'Little brother' still a faceless foe for Oregon

Nothing is different this week for Oregon. The Civil War versus its in-state rival? Neh. One win away from the program's first national championship game? Haven't thought about it.

The Ducks only say, "Win the day." It's only about them, the present moment and their preparation. All the other stuff is extraneous, including the opponent.

"We talk every week about playing a faceless opponent," Oregon coach Chip Kelly said. "It's about our preparation, not who we are playing against."

Only Ducks cornerback Cliff Harris did give Oregon State a name this week: "Little brother."

"This is basically like the big brother-little brother backyard brawl," Harris said. "I’m excited and I’m ready for it."

While some have gift-wrapped that as trash talk -- yeah, we sorta did, too -- it's not a ridiculous take. While the rivals have split the last 10 Civil Wars, the Ducks have won the last two, which were both huge. In 2008, their blowout, 65-38 win in Corvallis knocked the Beavers out of the Rose Bowl. Last year, the stakes for both teams were the Rose Bowl, and the Ducks prevailed 37-33 in a thriller.

This time, Oregon is playing for a spot in the national title game, while the Beavers need to win just to become bowl eligible. The programs are, at present, in different places. So the Beavers mostly shrugged off Harris' assessment.

"It's not to knock them out," Oregon State running back Jacquizz Rodgers said. "We need to win to make a bowl game. That should be our motivation -- for us to continue our season, not stopping them from getting to the national championship game."

As for the Ducks, Kelly dismissed all the usual media angles: Looking ahead to the national title game or underestimating the Beavers or getting overconfident, etc. He said he won't address those potential pratfalls because he's viewed them as non-issues the entire season and he's not about to change an approach that has -- you might have noticed -- worked fairly well.

"I think my players would think I was out of my mind if I changed it," Kelly said. "It's worked for us 11 times. We'll see if it's good enough for a 12th time here."

Even the rivalry angle doesn't much provoke the Ducks. Offensive tackle Bo Thran is the only Ducks starter from the state of Oregon -- Gresham, to be specific. So he should know the rivalry. Yet if he holds any special animosity for the Beavers, it doesn't show.

"I don't think we need that," he said of extra motivation. "We're 11-0. We've followed this attitude of 'Win the day' the whole way there. We just need to stick to that attitude and keep putting in the work we need to put in and we'll see where we are on Saturday."

Thran, by the way, is a serial party-pooper when it comes to rivalry games, having previously yawned at the Pac-10 blog's questions before a showdown with the hated Washington Huskies.

"All I'm worried about is having a good day of practice," he explained.

Really? He hasn't even thought about playing, say, Auburn, for the national title? Or maybe leaned forward on the sofa when an Auburn game was on TV?

"I haven't even seen an Auburn game this year," he said. "I've seen Cam Newton highlights. That's about it. Whatever has been on 'SportsCenter.'"

Eureka! That's a tiny crack. So Auburn is not nameless and faceless to the Ducks.

But neither is Oregon State, particularly for a Ducks offensive lineman. Thran may be flipping through a magazine or filing his fingernails while listening to boring questions about rivalry games and special motivation, but he seems to awaken when asked about what he sees on the Beavers' defense. Tackle Stephen Paea, you see, is hard to miss.

"Big No. 54," Thran said. "We've got to be able to handle him up front. They have great backers, too, but the big thing we need to handle is Paea. He's a great player. He's strong. He has moves. He has great footwork. He'll be the best defensive lineman we've played all year."

Paea is the sort of player who can penetrate and disrupt the Ducks' spread-option game. But if the Ducks neutralize him, it could be a big day for the offense.

It's hard to believe, though, that the Ducks are so completely living in the present. Don't they entertain dreams that now appear so close to reality they can almost touch it? What about when they go to bed at night, in the moments just before sleep: Don't they envision themselves taking the field to play for the championship?

"I'm probably thinking about screwing something up in practice that day and not wanting to screw it up tomorrow," Thran said.