It's the most anticipated game in Civil War history, and honestly, I don't think there has been another game in my lifetime I anticipated with so much relish. Can you tell I'm stoked?
Now, the problem with games like this is they rarely, rarely live up to the hype. Heck, if you have read this blog or my Twitter posts you'll see how much I've built this game up in my own head. Can the actual game live up to that? Sure, it CAN, but the chances that it will simply aren't that likely. While on some level that's sad because of the hype, it's hard to avoid reality.
This game may not be the greatest game ever like I hope it will be, but I'll be happy if it's tightly contested and well played.
Let's break it down.
The Passing Game
The Beavers lead the Pac-10 in passing offense by a wide margin (272.5 yards a game). In fact, second place (Arizona, 240.2) is closer to eighth place (Arizona State, 215.2) than the first place Beavers, which just shows how dominant they have been and how much Sean Canfield has improved in his senior season. Oregon is ninth (187.5), but part of that is because Jeremiah Masoli has the option to run on just about every play - and he does that well. In fact, many of his rushing yards come on plays other teams would pass on and with Oregon's spread offense are designed to look like pass plays. This puts the defense back on their heels - and OSU has struggled with defending the spread offense for a while.
For receivers the Ducks look most often to Jeff Maehl and tight end Ed Dickson, 10th and 11th in the league in yards. For Oregon State James Rodgers - also a kick and punt returner - is far and away the league's leader in receptions (77 - his brother Quizz is second at 67 out of the backfield, and no one else has more than 57).
Edge: Oregon State
The Running Game
The Ducks, led by Masoli and freshman running back LaMichael James, lead the Pac-10 with 231.4 rush yards a game; Oregon State is sixth at 149.7. While James and OSU's Jacquizz Rodgers are neck and neck in total yards (1313 for Quizz, 1310 for James) and yards per game (though Quizz leads in touchdowns 19-11), it's the running by Masoli that really puts the Ducks in charge here. Oregon State's running game is no slouch, but the focus on the run for Oregon and the balance for Oregon State means the edge is obvious.
Oregon is a team that seems to depend on outscoring their opponents. They score almost every possession and then hope they can stop the other team about half the time. I'm guessing this isn't how they are coached, but it's the reality.
Oregon State has a solid all-around defense that has improved as the season went on. Stephen Paea has the fastest first step in the league (seriously, watch him get off the ball).
Both team's have average, at best, secondaries. Considering how many big plays and passes I'm expecting, the secondary that plays better may determine the winner.
Edge: Oregon State
- Oregon gets a huge edge for having this game played at Autzen Stadium. There probably isn't a louder, more suffocating stadium in the league.
- Oregon State gets the edge when it comes to coaching. Mike Riley - outside of Pete Carroll at USC - is now the most successful coach in the league and one of the nicest guys around. And as history shows, his teams get up for big games, and they play better as the season goes on.
- Oregon may feel they have an advantage because of last year's Civil War results. However, Stephen Paea, Jacquizz Rodgers, and Sean Canfield did not play in that game because of injuries (and Sean may not have played anyway). James Rodgers broke his collarbone early. Injuries are never an excuse for a loss, but they are a reason not to be overconfident next time.
- The Beavers are in the position of if they beat Oregon they go to the Rose Bowl for the second consecutive year. Last year they didn't show up against Oregon and got run out of their own stadium. That game has served as a reminder these past two weeks they can't look ahead. I believe they will be much more focused this year.
- Both teams have broken big plays in special teams this year, and both have made mistakes. If the game comes down to special teams play, choosing the winner is a crapshoot.
Holy hell this looks like a great game on paper. My prediction? Coming later in the day...