Oregon and Oregon State are a study in opposites


Oregon and Oregon State are a study in opposites

CORVALLIS, Ore. (AP) Separated by only about 45 miles, Oregon and Oregon State couldn't be more different when it comes to football.

The flashy Ducks meet the more understated Beavers on Saturday in the 116th Civil War rivalry game, putting the spotlight on the contrasting programs.

With the help of mega-booster and Nike co-founder Phil Knight, Oregon is known for its state-of-the-art facilities and a myriad of flashy uniform combinations. The No. 5 Ducks have backed up their swagger in recent years by winning, going 44-7 under coach Chip Kelly.

On the other side is No. 16 Oregon State, nicknamed ``Lunch Pail U'' for the team's hard-working blue-collar mentality - which has helped it stage a striking turnaround this season.

Beavers coach Mike Riley and his Oregon counterpart seem as opposite as their teams.

Kelly, a no-nonsense New Englander who runs his team almost like a business, closed his practices and made injuries classified information. Known for his ``Chipisms,'' sayings like ``Every game is our Super Bowl,'' sometimes his approach is regarded as obstinate.

Riley grew up in Corvallis as the son of a former Beavers assistant coach and was a star quarterback at Corvallis High. He lets reporters and boosters into practice, and he openly discusses injuries. If there's a knock on him, it's that he's seen as too soft.

But there is a great deal of mutual respect among the two divergent programs.

``Oh gosh, I always think Mike Riley does a great job, I really do. It's not lipspeak, not coachspeak, it's not because it's the right thing to say. I think he has a good offensive mind,'' Oregon defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti said.

Riley often praises Kelly and points to the up-tempo Ducks as altering landscape of college football: ``They're talented and well-coached,'' he said.

For three weeks in October, both Oregon and Oregon State were the highest ranked teams from the same state in the AP Top 25.

The Ducks (10-1, 7-1) appeared to be cruising toward a berth in the BCS championship game until a 17-14 overtime loss to Stanford last weekend at Autzen Stadium.

The loss - which toppled Oregon from the top of the AP rankings - kept the Ducks from clinching the Pac-12's northern division for a spot in the conference title game on Nov. 30. Oregon has won the last three Pac-12 championships.

To get to the league's title game, Oregon will have to beat the Beavers (8-2, 6-2) and hope that No. 15 UCLA (9-2, 6-2) beats No. 11 Stanford (9-2, 7-1) in Los Angeles on Saturday. By virtue of their victory over the Ducks, Stanford holds the head-to-head edge if they finish with the same division record.

The Bruins have already clinched the Pac-12 South. The winner of the Pac-12 title game gets a Rose Bowl berth - unless the winner is tapped for a place in the national championship.

Oregon can still be in the mix for the BCS title game, but the Ducks need USC (7-4, 5-4) to beat top-ranked and undefeated Notre Dame on Saturday. The Trojans, who have lost three of their last four games, will start redshirt freshman Max Wittek because senior quarterback Matt Barkley is nursing a right shoulder injury.

But even if Oregon doesn't play in the conference championship, the Ducks could be an at-large selection for one of the other BCS bowls, a scenario that seems likely if they defeat Oregon State and finish the season with just one loss.

The Beavers, meanwhile, can already count this season a major success.

They were 3-9 after last season, with some fans calling for Riley's dismissal. The team was picked to finish last in the Pac-12 North in the preseason media poll.

Oregon State opened with a 10-7 victory over No. 13 Wisconsin and rolled from there, winning its first six games for the first time since 1907, when the team only played a total of six.

Oregon State was among the first teams in the league to become bowl eligible, and the Oregonian reported that no other Pac-8/Pac-10/Pac-12 team has recovered from as bad a season to play in a bowl the next year.

The Beavers' only losses are at Washington and Stanford. They routed California 62-14 going into the Civil War.

Win or lose on Saturday, Oregon State's regular season isn't over. The Beavers host Nicholls State on Dec. 1 - a game that was postponed because of the threat Hurricane Isaac posed to the school's Thibodeaux, La., campus just before the season opened on Sept. 1.

But before the bowl bids and the league championships and even Nicholls State, there's the Civil War. Even Oregon players, fed the mantra that no game is bigger than the next, can't help feeling a little extra motivation.

``For fans it's a rivalry game, for us it's another Super Bowl Saturday,'' Ducks defensive lineman Michael Clay said. ``But you don't want them to have bragging rights the rest of the year so we're going to go out and try to get a W.''

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Wizards drop to precarious position in close Eastern Conference playoff race

Wizards drop to precarious position in close Eastern Conference playoff race

As if they needed a reminder, the Wizards saw firsthand on Wednesday night just how much can change in a short period of time in the Eastern Conference playoff race where just two games separate the No. 3 and No. 6 teams.

That No. 6 team is now your Washington Wizards, who began the day in fourth place but lost their first game in four days on the same night both the Cavs and Sixers won theirs. 

The Wizards lost to the Spurs on Wednesday and managed only 90 points, their fewest since Jan. 22. It was a lackluster performance in a game the Wizards needed to treat with urgency. 


The Spurs sure did.

"We've gotta have a better mentality coming into games," guard Bradley Beal said. "The Spurs were fighting for playoff seeding just like we were."

The Wizards have now lost six of their last 10, yet all those games have come against teams currently holding playoff spots. Considering John Wall reamins out with a left knee injury, it's hard to fault them too much when they are staying afloat just fine in the big picture.

The problem is that the closer they get to the end of the season, the more these losses are magnified. They amount to missed opportunities, some bigger than others.

That was not lost on Beal, who considered the alternative. If the Wizards had beaten the Spurs, they would be sitting in fourth, two spots higher, and just a game-and-a-half out of third.

"Every time we have a chance to move up, we take two steps back," Beal lamented.


The Wizards are in a high stakes part of the standings where plenty is in the balance. They are fighting for home court advantage, something they would get in the third or fourth spots. And who they match up with will be paramount.

By falling to sixth, the Wizards are currently in line to play the Cleveland Cavaliers. Though the Pacers and Sixers are also good teams, they don't have LeBron James. Avoiding him and the Cavs would be ideal for the Wizards.

Beal has even bigger worries than that. He noted after the loss in San Antonio that they could fall even further if they aren't careful. They are now just a game-and-a-half up on the seventh-place Heat. 

"We've gotta realize what's at stake, man. The way we're going, we could keep dropping and mess around and be eighth. We've gotta do whatever it takes to win," he said.

The Wizards should be fine, if the previous two months are any indication. But Wednesday night was another example of how precarious things are for them this season in the tightly-packed Eastern Conference.


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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: How does Brooks Orpik really impact the Caps?

NBC Sports Washington

Capitals Faceoff Podcast: How does Brooks Orpik really impact the Caps?

No player on the Caps gets more scrutiny than defenseman Brooks Orpik. While the analytics aren't kind when he's on the ice, we got to see what the Caps looked like without him when he was scratched against the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday and...well, his loss was noticeable.

JJ Regan and Tarik El-Bashir discuss what Orpik's true impact on the Capitals really is both on and off the ice on the Capitals Faceoff Podcast. Plus, they also talk about John Carlson's monster season and Barry Trotz's new strategy for the goalies.

Listen to the latest episode in the player below or here on the Capitals Faceoff Podcast page.