Royce Freeman and the Ducks seek to regain control in their Civil War against the Beavers
The Ducks (6-5, 3-5 Pac-12) have won two straight home games and have looked impressive in doing so, averaging 44.5 points and 502 yards in victories over Utah and Arizona. A third straight home win would clinch a winning season for Oregon a year after it finished 4-8.
The Beavers (1-10, 0-8) hope to play spoiler again this season to avoid going winless in Pac-12 play for the second time in three seasons. Oregon State reclaimed bragging rights a year ago when it beat Oregon 34-24 to snap an eight-game losing streak in the series.
The Ducks lead the all-time series 63-47-10. Oregon hasn't lost two straight to the Beavers since 2006-07.
Oregon State at Oregon
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 25 at 7 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN2
Spread: Oregon –25.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Ducks soaring again with Herbert
Oregon traveled a rough road while Justin Herbert (above, right) was sidelined with a broken collarbone. Now that the sophomore quarterback is back on the field, the Ducks offense has turned dangerous again.
Herbert returned to action in last week's 48-28 win over Arizona. He didn't miss a beat despite being absent for five games and helped Oregon get bowl eligible by throwing for 235 yards and a touchdown. Over six games, he has totaled 1,499 passing yards and 10 touchdowns while completing 68 percent of his passes. Herbert is still on pace to finish as a 2,000-yard passer despite sitting out half the season.
When Herbert is healthy, he is a perfect complement to Oregon's punishing ground attack. The Ducks rank second among Pac-12 teams in rushing offense, churning out 264.1 yards per game. Royce Freeman leads the way with 1,353 yards and 14 touchdowns. His 6.0 yards-per-carry average ranks in the top 10 among Pac-12 running backs. Tony Brooks-James and Kani Benoit are both certified weapons in the backfield as well, combining for 929 yards and 11 touchdowns.
2. Hungalu closing in on 100 tackles
One bright spot for Oregon State amid continued defensive struggles has been the play of Manase Hungalu. The senior linebacker has 94 tackles heading into Saturday's game and is looking to become the first player with 100 or more tackles in a season for the Beavers since Ty Zimmerman racked up 104 in 2013. He would also become the first Beavers linebacker to reach that mark since Trent Bay finished with 116 in 2005.
Hungalu is more than capable of reaching the milestone. He posted a season-high 20 tackles against California earlier this month. That represented the fourth-highest single-game total by an FBS player this season and also ranked as the fourth-highest single-game total in Oregon State history.
3. Springs dominating in pass breakups
Opposing teams quickly learn that throwing the ball anywhere near Oregon cornerback Arrion Springs is a huge mistake. The senior locks down opposing receivers with ease.
Springs leads the Pac-12 with 17 pass breakups and has a chance to join exclusive company in the Oregon record books. If Springs records just three more pass breakups in the next two games, he will be the first defensive back for the Ducks to have at least 20 pass breakups in a season since Steve Smith had a school-record 28 pass breakups in 2001.
Springs' reliability in the defensive backfield has opened things up for teammates to swarm to the ball and create turnovers. Oregon's defense has gained 11 interceptions in 11 games this season. Ugochukwu Amadi leads the Ducks with three interceptions and is tied for fifth in the Pac-12 in that category.
Creating turnovers shouldn't be too hard for Springs and company against Oregon State. The Beavers have lost 25 turnovers this season — tied for last in the Pac-12.
Oregon is climbing back up the Pac-12 North ladder. The Ducks are bringing in a flock of talented recruits next season and should be contending for championships soon. With Justin Herbert back at the controls on offense, there are few teams who can stop Oregon. Oregon State definitely isn't one of them. The Beavers may play hard against their in-state rival, but they don't have enough weapons either to fly with the Ducks or ground them from taking off.
Prediction: Oregon 45, Oregon State 24
— 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.