Its been a rough week for Duck fans, but what better way to shake off a bit of depression than with rodent stomping? The loss to Stanford has likely taken Oregon out of the national championship picture, but a BCS berth is very much still at play. In fact, with Oregon State sitting at 8-2 with the Nicholls State game still to be played, and Oregon State win likely leapfrogs the Beavers over the Ducks in the BCS at-large pecking order. This game is for a likely Fiesta Bowl berth. This game is to keep little brother in their place. This is an enormous game, and a loss would be as devastating as last week was. Plus, we'd have to hear about it all off-season. The game will be televised at noon on the Pac-12 Network.
While the QB carousel has been operating between Sean Mannion and Cody Vaz all season, Mannion will get the start on Saturday against the Ducks. Vaz hasn't practiced since injuring his ankle against Stanford, and its unknown if he could potentially play against Oregon. Mannion has passed for 1900 yards and 12 touchdowns this season--but with nine interceptions. Four of those interceptions came in the Beavers' loss to Washington, while three more came in their home victory over Washington State. Mannion has a couple of 1000 yard receivers to throw to in Markus Wheaton and Brandin Cooks, so the Oregon secondary will have their hands full with the Beaver passing game this week.
Fortunately for the Ducks, Oregon State's running game has been nowhere near as explosive, averaging only 120 rushing yards per game (105th in the nation), and barely 3.6 yards per rush. Starter Storm Woods has been injury prone, Malcolm Agnew has been fumble prone. They have done enough to make you respect the run game, but not enough to make you fear it. Oregon's defense will be geared toward stopping the OSU passing attack.
The Oregon State defense has been fantastic. They only give up 3.5 yards per rush, a very respectable number. They thrive on turnover (26 TOs gained this season). This is a good defensive front seven, but its not Stanford. The Ducks should be able to have considerably more success running the ball--especially on the edges--than they did against the Cardinal. Stanford proved me very wrong about their lateral quickness. We'll see if the Beavers can do the same, but its a lot greater statistical leap to make.
Oregon State does have 23 sacks on the season as Scott Crichton, with nine, is the guy to watch on the defensive line. But the secondary is the real strength of the defense. OSU has 17 interceptions of the season. Jordan Poyer has six, and the man on the other side, Rashaad Reynolds, has 3. It will be critical for Marcus Mariota to make the right reads or he risks turnovers.
Ultimately, I think the Ducks are going to win the game, and Oregon will look a lot closer to the Ducks of earlier in the season than they did against Stanford. Last week's game was a combination of factors--a very good Stanford defense played to every bit of their potential. Oregon, given an already tough task, made unforced errors on top of what Stanford forced. I don't think the Beavers can bottle up the running game the way Stanford did. I'm not sure it's a blowout, but I think the Ducks win by two touchdowns.