Early Analysis: Oregon vs. Oregon State

Can Storm Woods get the running game on track for the Beavers against the hated Ducks Friday night? Photo: USA Today

Oregon State at No. 12 Oregon
Friday, 7:00 PM, Fox Sports 1
Line: Oregon -14

On October 20, it looked like the Ducks and the Beavers might have been on a collision course for undefeated Pac-12 records heading into the Civil War.

What a difference five weeks can make, as both Oregon and Oregon State come in licking their wounds after stumbles during the past month. Oregon can still claim a share of the Pac-12 North title, but Stanford will head on for the chance to play in the Rose Bowl.

Oregon State, meanwhile, wants to desperately end their four game losing streak, which was recently capped by a complete throttling at the hands of Washington, 69-27. Both teams could use a victory in the Civil War, but the Beavers might be the more desperate team.

Someone's losing streak will continue on Saturday night, and of course bragging rights are on the line. Who can come out on top?

For Oregon State to win: Run the ball. Or, more precisely, at least threaten to move the ball on the ground. The Beavers have one of the worst rushing offenses in the country. Currently, they rank 120 out of 125 FBS teams, averaging 72.8 yards per game. Being so one dimensional, and not even threatening to run, is one of the reasons for the struggles on offense of late, as teams have been able to try and take away options in the passing game, knowing that Oregon State, for whatever reason, cannot move the ball on the ground. If Oregon State is going to have any kind of a chance to stay in this game, they cannot be one dimensional. Quick three and outs only gives the ball back to Oregon's offense that much quicker. That is a dangerous game to play.

 For Oregon to win:  Protect the ball. Oregon has played 11 games so far this season. Through those 11 games, they have turned the ball over 15 times. Five of those 15 turnovers came in two games: losses to Stanford and Arizona. If the Ducks can keep possession of the ball, they are obviously very dangerous. If they get loose with the ball and put it on the ground or throw it to the Beavers, this game could be more of a fight than the Ducks want it to be at this point.

Key Players, Oregon State: Storm Woods and Terron Ward, running backs. Yes, quarterback Sean Mannion and wide receiver Brandin Cooks have received many of the accolades for their performances this season. But some of it is because Oregon State's offense has been very, very, one dimensional. Last season, by himself, Woods rushed for 940 yards. So far this season, he and Ward have rushed for 619 yards. If the Beavers are going to upset their archrivals, they absolutely have to get more production from the runners in the backfield.

Key Player, Oregon: DeAnthony Thomas, running back. Thomas did miss all or part of four games with an injury earlier this season. But since his return, the senior all purpose back has not contributed that much to the offense for the Ducks. One of the more electrifying players in college football over the course of his career, Thomas's senior year has been marred by injury and disappointing play since the injury. Friday is senior day, though, so there is a chance that Thomas may have something left in the tank for the hated Beavers. If so, it would be a fitting coda to his career.

Key Stat: 1560. That is the current yards gained by Oregon State wide receiver Brandin Cooks. That places cooks at number two all time in the Pac-12, behind the mark set last season by USC wide receiver Marqise Lee (1,721). Cooks has also scored 15 touchdowns so far this season, tying him with former USC wide receiver Robert Woods for fifth place for single season touchdowns. Cooks would need three scores to tie him for the Pac-12 record of 18 set by Mario Bailey (Washington, 1991).

Dave Singleton

About Dave Singleton

Dave Singleton has been writing about sports and other stuff on the internet for over a decade. His work has been featured at Crystal Ball Run, Rock M Nation and Southern Pigskin. Born and raised on the East Coast, Dave attended college in the Midwest. He now lives in the Las Vegas area.

Early Analysis: Oregon vs. Oregon State

No. 5 Oregon at No. 15 Oregon State
Saturday, 3:00 PM, Pac-12 Networks
Line: Oregon -9.5

The stakes have lowered significantly for this year's edition of the "Civil War," but a reward for Oregon is still there if they win this game. The Ducks, even after losing to Stanford last week, can still make it back to the Pac-12 title game with some help from, oddly enough, their potential opponent. If UCLA beats Stanford, and the Ducks beat the Beavers, the Ducks host UCLA for the second straight season at Autzen Stadium with the Pac-12 BCS berth on the line. Also, a very slim chance for a BCS Title game shot is at play for Oregon.

Oregon State has a chance to play spoiler, and there is nothing better than playing spoiler against your archrival. Oregon State has lost four straight games in the series, so this senior class for the Beavers is aching for a win and to bring the rivalry trophy (The Platypus Trophy) back home.

For Oregon to win: Get the lead out early. Go fast. Use your best weapon (tempo) early and often to score early and often. The Ducks actually don't go all out all the time, contrary to popular opinion. The offense actually has nuance to it, as they have about three or four different speeds out of their no huddle set. Oregon might want to just run to set the tone on their first couple of drives. Come out with a basic play that should gain a few easy yards, and then hit the gas to snatch momentum early and silence the home crowd.

For Oregon State to win: Manage third and fourth down. Oregon was 4-19 combined on third and fourth down last week in the loss to Stanford (0-2 on fourth down). Oregon's kicking game is unreliable at best, and if the Ducks are in typical "field goal range" at this point, you have to expect them to go for it. If you, as the Oregon defense, can manage to hold on these two downs, then your chances of securing a victory (and a maple carved platypus) will increase.

Key Player, Oregon: Kenjon Barner, running back. The senior running back has had a good career and a good season, but the last two weeks, facing two stout rushing defenses, he has been bottled up. Barner has 41 carries for 131 yards (3.2 ypc) and no touchdowns. It didn't matter against Cal, but his lack of production had to have hurt the Ducks last week. When you're a running team that doesn't milk the clock, you need to get more out of your feature back than 66 yards in 21 carries. That is simply not going to get it done, and it didn't. The Beavers are pretty tough themselves on rushing defense, allowing only about 108 yards per game on the ground. Will Barner struggle for a third straight week, or can he break through and give his team a chance to win another division and conference title?

Key Player, Oregon State: Sean Mannion, quarterback. It's been a bit of an up and down season for the sophomore signal caller. He's played well at times, looked bad in a spot or two, and also has missed time due to a knee injury that required in-season surgery. Mannion looked good in his last start, a total demolition of Cal, throwing for 325 yards and four touchdown passes (all in the first half). If Mannion can be steady like that instead of how he appeared in the Washington game (throwing four interceptions), then the Beavers have more than a fighting chance.

Key Stat: 1894. The year the rivalry began. The date of the first matchup between the University of Oregon and Oregon Agricultural College (now Oregon State) is unlisted, but the team now known as the Beavers won, 16-0. Oregon leads the all-time series (to date) 59-46-10, including the infamous "Toilet Bowl," a 0-0 tie in 1983. It was the last scoreless tie ever in college football. The Civil War is the seventh most played rivalry game in college football.

Dave Singleton

About Dave Singleton

Dave Singleton has been writing about sports and other stuff on the internet for over a decade. His work has been featured at Crystal Ball Run, Rock M Nation and Southern Pigskin. Born and raised on the East Coast, Dave attended college in the Midwest. He now lives in the Las Vegas area.