What does Oregon State need to do to beat Oregon in the Civil War for the Roses?
And what does Oregon need to do to beat Oregon State?
Here are three keys for each.
1. The Beavers tweak their defensive scheme: Oregon State knows what doesn't work -- see last year's 65-38 blowout. Coach Mike Riley admitted that he and his defensive coaches pored over that horrifying game tape -- as hard as it was to watch -- again and again, looking for areas where they need to adjust their base scheme to best slow the Ducks' spread-option. It will be interesting to see what they come up with. Everything starts with being sound vs. the Ducks' base spread-option run. The Beavers enter the game with a highly rated run defense, but that also was the case last year when they got shredded. On the plus side, powerhouse defensive tackle Stephen Paea is far healthier than last year, when he was playing with a knee problem.
2. Canfield must distribute the ball fast (like he has much of the season): Oregon State quarterback Sean Canfield has completed 70 percent of his passes this year and avoided sacks during the second half of the season, despite a young offensive line, because he gets rid of the ball quickly. Oregon has great defensive speed and ranks third in the Pac-10 with 30 sacks. Canfield, who struggled with interceptions early in his career, needs to remember the style that got him here and not try to reinvent the offense on this big stage.
3. Run Jacquizz Rodgers right at the Ducks: The Beavers' offensive line is not as physical as Stanford’s, but the Cardinal showed a blueprint for off-setting the Ducks' defensive speed: the power run game. While Rodgers isn’t built like Toby Gerhart, he’s elusive and crafty and he has sneaky power. Sure, the dink and dunk to the Rodgers brothers in the passing game is the Beavers' bread-and-butter this season, but they might want to try to punch the Ducks in the mouth and see what happens.
1. Be yourself -- then improvise: It seems like the Ducks' offense does its best work when it starts out daring you to stop the spread-option, then mixes in a few well-timed downfield throws when a defense forgets that Jeremiah Masoli is a pretty darn good passer. Against Boise State and Stanford, the Ducks seemed to get away from that formula (they also did so with great results against California -- shocking the Bears with an aggressive passing attack -- but that’s not the point). The Beavers didn’t show they could stop the spread-option last year. So the Ducks should try to find out if they’ve got a new plan this go-around.
2. Win third down: The Beavers don’t turn the ball over -- their eight turnovers are four fewer than any other Pac-10 team. They also are No. 1 in the conference in third-down conversions (48.4 percent). That ability to maintain possession is a big reason they actually produce slightly more yards per game than the Ducks. Moreover, their dink and dunk down the field can frustrate a defense (not to mention opposing fans). That’s why the Ducks might need to get creative on third down. A run blitz here, a jailhouse blitz there, a drop eight -- or nine -- into coverage when the Beavers are thinking blitz. Of course, the Beavers also have converted 80 percent of their fourth-down plays, which also leads the conference.
3. Take care of the football: Oregon has a positive turnover margin -- plus-5 -- because it forces a lot of turnovers (24, which is tied for the most in the conference). The Ducks, however, also play free and easy with the football at times -- see 19 turnovers. And they’ve gotten away with a few this year -- if Arizona had jumped on a couple of loose balls that had seeing-eye Duck bounces, the result in Tucson might have been far different. Part of Masoli’s game is improvisation. Chip Kelly is a smart coach, so he knows that he has to take the good with the bad -- three brilliant creations for every gaffe. Still, in a high-stakes game, Kelly would love if Masoli could just be brilliant and forget the side order of loosey goosey.