Interestingly enough, Oregon (9-2) and Oregon State (6-5) are both considered to be "limping" into the Civil War match up this Friday, yet Oregon has nine wins to OSU's six. Clearly a sign of expectations at each respective university, but that won't deter from the heated rivalry that will be showcased in the 117th Civil War.
Oregon State's last Civil War win was in Autzen Stadium in 2007 so can they recapture the magic of James Rodgers and Matt Sieverson?
Here are BeaverBlitz's keys to the game:
1. Sell Out Up Front: Marcus Mariota is a bit hobbled and hasn't been the runner we're used to seeing since he injured his knee a few weeks back. OSU will need to man up outside and make Oregon's receivers beat them 1-on-1 and get as many bodies to the ball carrier as possible.
Stacking the box may not be the answer, but somehow the Beavers have to fill holes and get constant pressure in the backfield. It will be difficult based on how well Oregon spreads the field, but if OSU can get a few tackles for loss and put Oregon in long 3rd down situations they will be in this game. Make Mariota beat you with his arm.
2. Own the Football: It's near impossible with no ground game to own time of possession, but it's what OSU needs to do. Keeping the ball out of the Oregon offense's hand is the key to any team with hopes of beating the Ducks. The fly sweep and quick underneath passing game need to be utilized, if not simply to tire the defense out, to make easy decisions for Sean Mannion who has struggled mightily as of late. It would be nice to see added emphasis in the run game and a resurgence in the downhill attack, but OSU has rushed for over 100 yards just four times this season.
3. Limit Turnovers/Penalties: Oregon State was one of the best in the country in turnover margin at the beginning of the season, but have since fallen down the list considerably. In OSU's four game skid they are at -8 in turnover margin, turning the ball over 13 times, while forcing just 5 turnovers of their own.
While OSU's 4 penalties for 36 yards over their past four games isn't bad, it seems as if OSU's penalties come at the most inopportune times. Example: a false start on 3rd and short creates a much more difficult conversion for the offense and gives a defense more options. In a game where you are a 21 point underdog, there is no room for error…at all.
4. Coach on the Fly: All too often Coach Riley and Coach Banker have been unable to switch their game plan up mid-game if things aren't going well. It's often the reason we see 4 interceptions on a stat sheet at the end of the game or 500+ rushing yards.
As mentioned in The Lodge, OSU has to have a plan-b if their original game plan isn't working. With the extinction of the run game, screens haven't been as consistently effective, so a new plan needs to be thought up. If a run-heavy Oregon team finds success on the ground early, that needs to be taken away. The notion of "Go with what you got" simply isn't good enough anymore. Great teams are able to adapt as the game progresses and OSU needs to do a much better job at just that.
5. Win on 1st Down: This can go for both sides of the ball, but more so on offense this week. It's baffling how many first down incompletions attempting to get 13-15 yards OSU has had, putting them in 2nd and 10 which more often than not leads to 3rd and 8-plus. Even if it is a fullback dive for 3 yards that is a successful first down play and creates a lot more options at 2nd and 7.
In a game against Oregon you can count on going for it on 4th down a few times so call plays accordingly. There is no need to try to get 15+ on a first down play unless there is a glaring weakness in the defense, which there is not in Oregon's secondary. If OSU can win on 1st down and set themselves up for 3rd and less than five consistently their conversion rate will rise, time of possession will rise, and their chances of winning will rise.