The latest installment of the Civil War takes place in Corvallis this Saturday, as the fifth-ranked Oregon Ducks and 16th- ranked Oregon State Beavers get together for the 116th time.
The series, which dates back to 1894 and is the seventh-most contested rivalry in the nation, favors Oregon by a 59-46-10 margin. The Ducks have won the last four meetings, including last year's 49-21 verdict in Eugene.
Oregon had been cruising along with a 10-0 record and had attained the No. 1 ranking in the AP poll, but then came last week's clash with visiting Stanford. The Cardinal dashed the Ducks' national title aspirations by posting a 17-14 upset victory in overtime, snapping UO's 13-game winning streak in the process. What it means for Oregon now is that if it finishes in a tie with Stanford atop the Pac-12's North Division, the Cardinal would play in the conference championship game with a chance to go the Rose Bowl.
As 8-2, Oregon State is off to its best start under current head coach Mike Riley, and a win this week would give the Beavers their first nine-win season since 2008. The team has shown a five-win improvement from last year's 3-9 club, matching Middle Tennessee and Ohio State for the best turnaround in the country. Despite their overall success, the Beavers have split their last four games, winning versus Arizona State and California, and losing to Washington and Stanford. Oregon State has been ranked in the AP Top-25 for a school- record nine consecutive weeks.
Oregon is the second-highest scoring team in the nation, as it averages 51.1 ppg in churning out 313.6 ypg on the ground and 548.3 total ypg, both of which rank the team in the top-five nationally. Freshman QB Marcus Mariota has certainly lived up to his preseason billing as he has thrown for 2,371 yards with 29 TDs and only six interceptions, and has rushed for 605 yards and three scores. De'Anthony Thomas has been Mariota's favorite target, as he has hauled in 40 balls for 381 yards and four TDs, and Josh Huff has made the most his 24 grabs, turning them into 405 yards and seven scores. Kenjon Barner has filled the rather large shoes left by former star RB LaMichael James, as he has gained 1,426 yards and scored 19 TDs in averaging 6.5 ypc and 129.6 ypg.
The Oregon defense has performed at a high level as well this season, allowing just 21.8 ppg (third-best in the Pac-12) behind 380.7 ypg. Michael Clay has a team-high 82 tackles, and the Ducks have certainly proven to be an opportunistic bunch by recording 72 TFL, 26 sacks and 32 turnovers, including 20 interceptions. Kiko Alonso, Ifo Ekpre-Olomu and Avery Patterson each have three picks to their credit, while Taylor Hart has seven sacks. Patterson however, is expected to miss the remainder of the season with a knee injury.
Stanford's top-rated run defense held Barner to just 66 yards last week, and the team as a whole to only 198 rushing yards. Mariota was Oregon's leading rusher with 89 yards, and he threw for 207 yards and a TD. The Ducks converted just 4-of-17 third-down opportunities and they were dominated in the time of possession battle (52:05-22:55, taking into account overtime).
The Oregon defense gave up 411 total yards (200 rushing, 211 passing), but did manage to come up with three turnovers. Clay was credited with a whopping 20 tackles, but the unit as a whole only had one sack.
Oregon coach Chip Kelly spoke about the disappointment he and his team felt following the loss to Stanford.
"It is tough losing but it is not always going to go your way and that's life; that's football. It hurts everyone so badly because they have all put so much into this. It is times like these that you wish you would have the right words to say to take the pain away but there are no words to do that."
He went on to say, "We have so much to work for. We will be back to work on Monday to get ready for Oregon State. They all know what's at stake."
Oregon State doesn't possess anywhere near the explosive offense as its in- state rival does, but the Beavers get the job done nonetheless thanks to efficient, gritty play. The team is averaging 29.5 ppg, with the pass being its weapon of choice as QB Sean Mannion has completed 62.6 percent of his tosses for 1,904 yards, 12 TDs and nine interceptions. Markus Wheaton and Brandin Cooks have combined for 127 catches, 2,025 yards and 15 TDs. As for the Oregon State run game, it features a sturdy Storm Woods, who has turned 143 carries into 698 yards and seven scores.
On the defensive side of the ball is where the Beavers have really excelled this year, as foes are generating just 108.7 ypg rushing and only 18.6 ppg. Enacting a ball-hawking approach, the Beavers have six players who have posted between 44 and 61 tackles on the year, and Michael Doctor and Rashad Reynolds sit atop the list, with the former logging 7.5 TFL and a pick, and the latter three interceptions and 13 PBU. Scott Crichton has 15 TFL and nine sacks to his credit, and Jordan Poyner has six of the team's 17 interceptions.
Mannion threw for 325 yards and four TDs in last week's 62-14 rout of Cal, and in the process became the sixth player in school history to surpass 5,000 passing yards. The 62 points scored were the second-most ever by Oregon State against a conference opponent. In addition to Mannion's exploits, Terron Ward found plenty of room to run in tallying 128 yards and two TDs on only 14 carries. Woods added 64 yards and a score on 11 totes, while Wheaton and Connor Hamlett combined for 13 receptions, 179 yards and two TDs.
The Oregon State defense forced four turnovers, including three fumbles, and held the Golden Bears to 322 yards of total offense, of which only 132 came by way of the pass. Cal was penalized 15 times for a loss of 172 yards.
Poyner remarked after the win about the effort he and his teammates put forth.
"There was a lot of really good football tonight. There were some mistakes, but you always want to limit those. As far as a complete game goes, that was the least amount of mistakes we have made all season."
He went on to comment about the matchup with Oregon.
"It's the Civil War and it was going to be a big game whether they won or lost [last week]. We are definitely excited about it and it's going to be a crazy week. We will prepare our best."