(16) Oregon State vs. (7) Oregon
This year’s Civil War game has more on the line than just the pride of the state of Oregon, as the winner will take the PAC-10 championship and their ticket to the Rose Bowl. This rivarly always gets heated, and the Beavers will want redemption after losing 65-38 last year (and their ticket to Pasadena). The stakes are higher this year, as the Rose Bowl is on the line for both teams. So who has the edge tonight?
The easy answer is the Oregon Ducks, they are the higher ranked team and are at home. But Oregon knows full well not to take the Beavers for granted, so this game will be settled by the players on the field. As loud and as passionate as the Duck fans can get, I don’t see them getting into Beavers quarterback, Sean Canfield’s head. What will get into his head is the Oregon defensive front seven, particularly DE’s Kenny Rowe and Will Tukuafu. They should be able to get good penetration against Oregon State’s offensive line. The Ducks will need to rely on pressure to help out their young secondary against Canfield. The Ducks defense will have their hands full against the Beavers running game and Jacquizz Rodgers. Rodgers is as good as any back the Ducks have faced all season (which is saying something in the PAC-10). Stopping the run has been a mixed bag for the defense, as some running backs they’ve shut down completely and others have had a field day against the Ducks. If Oregon can at least slow down Rodgers, then they should be able to come away with a victory.
On offense the Ducks have their own young running back LaMichael James who has been running all over opponents this season. James, along with quarterback Jeremiah Masoli lead an impressive Ducks spread attack. James and Masoli are as good as any other 1-2 running attack in this country. Masoli can also beat teams through the air when necessary, making smart decisions when he does put the ball in the air. In addition to being a great runner and a good passer, Masoli brings one other tool to the spread attack, deception. Masoli sells the option fake as good as any quarterback in the country. Half the time the camera man (to say nothing of the opposing defense) is following the running back, while Masoli is ripping off a big gain on the other side of the field. Given their run focus, the Ducks don’t have the impact talent at receiver that other teams have (though they do possess good depth), but they do have one pass catcher that has given opposing defense’s headaches all season, tight end Ed Dickson. If it is 3rd down or the Ducks are in the Red Zone, look for Dickson to be the target. And don’t be surprised if he ends up making a big play. Dickson has been sure-handed all season for Masoli and the Ducks, and always finds a way to get open. He should be a big challenge for the Beavers defense that lacks the athleticism needed to cover him.
With Canfield, Jacquizz Rodges, and WR James Rodgers (Jacquizz’s older brother), the Beavers have the weapons to score every time they have the ball. Unfortunately, they lack the supporting cast and offensive line that will allow them to score at will. While I expect Oregon State to put up their fair share of points tonight, I think they will be stopped or turn the ball over on a few crucial drives. All in all though, offense isn’t the Beavers biggest concern, except when it comes to how their defense will stop the Ducks offense. Oregon State has struggled against the outside rush this year (an Oregon specialty), and doesn’t have the secondary to man up against the Ducks wide receivers or Dickson. I think Oregon State will keep it close early, but I’d look for the Ducks to pull away with a 42-31 victory.