CORVALLIS, Ore. – The last thing Oregon wants to do now is trip on the path to the playoffs.
So the No. 3 Ducks (10-1, 7-1 Pac-12) were diligent this week in their preparation for the annual Civil War rivalry game against Oregon State (5-6, 2-6) on Saturday.
With a six-game winning streak in the series, no one currently on the Oregon team has lost to the rival Beavers. None of the Ducks want to be the first.
But more than that, Oregon has been thwarted in seasons past by late-season missteps. Last year the Ducks lost at Stanford and Arizona to drop out of the picture for both the league and national championship. The year before it was a loss to the Cardinal at home — which sent Stanford to the Pac-12 title game.
"I just feel like we're so close to getting back on top of the mountain in terms of our conference. That's my main goal and the Beavers just happen to be the next team in the way stopping us from getting there," senior linebacker Tony Washington said. "I'm going to do everything in my power and the defense is going to be ready and we're going to come out and compete."
Oregon is ranked at No. 2 in the College Football Playoff rankings, which puts the Ducks in position for a shot at the national championships — if they can get past the Beavers and win the conference.
They'll face a determined Oregon State team that needs one more win to become bowl eligible.
"It's always something that we will consider to be very important, to continuing to get to play football. It's fun to do that," Oregon State coach Mike Riley said. "So like I said, we'll prepare for it like we always do, as hard as we can. But there's no doubt about it, the significance in a lot of ways of this game."
Earlier this season Oregon State played spoiler for Arizona State, beating the then-No.7 Sun Devils 35-27 at Reser Stadium and wounding their chances to take the Pac-12 South.
Some other things to consider when the Ducks visit the Beavers on Saturday evening:
ROLE REVERSAL: Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota was asked what would be Oregon's goal if the situations were reversed. "It would be an opportunity to kind of spoil a season but at the same make your season and be a part of a bowl game," he said. "We understand that Oregon State's going to come out and play with a lot of fire, with a lot of juice, a lot of intensity and we have to be prepared for that."
KEY FOR THE BEAVERS: With quarterback Sean Mannion playing in what could be his final college game, Oregon State would be wise to pass the ball often. Mannion, who has never defeated the Ducks, has the Beavers ranked No. 25 among FBS schools for passing offense. Meanwhile, Oregon is ranked 117th for passing defense. Mannion is the career passing leader in the Pac-12 with 13,438 yards and holds the Oregon State record 82 touchdowns passes.
HEADING FOR HEISMAN? Mariota has thrown for 3,103 yards and 32 touchdowns with just two interceptions. He also ranks second among the Ducks with 597 rushing yards and nine touchdowns. Oh, and he's caught a TD pass too. Mariota and Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon are both likely to be on the finalist list that will be announced on Dec. 8.
HURTING: Both teams are pretty beat up heading into the Civil War. Oregon will likely be without center Hroniss Grasu for the second straight game because of a knee injury, and it's uncertain whether the Ducks will have running back Thomas Tyner, who was seen wearing a boot on his right ankle this week. The Beavers, who have already lost running back Terron Ward, could be without running back Storm Woods, questionable with an undisclosed injury.
A LITTLE HISTORY: The Civil War dates to 1894 and it is tied for the fifth most-played rivalry in college football. Oregon leads the series 61-46-10. Last year Oregon State took the lead with 1:39 left on Victor Bolden's 25-yard touchdown run. But Mariota orchestrated a drive capped with a 12-yard scoring pass to John Huff with 29 seconds to go for a 36-35 Oregon victory.