1. Don't Let USC Beat You Twice
The hardest thing to do after suffering a bitter loss is letting it go. Reliving mistakes made and smarting at chances blown is natural, but the goal this week for the Ducks should be on focusing their attention to Oregon State and clinching a spot in the Pac-12 Championship game. Obviously, there's plenty to take away and improve upon as the coaching staff and players review their performance against USC, but a new week provides new challenges and learning from previous mishaps can go a long way in helping a team return to form. This week, the Ducks face a confident opponent who is coming off a runaway win over a Washington team that has begun to fade fast since their home loss to Oregon a little over two weeks ago. Against the Huskies, one could argue that Oregon State played their most complete football game of the season, limiting a potent Washington offense to only 21 points while exploding for 38 points and 484 yards of total offense of their own. Though OSU redshirt freshman quarterback Sean Mannion isn't Matt Barkley, he's certainly talented enough to make Oregon's defense pay if it fails to respect him. The Duck secondary was especially exposed against the Trojans, leaving many to wonder whether Oregon's youth in the defensive backfield is beginning to catch up with them. How they and the rest of the team respond on "Senior Day" at Autzen could be the most significant key to Saturday's game.
2. Be Efficient
The theme in each of Oregon's two losses has been a frustrating lack of efficiency. Typically a hallmark of Chip Kelly coached teams, against LSU and USC, the Ducks committed a total of six turnovers and had one punt blocked. In both games, the turnovers committed either gave opponents tremendous field position or erased Oregon's chances for critical points in their opponents' red zone. To have the kind of success Oregon is expected to have against the Beavers, the Ducks must take better care of the ball and capitalize on prime scoring opportunities. Oregon quarterback Darron Thomas, running back LaMichael James and the dynamic De'Anthony Thomas have been tremendously steady all season, though all three players have been victimized by poor ball handling/security the last few games. If Oregon is to be victorious in the 115th edition of the Civil War, all three players will need to set the tone from an efficiency standpoint by taking improved care of the pigskin and limiting the amount of self-inflicted mistakes they are responsible for.
3. Finish The Job
Oregon has accomplished too much and has come too far as a team over the course of the season to let their latest loss ruin what could still be a very special year in Eugene. Sure, any possible BCS National Championship aspirations have fallen by the wayside, but against Oregon State, a berth in the inaugural Pac-12 Championship game and a trip to the Rose Bowl for the winner of the title game is still up for grabs. Despite the fact Oregon State has not had the kind of season Beaver fans had hoped for in Corvallis, the Civil War has notoriously been known as a hotly contested game where the outcome is normally anything but predictable. At 3-8, the Beavers are not bowl eligible and likely view Saturday's game at Oregon as an opportunity to end their year on a high note while subsequently ruining the season of their bitter in-state rival. Focus, execution and a determination to finish the job on Saturday allows Oregon to be one step closer to spending New Year's Day in Pasadena.
Follow Chris Courtney on Twitter at eDuckCCourtney
3 Keys To Oregon State
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