I had a life-long Duck fan tell me he’d rather wreck Oregon State’s chances of playing in a Rose Bowl, than have Oregon go play in that same Rose Bowl.
I saw hundreds of Beavers fans watch in sheer delight as Stanford’s overtime field goal sailed through the uprights last Saturday at Autzen Stadium, effectively ending Oregon’s hopes of returning to the BCS title game for the 2nd time in 3 years. (The Ducks can still reach that game in Miami, but would need a LOT of help.)
Those two stories tell me that after 115 Civil Wars, the game may no longer be about who wins, but about who doesn’t lose if you can follow that logic. Ducks fans like winning the game, but really like that Beaver fans haven’t celebrated a Civil War win in 4 years.
Beaver fans would love to win on Saturday. But is it for the pride of winning? An improved Bowl slot? A chance for a 10-win season? Or is it to send Oregon and its fans plummeting to a low-tier bowl game?
Hit the rewind button to that conversation I had with the Duck fan: I responded with a nod of agreement, and my own anecdote. “I totally get that,” I said. “I’d rather the Giants not play in the Super Bowl, than have the Eagles win it.” Now that is what you call pure hatred for another team, and its fan base.
And that’s where we are this week as we approach Saturday’s kick-off in Corvallis. (12 p.m. on the Pac-12 Networks).
Chip Kelly’s only loss in this game was as Mike Bellotti’s 1st-year offensive coordinator back in 2007. He can make it a record of 4-0 as the head coach.
Mike Riley is 4-7 in his 11 Civil Wars as head coach in Corvallis. His father, who passed away before the season started, coached in this game as an OSU assistant. Think Mike has a little added desire to win this one?
I’ll give you my prediction in a minute. Here’s a hint; one team will win. And one teams’ fan base will probably feel more relief than joy from that win. They will derive more pleasure from the pain being felt by the rival fans. And isn’t that what a rivalry is all about?
The Ducks have become to the Beavers, what the Yankees have become to the Mets.
But this year there is a twist; Unlike the Mets, the Beavers are actually good now: 10-win good potentially. At-large BCS good possibly. And they’ll host the game. And it’s only one week after the Ducks suffered, perhaps, their most demoralizing loss in program history. Oregon controlled everything, from the conference race to the BCS title game. Now the Ducks control nothing.
To some extent, the Beavers have more say in the Bowl season coming into Saturday’s game. They can thrust themselves into an upper echelon bowl game, essentially ending any chance Oregon may have had of reaching a 4th-consecutive BCS game.
I wonder what the members of Beaver Nation would find more enjoyable? The win? Or causing that kind of damage to the Ducks? Actually I think we already know the answer to that.
Welcome to rivalry week, Civil War-style!
MY PREDICTION: Ducks: 36 Beavers: 23
Oregon hasn’t lost two in a row since the BCS title game against Auburn in January of 2011, and the season opener to LSU the following September. (And does that really count as losing two-in-a-row?)
Not a coach in college football gets his players to focus, and then re-focus like Chip Kelly. Until I see the Ducks lose two-in-a-row in the same season, I can’t pick against them.
That Yankees-Mets gap I mentioned earlier is closing for the Beavers, but it’s not quite there yet. Close game into the 4th. Ducks pull away.