The Oregon State football team has traversed the ups and downs of a season, and the difference from immortality and just another good year comes down to tonight.
Whoever wins the Civil War in Autzen Stadium goes on to the Rose Bowl to face Big Ten Conference champion Ohio State.
It’s the first winner-take-all meeting in the rivalry that began in 1894.
The Beavers have the ability to win this game, even with it being on the road. Here are five goals to accomplish in the contest.
And if they do, they’ll be in good shape at the end.
1. Stop the run
Oregon’s offensive bread-and-butter is running the ball. OSU’s defensive bread-and-butter is stopping the run. The game will come down to that matchup.
The Ducks got the best of the Beavers last year when the same strengths were showcased. However, the Beavers are rested going into this one. It should be a better contest.
If the Beavers can contain running back LaMichael James and mobile quarterback Jeremiah Masoli, that will put pressure on Oregon’s passing game and allow the Beavers to play more aggressively.
2. Watch out for Masoli
Beyond just stopping the run, the Beavers must deal with Masoli as a runner and passer. His scrambling ability can gain first downs and avoid the rush.
OSU doesn’t put one defender on a quarterback of this nature, but makes it a group responsibility to stop him. So everyone must do their jobs.
Masoli has developed into a passer, too. The secondary must keep coverage on their receiver longer than usual since Masoli can buy time to find an open man.
3. Control tempo
There’s a good chance the game might turn into a shootout. The best way to keep the Ducks from running wild is to be on offense. The Beavers need to sustain long drives and then score.
Running back Jacquizz Rodgers is healthy this Civil War. He missed last year’s contest with a shoulder injury. He’ll make a difference in the game.
The offense must answer every Oregon score, and when the defense makes a stop the Beavers must turn that into points.
4. Maximize the offense
OSU’s playmakers are performing at a high level. And there are a variety to choose from.
The Beavers have to take advantage of all the attributes of Rodgers, quarterback Sean Canfield and receiver James Rodgers.
Canfield is the top passer in the Pac-10 and has shown the ability to handle the heat in pressure games. Mixing in his throws with the running game will keep the Ducks guessing.
And all those plays the Beavers worked on in practice that haven’t been seen, it’s time they pull out a few. There’s a shroud of mystery around their variety on offense, so they should use that to their advantage.
5. Don’t give up big plays
If the defense contains the run it can’t allow big plays. That’s a common theme for the Beavers over the years. They stop a team twice and break down on third down for a big gain.
Making the Ducks take a long time on drives forces them out of their comfort zone as a fast-moving offense. The opportunity for them to make mistakes arises.
Big plays also excite the crowd. And a quiet Autzen Stadium means things are going well, and minimizes Oregon’s home-field advantage.