EUGENE, Ore. -- It's all come down to this. Two teams that had serious setbacks in the early half of the season will battle for the Pac-10 championship at Autzen Stadium.
And would you really want it any other way?
For the first time in history the Civil War winner will be guaranteed a spot in the Rose Bowl against Ohio State. Two teams that the rest of the college football ignored for most of their respective histories will take center stage on Thursday night in front of a national TV audience.
Welcome to the new age of the Civil War.
Bragging rights are no longer the only stakes put up in this rivalry. They'll be playing for the obvious prize - the Rose Bowl - but also for so much more. Recruiting. Donor backing. Future ticket sales. A winning football team will even do wonders for enrollment, which has increased for both schools since they started winning on the gridiron.
The only thing more improbable than the fact that two of the Pac-10's least winning programs will be playing for a trip to Pasadena is the way that each of them got here.
Most fans wrote the Ducks off after the debacle on opening night in Boise followed by two straight ugly games. There was talk that the spread offense no longer worked, and that Jeremiah Masoli wasn't the right man at quarterback.
Up the road in Corvallis, the Beavers struggled with pass protection, giving up five sacks in back-to-back games, and also will pass defense, as those same opponents both threw for more than 300 yards. That left OSU in familiar territory at 2-2.
But through a great amount of resiliency both the Ducks and the Beavers began to steadily improve, all the way to the point where we are now. These are clearly the best two teams in the conference.
And even though they do it in different ways, they have put up very similar numbers. In scoring offense Oregon leads the Pac-10 at 37.7 points per game. OSU is third at 32.4. The Beavs are fourth in scoring defense allowing 22.2. The Ducks, fifth with 22.7. Total offense - OSU is second at 422.2 yards per game, while Oregon is third at 418.8. In total defense the Ducks are third allowing 324, and the Beavs are fifth with 340.5.
It will truly be a Civl War for the ages, and for fans on each side it will be a game they remember for years to come. The question is, who is going to be the group that wants to remember it?
Brian Elder - With two teams that have looked so good on offense in the recent weeks there are sure to be lots of points lighting up the scoreboard. But as often is the case in that situation, the team that can dig in on defense and pick up some critical stops will win. I think that team is going to be Oregon. The Duck defense is a tough matchup for the OSU offense. Oregon has a lot of speed at linebacker, which should be able to limit the effectiveness of the fly-sweep that the Beavers love to use. Another area where the Ducks have excelled is putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks. OSU has been better at protecting Sean Canfield lately, but the Ducks have the fastest, most athletic defense the Beavs have faced since the Arizona game clear back in September. As for the Beaver defense, I think that they will be better against Oregon's rushing attack this year (they couldn't really get any worse). But I think the Ducks have quite a bit of success throwing the ball too. OSU was carved up in the secondary by each of the spread teams it has played this season, and the mobility of Jeremiah Masoli will continue to cause the Beaver defense fits. I think this is a back and forth battle in the first half, but down the stretch I think Oregon gets a little breathing room, setting off a wild celebration in the stands at Autzen. OREGON - 48, OSU - 30
Tom Ward - The Ducks are averaging over 42 points per in conference games in which Jeremiah Masoli has started. But the real bottom line here is that this game is at Autzen, where Oregon has won nine straight and is virtually unbeatable right now, including 6-0 this season. LaMichael James and Jaquizz Rodgers figure to cancel each other out, assuming Oregon State can do what few others have been able to do this season--stop James. Oregon's speed on defense should limit OSU enough times to give the Ducks some cushion on the scoreboard. The Beavers will make it a game, but look for the Ducks to go Rose Bowling for the first time since the 1994 season. OREGON - 47, OSU - 31
Nick Krupke - Based on the overall standings for the inner sports office predictions, I am very tempted to pick the Beavers and bask in the glow of my own personal victory, but I just can’t. Even Vegas agrees, the Ducks are heavy ten-point favorites. Quite a big line for such a heated rivalry. Oregon just feels like the right pick to win the War for the Roses. It will be a teeter-totter of a first half. Oregon will hold the edge, 28-24. The Ducks will then throw a wicked one-two punch to open up the 2nd half and quickly jump out to a three score lead and never look back. It might be time for a kickoff or punt return for TD. LeGarrette Blount will get at least one carry in slop time in front of the home crowd that can hardly stay on the last sliver of their frigid seats at Autzen. The road team has won the past two Civil Wars, but Thursday, it will revert back to the old days and home field advantage will be too much for OSU to push through. OREGON - 48, OSU - 34
Dirk Weishaar - Don't look for much defense in this one. These offenses have been unstoppable lately and should continue to be on Thursday night. The Beavers have a very balanced attack with Sean Canfield and Jacquizz Rodgers, while the Ducks haven't had anyone slow down Jeremiah Masoli and LaMichael James. The OSU offense will attack Oregon's biggest weakness - it's run defense. Quizz Rodgers is one of the best running backs in the nation, and I don't think the Ducks can stop him. But the good news for Oregon? I don't think the Beavers will have any better luck trying to stop LaMichael James. This game is going to be an absolute battle that will live up to every bit of the hype. It's also going to be a nail-biter, but in the end I think the Duck fans will be the ones left holding onto their roses in the stands. OREGON - 52, OSU - 49
In the final week of the regular season Tom, Brian and Nick are all still tied for the lead at 12-4. Dirk tried to make up ground by picking Arizona, but wound up falling back to 9-7. Kudos to Tom for hitting the final score of the Oregon - Arizona game right on the head. So that has given us a little inspiration. Whoever is the closest to the final score of this game will get a bonus point to be crowned the champion of the season's picks.