What a difference a year makes. This time last year was frustrating to be a Duck fan. Despite the soaring heights of 2007, it was surely grating that we had lost to the Beavers, and boy did we hear about it. There was a constant yapping from Beaver fans about how they'd beaten us two years in a row. But then, well, I think you know what happened.
What made last year's victory so special was that it was the first Civil War since 2000 where both teams had something at stake. With both teams looking to continue their momentum from last season, we could very well see a Civil War of similar magnitude in 2009.
Oregon Offense vs. Oregon State Defense:
Oregon State had a stellar defense last season. However, as good as they were through 11 games, they had no answer for an Oregon offense that simply did whatever it wanted. Oregon set the tone early by throwing the ball. OSU was simply not prepared for an offense that could both run and throw, and after Oregon established early that it could move the ball through the air as well as on the ground, OSU was off balance for the rest of the game.
While I think Mike Riley is a very good coach, if Oregon is marginally healthy coming into the game, I don't see how OSU will be able to stop the Ducks. They do not have the quality of safeties, cornerbacks, or defensive ends that they did a year ago. Though they return studs DT Stephen Paea and LB Keaton Kristick, the beauty of a spread offense is that it will isolate the defensive weaknesses. Oregon State has done an exceptional job at team defense, especially against traditional offenses. But they have not fared well against a fast, talented offense that can isolate OSU's weaknesses. As much as OSU fans talk about how great Mike Riley is at recruiting talent, and developing players, there can be no ignoring the fact that for all the very good players they develop, OSU is still made up of 3* players, who can be beaten when isolated. And there are few offenses throughout the country that can exploit those weaknesses as Oregon can.
And while OSU has some very good players on defense, none of their units as a whole will be dominant. As good as Paea is, he is no Haloti Ngata, who can carry an entire defense for stretches at a time. As a whole defense, they will be good, but they will not have one thing that they do extremely well, which will catch up with them when they face very good offenses.
Oregon should be able to move the ball in this game, and though expecting another almost 700 yard onslaught is unrealistic, 500 yards and 40 points is not.
Oregon Defense vs. Oregon State Offense
On the opposite side of the ball, it's all about the Rodgers brothers. They are two of the best players in the league. James Rodgers is one of the fastest players in the conference, while Jacquizz Rodgers just gets his yards. For any defense, stopping these two players will be the key to beating OSU. If you can hinder these two, OSU will have to rely on their QBs and an inexperienced downfield receiving corp.
I have taken from heat from Beaver fans for saying that I think that Jacquizz will regress this season. But this has nothing to do with his skills, but the fact that, unlike last year, the offense will rest entirely on his shoulders. Last year OSU had two great receivers in Sammy Stroughter and Shane Morales. They could stretch a defense and their threat led to not only very good passing stats for the Beavers, but to the running game success.
This year, every defense will be gameplanning for Jacquizz. They will force OSU to beat them through the air. And that means the Beavers must rely on either Lyle Moevao or Sean Canfield. And when the ball has been in Moevao's hands, things have not ended well. Though Canfield did well in last year's Arizona game, he has not looked well in spring practice. On top of this, I seriously doubt that either of these players will make any significant progression this season, considering Mike Riley's record for developing QBs, which has been very poor for one of the best coaches in the conference.
For teams like Oregon, whose strength should be their run defense, this bodes very well. Jacquizz will get his yards, but will have to work very hard to get there, and if the OSU passing game is not as explosive as it was last year, it will be very hard to keep up with an offense like Oregon's.
All the credit in the world to OSU, who has been one of the most consistent teams in the Pac-10. This year, that should continue, as they are clearly the #4 team in the conference in my mind. However, this year, I feel that the talent gap between OSU and USC, Cal, and Oregon is quite large. I see them having a lot of problems competing with these teams, on both sides of the ball.
Oregon has the advantages in this game, and can force OSU into the type of game it wants to play. In the end, OSU can't keep up, and Oregon ends up winning by 2 TDs.