Oregon State (5-6, 4-4 Pac-10) ends its regular season schedule by hosting top-ranked and unbeaten Oregon. The Beavers can only reach a bowl game by denying Oregon an appearance in the national title game.
For the Beavers, it's not quite the stakes of the past two seasons, when Oregon State had a berth in the Rose Bowl at stake in the Civil War, but it's what this season has come down to.
The Civil War is the oldest rivalry played in the West. And odd things have happened in the series that dates back to 1894.
In an up-and-down season for the Beavers, who knows what comes next?
--Oregon State will miss a bowl game for only the second time in the past 10 years unless it defeats Oregon. The Beavers (5-6) have only had two losing records since 1998, going 5-6 in both 2001 and 2005, seasons that each ended with losses to Oregon.
--The five turnovers by the Oregon State offense against Stanford doubled the season total of offensive turnovers by the Beavers, who shared the national lead for fewest turnovers entering the game. Of Oregon State's 12 total turnovers, eight are interceptions, two are fumbles by offensive players and the other two were fumbles by the kickoff return unit.
continues his climb up career rushing charts. With 3,790 yards, he is now eighth on the Pac-10 list after passing USC's Anthony Davis (3,724) and UCLA's Gaston Green (3,731). Next ahead of Rodgers on the Pac-10's list are Arizona's Trung Canidate (3,824) and Oregon State's Yvenson Bernard
(3,862). Passing Bernard would move Rodgers up to second on Oregon State's career list.
SERIES HISTORY: Oregon leads 57-46-10 (last meeting, 2009, 37-33 Oregon).
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: Coming off their first shutout since 2002 doesn't seem like a good time to be playing Oregon. The primary issue for the Beavers continues to be in the offensive line, which gave up four quarterback sacks and countless hurries against Stanford -- and the o-line was inconsistent in opening running lanes for Quizz. Now, the Beavers have to play one of the Pac-10's best defenses, statistically, (Total Defense, 3rd in Pac-10; 29th nationally ) . Oregon State has especially struggled against the blitz, and Oregon will offer some of that, too.
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: The Beavers have struggled against mobile quarterbacks, which Oregon has, and spread offenses in general, and who does it better than the Ducks? Oregon State has given up 102 points to the Ducks in the past two meetings. The one thing the Beavers have as a positive is the recent strong play of defensive tackle Stephen Paea
, who has been more active and a dominating force of late, probably not coincidentally since he received a cortisone shot in a knee that had bothered him earlier in the season.
STORYLINE: There's no question the Beavers will need to be at their best, both offensively and defensively, to keep up with Oregon. That's a difficult assignment, particularly with Oregon State coming off one of its poorest performances of the season on both sides of the football while being blanked by Stanford. But in a yo-yo of a season for Oregon State, maybe there's one last upsurge in the team, considering rivalry games always spur additional emotion.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
DT Stephen Paea -- Since receiving a cortisone shot in a knee that hampered him for much of the season, Paea has been a dominant force inside against USC and Stanford. He'll need to be equally as much of a presence against the Ducks because the Beavers are likely to be spread out, and the linebackers will be covering a lot of space and not able to help as much on the inside.
WR Markus Wheaton
-- With a family name so famous at Oregon, and as a former recruit of the Ducks, the Oregon State wide receiver figures to be a marked Beaver for the Oregon defense. Wheaton has not only become Oregon State's leading receiver, with 45 receptions, but the second-leading rusher with 212 yards on 25 rushes, either fly sweeps or reverses.
OLB Dwight Roberson
-- The leading tackler for the Beavers certainly isn't backing away from the challenge of playing the Ducks, saying he wants payback for Oregon taking Rose Bowl berths away from Oregon State the past two seasons. That's likely to be a comment that draws the attention of the Ducks.
--The Beavers may go into the season finale without a pair of underappreciated elements of their offense. Fullback Will Darkins
suffered a knee injury against Stanford, and H-back Joe Halahuni
left the game with a possible concussion.
--The five offensive linemen who started the game against Stanford included four players who began their Oregon State careers without scholarship aid. Those players were tackles Wilder McAndrews
(in for an injured Michael Philipp
[ankle]) and Mike Remmers
, and guards Grant Johnson
and Burke Ellis
. Granted, that's a great credit to them for earning their starting spots, but it also leads to questions about Beaver o-line recruiting in recent years.
THE SEASON comes down to this for Oregon State -- The Beavers either end it with one of their biggest victories ever, or they stay home for the holidays and have a long winter to think back on all the disappointments of the 2010 season.