Its hopes of making the College Football Playoff dashed with last Saturday’s 31-28 upset loss at Arizona State, No. 14 Oregon fell eight spots in the rankings, and the Ducks must try to regroup for their regular-season finale Saturday afternoon.
That should be made easier because it’s the annual Civil War rivalry game with the Oregon State Beavers.
Oregon (9-2, 7-1 in Pac-12) still has plenty of season to go. Win or lose Saturday at home at Eugene, Ore., the Ducks are still guaranteed a place in the conference championship game on Dec. 6. Win that game and the Rose Bowl is in play.
But it all has to start with a win over the Beavers, who lost a heartbreaker at Washington State last Saturday, 54-53, on a Cougars touchdown with two seconds left in the game. And Oregon State (5-6, 4-4) can become bowl eligible for the first time since 2013 with a win.
Oregon is 65-47-10 all-time against the Beavers and has dominated the series of late, with two straight blowout wins and victories in 10 of the last 11 games. The Ducks have been ranked in the Top 25 in all but the two most recent meetings.
The last time Oregon State won in Eugene, Ore., was 2007.
It will be the second Civil War for Beavers head coach Jonathan Smith, a former Oregon State quarterback who was 2-2 as a player in the rivalry, and the Ducks’ Mario Cristobal.
Oregon State “is a really good football team with a lot to play for. We have a really good football team, a lot to play for,” Cristobal told the Oregon athletics website. “And that’s how rivalry games should be. It’ll be extremely intense. It’ll be extremely physical, and I don’t think either side would want it any other way.”
Smith said Monday that he has a lot of respect for the Oregon program.
“Coach Cristobal’s done a great job. Got some big-time players, which it starts with the quarterback. One of the guys in this league I’ve got the most respect for.”
That’s senior Justin Herbert, whose 30 touchdown passes are second in the conference. Herbert has only thrown five interceptions, but four of those have come in the last three games and two came Saturday at Arizona State in the second half.
“They can run the ball, but they’ve got an elite quarterback,” Smith said of the Ducks. “Defensively, great at taking the ball away.”
The Beavers feature wide receiver Isaiah Hodgins, the Pac-12 leader in receiving touchdowns with 13. Oregon’s secondary was burned time and again by the big play against Arizona State, so the Ducks figure to go with more than single coverage against Hodgins.
“The most important thing is, after having so much progress at that position (defensive back) and in coverage, you stick by your guys,” Cristobal said. “You ride with your guys. They (the Sun Devils) made some really big plays, there’s no doubt about it. (But) it’s very correctable.”
Oregon figures to have starting center Jake Hanson available after he missed the second half with an injury last week. Also, Cristobal said wide receiver Jaylon Redd and his nine touchdowns is likely to play after he was unavailable for the Arizona State game.
–Field Level Media