We have a Civil War for the ages coming up tomorrow night, so we decided to see how Beaver fans were feeling about the game. AndyPanda of Building The Dam was kind enough to answer our questions. Jake and Andy had some questions for us as well, and the first part of our answers are posted at BtD.
1. Oregon State is at it again. After early season struggles, they've seemed to round into shape at the end of the season. Is this the case this year, or is it simply a case of scheduling?
Some of both. Cincinnati was as good or better than advertised, and Arizona has proven to be better than expected. At the same time, Oregon St. has progressed significantly since those loses, on both sides of the ball. That's as should be expected, given the loss of experience from last year's team.
2. 2008 Civil War score aside, which team is better? The 2008 Beavers or the 2009 Beavers?
The 2009 Beavers are notably better at this point, due to being nearly 100% healthy. Before the key injuries that juggled the QB lineup, and then the loss in consecutive games of the Rodgers brothers, the 2008 team was the better group. The number of departed players that went on to the next level, 7 to the NFL, plus a couple of others, are proof of the quality lost, and their replacements are not three and four year starters yet, so still lack experience, relatively speaking.
Quality coverage in the secondary, forcing Sean to look a long time to find a target. Historically, his weakness has been to stand in too long, taking late sacks when he should have run or made a decision to throw, even if it is to throw the ball away.
4. Who is the second most important offensive player for the Beavers?
Sean Canfield or James Rodgers are the obvious choices, but I'm going to suggest Damola Adeniji, if not second, should be considered. His improved ability as a receiver has been instrumental in Canfield's improvement, by providing the big receiving target Sean needs, and has prevented opponents from being able to almost disregard other receivers in order to overload against both the Rodgers' brothers. Downfield blocking by receivers is critical to the success of the Beavers' offense as well, and Adeniji has worked hard at doing the things that make the overall offense work.
5. Oregon thrives offensively on offensive matchups and creating mismatches for opposing defenses. Will the OSU defenders be able to make tackles in space, especially against Oregon's speedy WR corp.
The OSU secondary is quite capable of tacking in space, but one of the keys to the game will be how well they do at being anywhere near where they need to be. Spacing to minimize the size of the openings the Duck receivers are sprinting into may well decide the game.
6. On the flip side, what matchups will OSU try to exploit when they have the ball. What matchups make Beaver fans excited?
The Beavers will doubtless try to use special teams to tip the field, so to speak. One of the best ways to get James Rodgers in the open is on kick returns. Also, the Oregon St. kick coverage has been outstanding at giving opponents long fields to drive on.
On offense, its about getting cutback lanes for Jacquizz Rodgers. If Quizz can get to the second level with any regularity, the game changes drastically. That said, Canfield's accuracy, completing over 70% of his passes, should seriously stretch the Duck secondary.
7. What are your expectations on the OSU defense for Thursday night?
They can't shut down the Oregon offense. With Jeremiah Masoli healthy, no one can. But they are very good against the run, and should curb LaMichael James. That puts the burden on Masoli to make consistently good decisions about whether to run or pass. At that point, its about assignment defense, and not overpursuing. And with Masoli, one step can be too far out of position to recover. The game will be decided by how well the Beavers maintain gap and assignment discipline. It won't require shutting down the Ducks with the OSU offense healthy; it may only require 2,3,4 stops.
The Beavers have been dominant in the early portion of games, both their wins and losses. That's critical, because if they can get off to a fast start, then the defense can be put into a position where they only need those few stops later in the game.
8. Most people though that the Beavers and Ducks were 1 year away from making any headway in the Pac-10 this year. What is your feeling on having the Civil War for the Roses, possibly one year early? Regardless of outcome, how confident do you feel going into next year?
Fairly confident, and the only reason for only being "fairly" confident is the question mark at the quarterback position. If Lyle Moevao were to get another year of eligibility, then the Beavers become co-favorites with the Ducks for the title. Otherwise, the first six weeks could be pretty tricky, with either Ryan Katz or Peter Lalich at QB, especially Katz, because of the inexperience factor.
With most of the roster returning, including both the Rodgers brothers, and a favorable schedule, seven home games, including USC, Cal, and Oregon, and nine games in the northwest, the table is mostly set for a serious run. Even the trip to Boise St. is later in September, so there will be time to work out some issues at the quarterback position.
However, that's no reason to not put it all on the line in the Civil War this season. Much of the conference will be improved, and as been shown, the Beavers, or the Ducks, or anyone, can play a lot of very good football for a lot of seasons, and still not get to the Rose Bowl or the BCS. The conference is consistently that tough.