Oregon State coach Mike Riley and Oregon coach Mark Helfrich don’t need to be schooled about the significance of the Civil War to the state.
Riley grew up in Corvallis, Ore., and was the son of an assistant coach for the OSU Beavers, while Helfrich was raised in Coos Bay, on the southern Oregon coast.
“I was an Oregon fan and certainly growing up there was that back-and-forth in the community that will happen after this game, and you wanted to be on the right side of that, for sure,” Helfrich said this week about rivalry game against the Beavers, which will be played today.
But Helfrich had bigger things on his mind. He is tasked with righting the No. 12 Ducks (9-2, 6-2) after their deflating 42-16 loss at Arizona last weekend.
Oregon has lost two of its last three to drop out of the race for the national championship, a BCS bowl and the Pac-12 title game. But the stunned Ducks are still looking for their sixth straight 10-win season, along with their sixth straight victory over their in-state rivals.
Oregon State (6-5, 4-4) is looking to avoid a fifth consecutive loss, which would be its longest losing streak since the Beavers dropped six straight to conclude the 1997 season. The Beavers are coming off a 69-27 loss at home to Washington, which Riley described as “horrible.”
“I would have to say that’s as out of character as I’ve seen us play, ever,” he said.
Oregon State started the season on a low note, losing at home to FCS school Eastern Washington. But then the Beavers rebounded with six straight wins and there were hopes for a strong finish in the tough Pac-12 North behind Stanford and Oregon. Now they are one of nine Pac-12 teams vying for a spot in the seven conference bowl games.
GAME OF THE WEEK
Alabama at Auburn
It took a miraculous victory over Georgia, but Auburn has arrived at the Iron Bowl with an SEC championship at stake. Winner goes to the conference title game, and if it’s the Crimson Tide, the league’s national championship hopes remain alive. The Tigers’ path has obstacles, like undefeated Florida State and Ohio State. Auburn is the SEC’s top running team but that plays into Alabama’s defensive strength. The Tigers will need to step up the passing game with quarterback Nick Marshall. Nobody in college football over the last few years has been better at big-game hunting than the Tide. Alabama’s offensive line has developed nicely over the season and allows the Tide to dominate second halves.
UPSET OF THE WEEK?
USC over UCLA
The Pac-12 title game is set and neither of these teams are there, but this one drips with intrigue, especially on the Trojans’ side. Does a victory put more pressure on USC athletic director Pat Haden to remove the interim title from Ed Orgeron? The Bruins have split their last six games and have fallen from the top 25. Southern California has won five straight.
OTHERS TO WATCH
Clemson at South Carolina
The Gamecocks have the momentum in the series, but Clemson has more on the line. The Tigers are part of the one-loss group that lines up behind the undefeated teams, hoping enough havoc occurs to get into the national title hunt. Failing that, Clemson looms as an attractive at-large selection for a BCS (probably Orange) bowl. South Carolina will scoreboard-watch. Playing at the same time is Missouri against Texas A&M. If Mizzou falls, the Gamecocks go to the SEC title game.
Ohio State at Michigan
Is this rivalry strong enough to deliver a shocker? It has happened before. An average Michigan team (by Wolverines standards) took out undefeated Buckeyes teams three times in the 1990s, including the great 1996 team that appeared headed to the national title. But the Wolverines have lost four of six and have rushed for a total of 130 yards in the past four games.
Arizona at Arizona State
The Pac-12 championship game is set – Sun Devils vs. Stanford. But this game is for home field. If Arizona State beats its in-state rival, the Pac-12 title game will be played in Tempe. Lose, and the game is at Stanford.
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