There's little reason to believe that Oregon's defense will slow down Oregon State's offense led by bruising running back Ryan Nall in Saturday's 120th Civil War at Reser Stadium.
The Ducks are simply too battered and young on defense to do so despite the unit's strong showing during last week's 30-28 upset win at then-No. 11 Utah.
Where Oregon should have the advantage in the game that kicks off at 1 p.m. is when the Ducks' balanced and potent offense, led by freshman quarterback Justin Herbert and re-energized junior running back Royce Freeman, is on the field against the Beavers' defense.
OSU's defense has held its own mostly against one-dimensional teams, such as Utah (19-14 loss) and Stanford (26-15 loss). Teams with strong passing and rushing attacks have eaten the Beavers' defense alive.
Oregon fits that mold.
A case could be made that OSU's passing defense is solid. The Beavers rank fourth in the Pac-12 in passing defense (211 yards allowed per game) and have surrendered just 13 touchdown passes (fourth fewest in the conference). OSU on Oct. 8 did a number on California quarterback Davis Webb, holding him to 113 yards passing with zero touchdowns and one interception on 45 attempts (23 completions) during a 47-44 overtime win at Reser.
But that could be viewed as more of a fluke buoyed by the fact that Cal rushed for 317 yards and four touchdowns on the Beavers. Other strong passing teams have feasted on OSU's defense. Washington State junior quarterback Luke Falk threw for 415 yards and five touchdowns against OSU. Washington sophomore Jake Browning passed for 291 and three touchdowns. Colorado redshirt freshman Steven Montez racked up 293 yards and three touchdowns.
Doing to Herbert what OSU did to Web will require slowing down Freeman and the Ducks' rushing attack. Teams simply have not shut down Oregon's passing attack over the years when the running game is rolling beyond maybe limiting passing yards simply because UO leans on its running game.
The Ducks' rushing attack ignites the entire scheme because it sets the pace of play Oregon seeks to achieve while also creating enviable passing situations.
Nothing OSU has done this season indicates it will slow down UO's running game. OSU ranks 10th in the conference in rushing defense while UO leads the conference in rushing.
Freeman needs 161 rushing yards to reach 1,000, and will likely get it. If UO simply gets 225 rushing yards, that will open the floodgates for Herbert and the Beavers will be toast.
Herbert has had mediocre games against teams like No. 6 Washington, at No. 12 USC and home against Stanford. In those three games, Herbert passed for five touchdowns with three interceptions. However, those teams slowed down UO's running game nad happen to possess three of the five top ranked defenses in the conference.
Teams ranked below that threshold have been at Herbert's mercy. He lit up California, Arizona State and Utah for 13 touchdown passes with one interceptions. He threw for six touchdowns at Cal and he tied a program record with 489 yards passing against Arizona State. Last week against a solid Utah defense, Herbert had four total touchdowns (three passing, one rushing) in the second half.
All of that spell trouble for the Beavers.
A quick look at OSU:
Oregon at Oregon State
When: 1 p.m., Reser Stadium, Corvallis.
T.V.: Pac-12 Networks.
Betting line: Oregon by 3.
Records: Oregon (4-7, 2-6 Pac-12), OSU (3-8, 2-6).
Coaches: Oregon's Mark Helfrich (37-15); OSU's Gary Andersen (5-18 at OSU, 54-56 overall).
Last week: Oregon won 30-28 at No. 21 Utah. Oregon State won 42-10 over Arizona.
Beavers' impact players: Nall will certainly do damage to Oregon. The question is whether sophomore quarterback Marcus McMaryion can duplicate what he did during a 42-10 win over Arizona last week.
McMaryion delivered by far his best performance with 265 passing yards and five touchdowns with no interceptions. In five prior outings McMaryion threw for four touchdowns with five interceptions.
The Ducks' defense is vulnerable against just about anything so it's reasonable to consider that McMaryion would have a strong game. If he does, that would place even more pressure on Oregon's offense to get into the 40s in order to win.
OSU's receivers haven't exactly a threatening bunch. Then again, mediocre quarterback play hasn't helped.
McMaryion had his monster game minus receivers Victor Bolden Jr. and Seth Collins. Collins is reportedly still out while Bolden could return. He would bring an added boost and compliment junior Jordan Villamin, who had six receptions for 124 yards and a touchdown against Arizona.
On defense, senior inside linebacker Caleb Saulo ranks third in the conference with 7.9 tackles per game while junior inside linebacker Manase Hungalu ranks tied for fourth with 7.4. Sophomore outside linebacker Bright Ugwoegbu has 5 1/2 sacks and ranks tied for sixth in the conference with 11 tackles for loss.
Fear factor (five-point scale): 4. On paper, Oregon has got this.
But the Civil War rarely plays out as expected. The Ducks are young, have a weak defense and are playing on the road against a hungry Beavers team that must smell blood in the stream.
While real life Beavers are herbivores, the OSU version would like nothing more than to feast on these Ducks for the first time since 2007.
OSU will play the Civil War as if it were a bowl game, so if the Ducks come unprepared, they will lose. If Oregon truly turned the corner as a team last week against Utah, it will roll.
Prediction: Oregon 45, OSU 30. The Ducks will clear 500 yards of total offense and put way too much pressure on OSU to keep up. If Oregon State plays like it did against Cal, or McMaryion plays like he did against Arizona, the Beavers will be in position to steal this game. That said, the Ducks could be playing for their jobs of their coaching staff and are coming off of a huge showing at Utah. The team on display that day beats any team OSU has put on the field all season long. Smart money is on those Ducks showing up in Corvallis.