Civil War will define Oregon State's season

CORVALLIS -- No matter what happens on Saturday, whether the Beavs win or lose, the outcome of this year’s edition of the Civil War will define Oregon State’s 2014 season. Maybe even an era. Both teams have something at stake, and it’s debatable as to which team has more on the line …

Let’s start with Beavers. They have one game to change the narrative on their season.

In what may be the final days of a frustrating up-and-down campaign, the Beavers own a 5-6 record (2-6 Pac-12). They have to beat the Ducks to gain bowl eligibility.

The Beavers have already played the role of Giant Killers once this season, upsetting No. 6 Arizona State just two weeks ago, and they have a second chance to play that role again vs. the No. 2 Ducks.

With a win Saturday, not only would the Beavers extend their season, they’d absolutely wreck Oregon’s.

It’s all or nothing for Oregon State. If the Beavers can’t contain Heisman hopeful Marcus Mariota and his arsenal of playmakers, then the Beavers’ season will be over.

With a loss, senior day will be the last memory for players like Sean Mannion, Connor Hamlett, Tyler Anderson, Terron Ward (out with a torn meniscus), Michael Doctor, D.J. Alexander, Jabral Johnson, Dylan Wynn, Obum Gwacham, Bud Delva, Siale Hautau, Steven Nelson, Ryan Murphy, Tyrequek Zimmerman, Malcolm Marable, Keith Kostol and others.

The Beavers haven’t won the Civil War since 2007, none of the above seniors have tasted what it’s like to beat the Ducks. For all that these seniors have accomplished with the Beavers, a win against Oregon has evaded their grasp.

Mannion may be the career passing leader in Pac-12 history, and he may have re-written Oregon State’s record book with more career touchdowns than any OSU quarterback before him, but if OSU loses, he will never have the memory of beating Oregon nor escaping its shadow.

Indeed, if the Beavs lose, Mannion along with every other OSU senior’s career would end with a whimper. Meanwhile, the Ducks would still be playing for everything.

If the Beavers win, these 2014 Giant Killers would get to extend their season in a bowl game, get those 15 bowl practices and smother the Ducks’ quest for a national title.

ABOUT 50 MILES to the south of all this you find the Ducks, the second-ranked team in college football having played to a 10-1 (7-1) record.

A win over the Beavers would put them one step closer to the first ever College Football Playoffs - the only thing left standing between them would be either UCLA, Arizona or Arizona State, depending on how things shake out in the Pac-12 South this weekend, in the Pac-12 title game.

Mariota will also be playing with everything to lose. The quarterback is leading for the Heisman Trophy in most scribe’s eyes, and is one of the top prospects in the NFL draft should he decide to forego his senior season (which is looking more and more likely). Thus, every snap will be scrutinized in the eyes of those decision-makers.

On the season, Mariota has thrown for 3,103 yards, 32 touchdowns against only two interceptions. But it is on the ground where he has truly shined. He has run for 597 yards and nine touchdowns – take out the lost yardage including sacks, and it’s754 yards. He’s the Ducks’ second leading rusher, and oh so many of his runs have come when he’s tucked it away and taken off on third-and-long. Mariota has even caught a touchdown pass. His 42 total touchdowns is a new Pac-12 record, (41, Matt Barkley, 2011, USC).

The Ducks have already clinched a berth in the Pac-12 Championship, and due to the lack of elite teams in the Pac-12 North, they did it weeks ago. But the Ducks have been in position but missed on multiple occasions to grasp that elusive national title. A Pac-12 Championship would be nice, but the Ducks almost certainly need to beat the Beavers to reach the playoffs.

For the 2014 season, it just doesn't get any bigger than this for the Beavers.

This game will define Oregon State’s season, win or lose.

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