Turnovers are a must for Oregon to help a battered defense. (Scott Olmos-US PRESSWIRE)

Oregon Ducks Football: Oregon State Preview

It’s the 116th annual Civil War between in-state rivals, fifth-ranked Oregon and 15th-ranked Oregon State later today. The Ducks will try to remain in both the Pac-12 and national championship hunt with a victory and some help today. Alternatively, the Beavers will try to play spoiler and improve their bowl selection.

  • Time – 12:00 p.m. PT
  • TV – Pac-12 Networks (National, Oregon)
  • Weather – Overcast/occasional rain, 52-53 degrees, low wind (3-4 MPH from N/NE)
  • Spread – The Ducks are favored by 11.5 points and the total over/under is set at 66 points

Nov 17, 2012; Eugene, OR, USA; Oregon Ducks running back Kenjon Barner (24) against the Stanford Cardinal at Autzen Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Olmos-US PRESSWIRE

Oregon (10-1, 7-1) leads the series 59-46-10, and both teams will be ranked entering the match for the first time since 2009 when they were playing for the conference title and Rose Bowl. Oregon State (8-2, 6-2) won’t be playing for a chance this time after losing two of their last four games. Even with a win, Stanford would own any sort of a tiebreaker since they have defeated both Oregon schools.

The Ducks need to rebound running the ball. Kenjon Barner has fallen off of the Heisman race after his dominating performance against USC, and the team overall has failed to eclipse over 200 yards rushing in the last two games. Oregon hasn’t been held to under 200 yards rushing since last year’s season opener against LSU.

It isn’t going to be easy. The Beavers sport the 14th best rushing defense in the nation. Marcus Mariota will need to have a much better performance passing the ball compared to last week’s lowest pass efficiency at 56.8 percent and his lowest QB rating of the season (lower than his touchdown and two interception game against Washington State earlier this season) if the Ducks continue to struggle running the ball.

Without a doubt, Oregon needs to be up-tempo and make big plays. With a banged-up defense they will also need to force turnovers and capitalize like they did against Stanford. The Beavers are more of a Stanford-like team than the other Pac-12 opponents, including the same problems at the quarterback position. Both quarterbacks, Sean Mannion and Cody Vaz, are expected to be available.

[Also see: Scouting OSU's offense and defense]

Oregon State’s only had to punt the ball 53 times this season, fourth-best in the conference, but average almost 1.5 more than Oregon. Sophomore Keith Kostol will control the punting, landing 21 of his 53 attempts inside the 20, seven went for over 50 yards, and only one has been blocked.

Trevor Romaine does kickoffs and field goals. He’s 13-15 on the season, the longest a 45-yard kick made against Arizona State. His two misses came earlier this year against Wisconsin and Arizona. He’s made nine straight since. Half of his kickoffs reached the endzone for touchbacks.

Prediction

Oregon has been ranked in the top 10 in the previous four meetings and the Ducks have won all four of those games. They scored 37 or more points in all of those victories, and only the 37-33 final with a Pac-12 title on the line was the closest game.

That all being said, this is a huge gut-check for a young, talented team after a crushing loss this late in the season. It’s hard to bounce back from being in the national title game to potentially not even winning the conference.

Oregon’s running game has been shut down and the offense has had to rely on Mariota’s decision-making which has looked great against California and a work in progress against Stanford.

Oregon State has been the biggest surprise team of the Pac-12 but a lot of questions arise at the quarterback position. If either Mannion or Vaz comes out and passes successfully Oregon could be in for a huge challenge. But if Mariota can have a performance like he had against the Golden Bears the Ducks could run their lethal offense and score in bunches like they have all season and in the previous four games.

I still believe this Oregon team is one of the best in the country. Despite a banged-up defense this team held their own against a good offensive line. As long as they can get pressure on the quarterback they can force turnovers, and if any sort of running game can be established they should get a big win and their fifth consecutive win over the Beavers.

Oregon 43, Oregon State 36

 

Tags: Civil War Ducks General Football Oregon State Beavers

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