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).