Thursday, December 3, 2009

An unusually meaningful Civil War

I think it's safe to call tonight's Oregon State-Oregon game the most meaningful in the history of the series. A win for Oregon gives the Ducks the outright Pac-10 title and a trip to the Rose Bowl, while a loss creates a tie at the top and sends the Beavers to Pasadena.

I never suspected a month ago that OSU would be in the mix for the Rose Bowl, but their offense has been surprisingly potent recently (albeit against the dregs of the Pac-10), putting up 31 against Cal, 48 against Washington and 42 against Washington State in the past three games. That would be fantastic if not for Oregon's output against those teams: 42 against Cal, 43 against Washington and 52 against Washington State, and that doesn't include the 47 they hung on USC and the 42 they put up in a loss to Stanford.

Does that mean Oregon State can't keep up? Not necessarily. There's one interesting stat that plays in their favor:
Rush defense
13. Oregon State - 98.45 ypg
40. Oregon - 130.64 ypg
Has Oregon State played anyone comparable to Oregon in terms of rushing offense? No -- at least not in terms of style -- but they did hold Toby Gerhart to 98 yards on 20 carries in a 38-28 win back in October. If you want to identify one particular area that's the key to the game, it's the Beavers' front seven. If OSU holds Oregon in check on the ground and keeps this thing from becoming a full-bore shootout, it'll be close.

I'm not sure I see that happening, though. With LeGarrette Blount back and two weeks to prepare, it seems pretty likely that Chip Kelly will have a few things up his sleeve, and once the Ducks get moving, they can REALLY get moving. And as impressive as it is holding Gerhart under 100 yards, Stanford's running game is a lot closer to Oregon State's than it is to Oregon's spread.

One other important factor: location. If this game was being played in Corvallis, I'd call it a toss-up. But Oregon has lost a total of once at home in the past two seasons -- to a Boise State team that finished the regular season unbeaten in 2008 -- and they haven't scored fewer than 31 points in a home game this year. They also haven't scored fewer than 42 points in any game since early October, which is just ridiculous.

I might be selling Jacquizz Rodgers short (no pun intended), but it's hard to pick against the Ducks in this one. Oregon State will have to be nearly perfect on offense, milking the clock and putting as many points on the board as possible in the process. Basically, they need to do what Stanford did ... except they have to do it in Autzen, with the crowd going bonkers in one of the biggest games in the history of either school. Good luck with that.

Prediction: Oregon 34, Oregon State 24

No comments: