Thursday, December 3, 2009

Good Luck Ducks, Week 14: War

Oh, the drama! Oh, the hyperbole! After enduring nearly an entire football season of hearing about things like "the best _______ in ________", "the greatest ___________ in the nation" and "the most amazing ___________ we've ever seen!", tonight's game is finally one that might deserve some of the hype. Granted, I still don't see a lot of national interest in this game due to the ever-present "east coast bias" (it doesn't help that the game starts at 9:00pm EST on a weeknight) and pretty much everyone directly to our state's south chowing down on sour grapes.

If you haven't heard by now, tonight is the 113th edition of The Civil War, hashed out on the football field between the University of Oregon Ducks and a cow college full of cows... er... the Oregon State Beavers. Apparently a Rose Bowl bid is on the line, which has happened a few times before. There's a twist, however! Both teams are eligible this time. Last year, the Ducks dropkicked an injury-riddled Beavers team on their home turf by a score of 65-38. Many t-shirts were made about that score.

I am loathe to make predictions here, so instead I'll just point out a few reasons why this game may not go the way it did last year and a few more why it just might:
  • Oregon State not only returns 2008 Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Year Jacquizz Rodgers, who did not play in last year's game, but their quarterback (Sean Canfield) did not play in last year's game because he had lost his job early on.
  • Oregon counters at tailback with LaMichael James, who has been every bit as impressive as Jacquizz Rodgers at carrying the ball this year, and yet has carried far less of the workload for his team.
  • Oregon State's defense has reportedly improved this season, making giving up another 65 or 70 (!) points unlikely this time out, even in enemy territory.
  • Can the Beavers really stop the Ducks? No one has been able to stop the zone-read option this year and the Autzen home field advantage is undeniable.

This game could really be won in the trenches, as they say, and I figured there was no one better to show off than Max Unger. Solid offensive line play has taken the Ducks to where they are right now.

An interesting tidbit to consider for this series. Oregon is always seen as the flashy, privileged school that expects success and looks down upon its opponent. Oregon State always plays the underdog card - a blue-collar school from a smaller town and an everyman appeal. The notion, then, is that Oregon attracts the better recruits with their fancy locker rooms and practice facilities, while Oregon State coaches "regular kids" and gets the best out of them. One of our local weeklies did some research to determine how the Ducks recruits matched up to the Beavers and their "five-star" recruiting ratings came up pretty much even.

National TV on ESPN at 6:00 PDT. Winner takes on Ohio State!