Thursday Night NCAA: Oregon State at Oregon
by Matt Severance - 12/2/2009
The final Thursday night game of college football's regular season is the best matchup of the season on that night and certainly has the most on the line: the 113th Civil War between No. 16 Oregon State and No. 7 Oregon is a winner-take-all for a Rose Bowl berth opposite Ohio State. It's the first time in the Civil War's history that a Rose Bowl spot is on the line for both teams.
OSU hasn't played in the Rose Bowl in 45 years, while Oregon - a 9.5-point favorite on BetUS -- hasn't made the trip in 15.
The Beavers were in this spot last year, as a win would have gotten them to Pasadena, but the Ducks (who were coming off a bye) routed Oregon State in its house, 65-38 - the most points a Beaver team has ever allowed. In fairness in that game, OSU without star RB Jacquizz Rodgers its best offensive player last year and again this year. That doesn't really explain the defense, however.
Don't expect Oregon State to turn the ball over four times as in last year's game. These Beavers have committed just eight turnovers this season, the second-lowest total in the nation. But they don't force them, either, with just 12 takeaways.
At first glance, most would assume the quarterback edge would go to Oregon's Jeremiah Masoli in this one. Masoli, who threw for 274 yards and three TDs against the Beavers last year, has been playing as well as anyone of late, and he seems to step it up against the top competition: He is averaging 22 of 35 passing for 273 yards against California, USC, Stanford and Arizona. Masoli also is averaging 5.9 yards per rush, which is better than stud running backs like Stanford's Toby Gerhart and the Beavers' Rodgers. Oregon has scored at least 42 points an all seven of the Pac-10 games that Masoli started.
But OSU senior QB Sean Canfield is one of four quarterbacks in the nation with a completion percentage above 70 percent. He hasn't completed less than 60 percent in a game this year. Canfield has thrown for more than 300 yards against Arizona, Cal, UCLA and USC. Ducks coach Chip Kelly says Canfield is the best QB that his team has seen so far - high praise considering Oregon faced Boise State's Kellen Moore.
Meanwhile, both teams have stellar young running backs. Oregon's LaMicheal James stepped in when LeGarrette Blount was suspended (since reinstated but has yet to play - it's unclear if he will Thursday) and rushed for 1,310 yards, setting a new Pac-10 record for a freshman. He broke the conference freshman record of Rodgers, who ran for 1,253 yards last season. Quizz has been even better this year, running for 1,313 yards and 19 touchdowns. He also has caught 67 passes for 436 yards and a score.
Whichever team scores the first touchdown seems likely to win. Oregon and OSU have played a combined 22 games this season, and in 21 of those the team that scored the first
TD won. Meanwhile, Oregon has scored six non-offensive TDs this year (defense, special teams), while the Beavers have none. However, Oregon State is the last Pac-10 team to win at Autzen Stadium, in 2007. In fact, OSU has won eight of its past 10 conference road games.
If you noticed I haven't mentioned defense much yet, that's because there probably won't be much in this one - the total is 63 on BetUS.
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