense, total defense and scoring defense. The Ducks had held just three Pac-12 opponents under 50 points.
Utah managed 453 total yards, but couldn't finish drives at critical junctures. Oregon forced the Utes to punt on four consecutive drives spanning the third and fourth quarters and held Utah to just 39 yards during that stretch. The Utes also struggled in the first half as well, failing to convert a fourth-and-1 at the Oregon 28 on their second drive of the game. They followed that up by turning over the ball on a fumble after reaching the red zone in the second quarter.
Utah's seven first-half points are the fewest allowed by the Ducks in Pac-12 play in 2016. It helped position Oregon to win for the first time under head coach Mark Helfrich when trailing after three quarters. The Ducks were 0-12 previously in those situations.
2. Has Oregon State's offense found a rhythm?
Threatening opposing defenses has been a major challenge for Oregon State this season. The Beavers may have finally turned a corner against Arizona. Oregon State scored on six of eight drives and punted just once the entire game. Improved production from QB Marcus McMaryion and RB Ryan Nall was a driving force behind it.
For McMaryion, it represented his finest game for the Beavers to date. The sophomore set career highs in touchdown passes (5) and completion percentage (.842). He also notched his second straight 200-yard passing game – his third overall since taking over for injured starter Darell Garretson.
Nall finished with 124 yards and a touchdown on the ground, while averaging 5.4 yards per carry. The sophomore now has three 100-yard rushing games this season and it's proving to be a winning formula for Oregon State. The Beavers are 2-1 in those contests while averaging 40 points per game.
After averaging 21 points per game over its first four Pac-12 games, Oregon State has averaged 28 points versus its last four conference opponents.
3. Will Royce Freeman eclipse 1,000 rushing yards again?
Yards have not come easy for Freeman this season. He has tallied just 839 yards and nine touchdowns on the ground heading into Oregon's season finale. He is almost a 1,000 yards off his rushing total from a season ago, partially because of being hampered for several games by a knee injury that he suffered against Nebraska.
Freeman has a chance to end things on a high note. He needs just 161 yards to clinch a third straight 1,000-yard season, becoming the first Oregon running back to achieve that feat since LaMichael James did it from 2009-11. Freeman has tallied four 100-yard games in 2016 – his latest being a 129-yard outing against Utah.
The Ducks have had a 1,000-yard rusher for nine consecutive seasons. It is the longest active streak among all FBS teams.
In most seasons, this would feel like an automatic win for Oregon. The Ducks have been on a higher plane than Oregon State for much of the past decade. Things are different for the Beavers this season. Oregon State is turning into a solid defensive team and also is finally making strides on offense. Oregon finally put together a decent performance on defense against Utah. Asking the Ducks to do it two weeks in a row might be a stretch.
Prediction: Oregon State 38, Oregon 35
— Written by John Coon, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Coon has more than a decade of experience covering sports for different publications and outlets, including The Associated Press, Salt Lake Tribune, ESPN, Deseret News, MaxPreps, Yahoo! Sports and many others. Follow him on Twitter @johncoonsports.