EUGENE, Ore. (AP) — The No. 14 Oregon Ducks not only have to steel themselves for motivated Oregon State, they have to guard against letting the disappointment of Arizona State defeat them again.
Oregon was cruising toward a possible bid in the College Football Playoff last weekend when they were upended by the Sun Devils 31-28 in Tempe. The loss dropped the Ducks (9-2, 7-1 Pac-12, No. 14 CFP) from No. 6 in the rankings.
Heading into the 123rd Civil War game on Saturday, Oregon is already assured of a spot in the Pac-12 championship game next Friday in Santa Clara. The Ducks don’t yet know their opponent: The Pac-12 South will be decided on Saturday when No. 6 Utah hosts Colorado. Win, and the Utes are in the title game, lose and USC claims the division.
“You can never allow yourself to get beat twice by the same team,” Oregon coach Mario Cristobal said heading into rivalry week. “It’s popping right back into what you need to do to prepare for the next one.”
The Beavers (5-6, 4-4) are looking toward a more, but nevertheless significant, goal. Oregon State needs just one more win to become bowl eligible for the first time since 2013.
Oregon State has already collected more wins this season than in the previous two years combined, and the team has surpassed expectations in Jonathan Smith’s second year as head coach. Picked in the preseason to finish last in the Pac-12 North, the Beavers could wrap up as runners up to the Ducks in the division with a win.
“They’ve been very disruptive, very opportunistic. I think our players and our coaches fully understand that this is one of those games that is a tremendous challenge and it’s going to be a tremendous atmosphere,” Cristobal said, ``and we’re looking forward to Saturday.”
Washington State put off the Beavers’ postseason hopes last weekend with a 54-53 victory in Pullman.
The Beavers have lost to the Ducks in 10 of the last 11 seasons, with the lone win during that time coming in 2016 in Corvallis. It’s going to be an admittedly uphill battle, but Smith said the key is preparation.
“I’m not trying to downplay some emotions in the game, some celebration, rivalry. I get it. It’s all of that,” Smith said. “But even from my playing days, you’ve got to play quality football to win a football game, and your preparation needs to be pretty consistent through the year.”
Other things of note when the Ducks host the Beavers at Autzen Stadium:
Saturday’s game will be Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert’s last at Autzen. He was a freshman when the Beavers last beat the Ducks. This season he is averaging 269.6 yards passing per game, 20th nationally, with 30 passing touchdowns, sixth nationally. He’s got 93 career passing touchdowns, most among active players nationwide, and second only to Marcus Mariota on Oregon’s career list.
It will also be linebacker Troy Dye’s last game at Autzen. Like Herbert, he eschewed the draft and instead decided to stay at Oregon for his senior season. Dye ranks fifth on Oregon’s career list for tackles with 376, and he’s among just three players to lead the Ducks in tackles for three straight seasons.
Oregon State sixth-year quarterback Jake Luton will be looking to lead his team to a bowl game after struggling with injuries over the course of his career in Corvallis. He has thrown for 2,714 yards and 28 touchdowns in his final year. He’s averaging 246.7 passing yards a game, and he’s thrown for just three interceptions all season.
HODGINS MAKES HIS MARK
Oregon State junior Isaiah Hodgins is averaging 98.7 receiving yards per game and has 13 touchdowns. He’s got 168 career receptions, good for seventh on the program’s all-time list. This could be Hodgins’ final appearance for the Beavers because he may follow his dad James’ footsteps to the NFL.
“He’s one of the best in the country, hands down,” Cristobal said. “He is a complete wide receiver, very polished.”
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