Taking stock of OSU's D against Duck O

ON PAPER, IT looks like a rout. The betting line has Oregon a 28 point favorite. Four touchdowns? Yikes. So how does Oregon State pull off one of the signature upsets of the year in the Pac-12?

By not forgetting the lessons of last week – particularly when Oregon State is on defense.

And in the intangibles department, the Beavs hold an edge. Everyone expects them to lose, and all Oregon can do is what's expected of them. There's no need to play conservatively in this one. And OSU should gamble more than they have all season.

Oregon looked all but unbeatable against Stanford, and had they played at that level against USC the following week, they might be on track to head to the BCS title game. But they didn't, they had a letdown after the big emotional win over Stanford and USC played one of their best games.

Oregon might be in for another letdown this week. The title game hopes are dashed. Mike Riley can't count on a letdown, doesn't want to even think about it -- and he sure as heck doesn't want his players to think about it this week in practice. And he shouldn't. But it's there.

The Duck players will say all the right things this week, that they'd be up for the Civil War no matter what the records. But there's still going to be a disappointment there. They were in prime position for the BCS title game and now that's gone.

Now, Oregon could conceivably come out for the game a little down, a little off, and still win going away. Their offense can be as explosive as any team in the nation's. Their team speed is superior. They're good enough to overcome an off night and win by a healthy margin.

But if OSU comes out strong, weathers the first haymaker Oregon throws their way, then we just might have ourselves a ball game.

A SOLID START is mandatory. Letting Oregon find their rhythm is a sure-fire way to take the intrigue out of this game early.

Against UW, the OSU defense faced an elite running back in Chris Polk. They bent, but they didn't break. The Huskies drove on OSU, but they got few points for all their yards. Turnovers. Missed field goals. Key third down stands.

USC forced the Ducks to play from behind. They gave up yards, 209 on the ground and 265 through the air. But for all those yards, they kept the Duck offense 1-2 (or more) touchdowns shy of what those totals usually suggest.

LaMichael James is still a very good back, but he hasn't been quite himself since returning from injury. Kenjon Barner has picked up much of the slack, but he's not quite the star James is at full health.

And OSU needs to take something away from the Duck offense. Or at the very least, limit it enough. That thing is the Oregon running game. The Beavs need to focus most on that.

Oregon has scored less than 40 points three times all year, but two of those have come in that last three weeks. If OSU can make it three of four, if they can give up yards but not points, it will be anyone's game headed into the fourth quarter. In a Civil War, what more can you ask for…

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