On Friday night, the Oregon State Beavers’ dreams of playing in their first-ever Pac-12 Championship Game were dashed as the Washington State Cougars dismantled the Washington Huskies in Montlake.
Don’t expect them to play with any less passion or fire on Saturday afternoon against the Ducks, though.
This rivalry game between Oregon and Oregon State is sure to be intense, and there is a ton on the line for the Ducks. With a win, they will advance to the conference championship game against Utah and have hopes to move on to the Rose Bowl. After having their College Football Playoff hopes fade with the blowout loss to the Utes, the Ducks can still salvage a very successful season.
You think the Beavers don’t want to further put them in the dirt?
That’s what there is to play for. So how will it play out? Unfortunately for the Ducks, Utah is a team that is pretty similar to Utah, boasting a very strong running game — the best in the Pac-12 — and a balanced passing attack that has to keep the defense true to keys. Two weeks ago, we wouldn’t have thought that would be a problem since Oregon has one of the better rush defenses in the conference, but Utah was able to run all over them last week, which was enough to give pause to much of the fan base going into this one.
For the Ducks, assuming that they can stop the Oregon State rushing attack, it will be imperative to get pressure on Chance Nolan and try to force him into mistakes. This isn’t likely to be a game that is played out in the air very much, but when rushers like Kayvon Thibodeaux and Brandon Dorlus get a chance to pin their ears back and chase the QB, they need to make the most of it.
On offense, it’s all going to start with the offensive line for the Ducks. They have been great all year, but struggled in Salt Lake City last week and need a bounce-back in the worst way. Oregon’s rushing game is their bread and butter, so if Travis Dye and Byron Cardwell can get going then Duck fans should feel pretty good. On top of that, RB Seven McGee is being split out to the slot this week to try and help with receiver depth, which should be a fun experiment to watch.
What I’m most interested to see on the day is how Anthony Brown plays. The sixth-year senior QB is definitely banged up and has been dealing with a few injuries as of late. As the leader of the team, he is rightfully denying that it will play any effect on his ability to play or contribute to the team, but at some point, toughness has more of an ability to hamper rather than help, depending on how bad the ailment really is. If Brown can stay upright, make the correct reads, and connect with his WRs on intermediate passes, then we should see the Oregon offense that had such great success through the middle weeks of the season. If not, it could be another long day.
I don’t think this will be a long day, though. It’s unlikely to be an Oregon blowout, but I think they are able to control this game on the ground and make it out with a win. It might be close, and the Beavers can absolutely hang around into the second half, but I think the Ducks will hold a 10 point lead in the 4th quarter and stave off a comeback.