Game Preview — The 118th Civil War

The 118th Civil War between Oregon and Oregon State takes place this Saturday. gives an in-depth preview of the matchup which carries significance on both sides for different reasons.

No. 2 Oregon (10-1) at Oregon State (5-6)

Where: Corvallis, OR

When: Saturday, 5:00 p.m., ABC

All-time record: Oregon leads 61-46-10

Longest Streak: 8 (Oregon: 1975-82, Oregon State: 1964-71)

Current Streak: 6 (Oregon)

Recent Games You Should Watch: (1994, 1998, 2000, 2001, 2007, 2009, 2013, and 1983 if you want an example of how not to play football)

Key players to Watch:

Oregon: Marcus Mariota (QB), Royce Freeman (RB), Joe Walker (LB), Erick Dargan (S), Byron Marshall (RB/WR)

Oregon State: Sean Mannion (QB), Victor Bolden (WR), Storm Woods (RB), Ty Zimmerman (S), D.J. Alexander (LB)

What’s at stake:

For Oregon: A playoff spot. A win almost assuredly keeps the second-ranked Ducks in the top four of the College Football Playoff rankings heading into the Pac-12 Championship Game. A subsequent victory in Santa Clara against the Pac-12 South champion would make the Ducks a practical shoo-in for the playoffs.

For Oregon State: Bowl-eligibility. The Beavers sit at five wins with the Ducks being the last opportunity to punch their ticket to a bowl this winter. The chance to play spoiler to the Ducks and end a six game losing streak in the process is an added bonus.

Key Quote:“They are really good. They are extremely talented and there have been some games and the outcome could have been very different. There are a bunch of games where they look really scary and we know we are going to get that version.” — Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich on Oregon State.


Oregon: The Ducks could be without sophomore running back Thomas Tyner and senior center Hroniss Grasu. Starting tight end Pharaoh Brown also will not play after suffering a season-ending leg injury at Utah.

Oregon State: The Beavers will be without leading running back Terron Ward and backup Chris Brown on Saturday. Running back Storm Woods is questionable. Defensive tackle Jalen Grimble is day to day and defensive lineman Ali’i Robins is doubtful.

A little background: Just about anything can happen in the Civil War, but for the last six years everything has been coming up green and yellow. The underdog Beavers came close to upsetting Oregon last season in Eugene, but lost 36-35 after Ducks quarterback Marcus Mariota found Josh Huff for the game-winning touchdown with 29 seconds left.

This season, the Beavers have posted their worst record in conference play since head coach Mike Riley returned to the program in 2003. With only two wins, the Beavers sit tied at the bottom of the Pac-12 North standings along with Washington State, which beat the Beavers three weeks ago in Corvallis.

While the Beavers followed that loss up with a win against then-sixth-ranked Arizona State, they produced a largely flat effort in Seattle over the weekend against Washington, an indicator that the Beavers still can’t put everything together consistently.

Despite the rocky season, senior quarterback Sean Mannion has thrown for 3,002 yards with 14 touchdowns and eight interceptions. Wide receiver Victor Bolden has done his best to make up for the loss of Brandin Cooks with 68 catches, 785 yards receiving and 2 touchdowns. Jordan Villamin and Connor Hamlett have also produced. Each have 30 receptions on the season and Villamin leads all receivers with six touchdowns.

The Ducks, meanwhile, have won convincingly over each conference opponent they’ve played since an early October loss at home against Arizona. They’ve won by an average of over 23 points per game during that stretch, spurred by the play of Mariota, who has been prolific during his junior season, throwing for 3,103 yards, 32 touchdowns and only two interceptions while completing 68 percent of his passes. He’s been aided by the efforts of an always rotating offensive line and a talented group of underclassmen ranging from 1,000-yard freshman running back Royce Freeman to do-it-all athlete Charles Nelson.

And the Ducks have plenty of other offensive weapons to throw at Oregon State. Wide receivers Byron Marshall, Devon Allen, Darren Carrington, Dwayne Stanford and Keanon Lowe have all produced at least 20 catches and 350 yards receiving this season, led by Marhsall and his 50 catches for 660 yards. Not bad for a guy who was a running back during his first two seasons in an Oregon uniform. Combined, the group has produced 21 receiving touchdowns this season.

The Preview: Pure and simple, the Beavers need to play a near perfect game to beat Oregon this weekend. Last week, the Beavers gave up several big play touchdowns to the Huskies while the Ducks racked several easy big play touchdowns against the Colorado Buffaloes. If the Beavers hope to win they have to first and foremost limit those explosive plays and contain the offense, but it won’t be easy if history suggests anything.

During their six-game losing streak, Oregon State has only held Oregon under 500 yards of offense twice and the Ducks have feasted on rushing yards as evidenced by the stats below :

2013: 568 yards (283 rushing)

2012: 570 yards (430 rushing)

2011: 670 yards (365 rushing)

2010: 491 yards (346 rushing)

2009: 489 yards (288 rushing)

2008: 694 yards (385 rushing)

The Beavers need to find ways to lock up Oregon early or they may not be able to keep up. It doesn’t look likely since they’ve given up at least 27 points per game in conference play. For a team averaging just over 26 points per game offensively, that is an ugly stat.

Mannion will be tasked with producing a lot of yards for the Beavers on Saturday and must do so for them to win. We don’t know what kind of shape Storm Woods will be in on Saturday, but the Beavers will need to produce something on the ground, whether that means rolling with Damien Haskins or using more of Bolden in a dual role. Everybody from Bolden to Villamin to Hamlett will be asked to give a little extra on Saturday and without production from everyone, it could be a long day for the Beavers offense.

Defensively, Oregon has gotten stronger as the year has progressed. They’ve certainly looked more vulnerable on the road, but they’ve eventually found a groove and settled in to hold opponents at bay. Consequently, the Ducks are coming off of their strongest road performance of the season against Utah and Oregon State will be the weakest offense statistically of the road opponents they’ve faced. Plus, in each of the last four games the Ducks have forced at least three turnovers on the Beavers, which is key stat to watch heading into this game.

Oregon will no doubt look to Mariota and Freeman to lead the way, but they’ll be able to call on any number of playmakers (see above) as they see fit against Oregon State. If Tyner is available, that only adds another weapon to the arsenal. It will be interesting to see how Evan Baylis and Johnny Mundt handle their first road test in replacing Brown at tight end. Baylis did a fine job last weekend and even snagged his first collegiate touchdown, but road games are a different beast.

The most important thing for Oregon besides winning is staying healthy. The injury bug has continued to nip at the Ducks heels throughout the season and they don’t want any key pieces missing before the Pac-12 Championship Game, which they’ll play in next week whether they win or lose in Corvallis.

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