Who will win the Roses?


EUGENE, Ore. -- It's going to be crisp and dry for the biggest Civil War ever.

By now, everyone with even a middling interest in college football knows the stakes: The winner goes to the Rose Bowl and plays Ohio State.

Suffice it to say, the recession in Oregon recently ended for purveyors of roses and fine rose products.

The Ducks, 9-2 overall and 7-1 in the Pac-10, are ranked seventh in the BCS standings. The Beavers (8-3, 6-2) are 16th. This is just the third time in the 112-game series that both teams are nationally ranked.

The second time was last year, when the Beavers needed a victory over the Ducks to earn their first trip to the Rose Bowl since 1965. They didn't get it. In fact, they got whipped 65-38 and gave up nearly 700 yards in front of their home fans in Reser Stadium.

"It was very disappointing," Oregon State coach Mike Riley said. "We're on to a new year. Hopefully we can gain some thoughts about that game and use them for the preparation for this game both strategically and mentally."

The other time both teams were ranked was 2000, a banner year for Northwest football. That season, the No. 8 Beavers prevented the No. 5 Ducks from playing in the Rose Bowl with a 23-13 victory in Corvallis. The win earned the Beavers a berth in the Fiesta Bowl, where they dismantled Notre Dame, and sent the Ducks other bitter rival -- Washington -- to the Rose Bowl.

Despite that unhappy result for the Ducks, Oregon went on to beat Texas in the Holiday Bowl, the Huskies beat Purdue in the Granddaddy and three teams from the Northwest finished ranked in the top-seven of the final AP poll.

Ah, but the dusty pass is not relevant, as both coaches will tell you.

Things like this are: Only three times has an opponent gained at least 20 yards on a running play against Oregon State's defense in 2009. Oregon running back LaMichael James leads the country with 18 rushes of at least 20 yards (that's courtesy of ESPN.com's Stats & Analysis).

So if James breaks a long one -- or two -- know that the Ducks are winning that battle of trends.

The redzone is also an issue. Oregon is lethal when it reaches the redzone, and that is where a generally good Beavers defense has faltered this season. The Ducks have scored 34 touchdowns in 46 redzone opportunities, and that 73.9 TD percentage is ninth-best in the nation. Meanwhile, the Beavers have allowed opponents to score TDs on 26 of 33 redzone penetrations, and that 78.8 TD percentage is worst in the nation -- 120th.

On the plus side, Oregon State is outstanding on third down, ranking ninth in the nation and first in the Pac-10 with a 48.4 conversion percentage.

So the Beavers best defense might be just stringing together first downs and keeping Ducks quarterback Jeremiah Masoli and running back LaMichael James on the sidelines.

In 1983, the Ducks and Beavers both entered the Civil War with losing records and no national respect. That rain-soaked game, soon to be known as the "Toilet Bowl," ended in a 0-0 tie and featured 11 fumbles, five interceptions and four missed field goals.

Obviously, this one is much different. One set of players will walk out with roses clenched between their teeth.

And the losing team will feel worse than it ever has in the rivalry.