Pac-12: Civil War

A Civil War gallery to spark memories

November, 27, 2013
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Oregon and Oregon State fans both can share some enjoyment of this ESPN.com photo gallery, though they probably won't share the same emotions over each photo.

From Oregon QB Bill Musgrave in 1987, to Oregon State QB Terrance Bryant in 1998, through the Beavers' big win in 2000, and the Ducks' triumph in 2010, each photo surely will spark memories, both pleasant and unpleasant.

It's worth checking out.

State of Oregon takes center stage

October, 22, 2013
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If you catch the state of Oregon collectively lip-syncing to the will.i.am/Britney Spears song "Scream and Shout" this week -- "All eyes on us! All eyes on us!" -- it's understandable.

Oregon, our 27th most populous state, with one tenth the population of fellow Pac-12 state California, one that produced just 13 FBS football signees last February, is the center of the college football universe on Saturday.

[+] EnlargeSean Mannion
Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY SportsQB Sean Mannion and Oregon State look to win their seventh straight, but it won't be easy against Stanford.
First, No. 12 UCLA visits No. 3 Oregon, with ESPN's College GameDay setting up shop. This is a nice test for the Ducks, one that should allow them, if they win, to climb past Florida State into the all-important second spot in the BCS standings. And, obviously, the Bruins could make a national statement in Year 2 under Jim Mora with a victory.

Then, the nightcap just 45 miles down the road in Corvallis: No. 6 Stanford, the top one-loss team in the BCS standings, visits No. 25 Oregon State. With a win, the Cardinal could set up a marquee North Division match up with Oregon on Nov. 7. Or the Beavers could announce themselves as North contenders, and perhaps hint at another high-stakes Civil War matchup to end the season, not unlike 2009.

If we use the BCS standings as our rankings (the Beavers are No. 28 in the AP poll), it's the first time ranked Oregon and Oregon State teams have played host to ranked visitors on the same Saturday in state history.

Of course, there are other marquee games. No. 10 Texas Tech, unbeaten but untested, visits No. 15 Oklahoma, where it is 100 percent certain Bob Stoops is grumpy. And No. 21 South Carolina, one of the SEC's reeling powers, faces No. 5 Missouri, the unbeaten upstart from the Big 12 that was hopelessly overmatched by the SEC grind (or so almost everyone thought).

Give those games a nice pat on the head. And revert your admiring gaze back to the Beaver state (apologies Ducks, but, well, that's where you live).

A few decades ago, the very notion of the state being even worth a glance from the college football nation would have been difficult to imagine. In 1971, the Beavers began a streak of 28 consecutive losing seasons. From 1965 to 1988, the Ducks never won more than six games.

When Oregon won the Rose Bowl after the 2011 season, it was the first victory in the Granddaddy by either since 1942. The Beavers last Rose Bowl appearance came in 1965.

But since 2000, both programs have been regular inhabitants in the national rankings. The Beavers won the Fiesta Bowl over Notre Dame after the 2000 season and finished ranked fourth, the first of five Top 25 rankings in the final AP poll, including No. 20 in 2012.

And, obviously, Oregon has been on a bit of a roll of late, finishing ranked for the past six seasons in a row, including top-four rankings in the past three.

The Ducks and Beavers, however, presently have different bars over which they are trying to jump.

Oregon is smack in the middle of the national-title hunt, where there is no margin for error. So far, the Ducks have dominated every foe. Their closest game was a 21-point win at Washington.

Oregon State started the season nationally ranked by faceplanting with an opening loss to Eastern Washington, an FCS team. In that game, the defense was abysmal. Yet since then, the Beavers have clawed their way to six consecutive victories and are a win away from jumping back into the national polls. Beating Stanford, in fact, could immediately propel them into the teens, not the 20s.

And that defense that got torched by EWU has held the past three Pac-12 foes to an average of 19.3 points per game.

There's obviously a lot at stake for all four teams, but an interesting subplot is the QBs from the Oregon schools. Ducks QB Marcus Mariota is No. 1 in ESPN's total quarterback rating (QBR) and tops among Heisman Trophy candidates. Beavers QB Sean Mannion leads the nation in passing and touchdowns. He could legitimize his Heisman candidacy with a big game against a rugged Stanford defense.

So there's a good reason all eyes will be on the state of Oregon this weekend. Both games will have significant national and Pac-12 ramifications.

And if the home teams win, it would become reasonable to speculate upon the possibility of another epic Civil War on Nov. 29 in Eugene, one that again would captivate the college football nation.

Final: Oregon 48, Oregon State 24

November, 24, 2012
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The 116th Civil War was close. And then it wasn't. Yes, we've seen that before with Oregon.

Oregon scored 28 consecutive second-half points and blew away Oregon State 48-24.

The Beavers opened the third quarter with a touchdown drive that narrowed the deficit to 20-17. But they made things easy for the Ducks by then giving away five of their six turnovers in the second half.

A week after getting shut down by Stanford in their first loss of the season, the Ducks (11-1, 8-1) rolled up 570 yards while winning their fifth Civil War in a row. Oregon State (8-3, 6-3) gained 393. The Ducks outrushed the Beavers 430 yards to 82.

After the Beavers scored on their first possession of the third quarter, Oregon made its move. It drove 66 yards for a touchdown, and then the Beavers fumbled the ensuing kickoff. A 29-yard De'Anthony Thomas run later -- on fourth-and-5 no less -- and it was 34-17.

Kenjon Barner rushed for 198 yards on 28 carries with two TDs, but he was banged up much of the second half, when Thomas took over. Thomas rushed for 122 yards on 17 carries and three scores.

Beavers QB Sean Mannion, who lost his job to Cody Vaz after throwing four interceptions at Washington on Oct. 27, again threw four interceptions.

Oregon, which has won 15 consecutive road games, now awaits a couple other results. First, it needs Stanford to lose to UCLA this afternoon, which would make the Ducks the Pac-12 North Division champions. They then would play UCLA, already the South champion, on Friday in the Pac-12 title game.

Further, Oregon is still in the national title hunt. It needs, first and foremost, for No. 1 Notre Dame to lose tonight at USC. It also probably needs Florida to lose to Florida State, a game that is in the fourth quarter as this sentence is typed.

Even if Oregon doesn't reach the Pac-12 title game, where it would play for a Rose Bowl berth or more, it is almost certain to be an at-large selection for a BCS bowl game, mostly likely the Fiesta Bowl.

Lots of intrigue for 116th Civil War

November, 20, 2012
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Kelly/RileyUS PresswireOregon coach Chip Kelly and Oregon State coach Mike Riley face off Saturday in the 116th Civil War.
The 2012 Civil War between Oregon and Oregon State doesn't match the 2000 game, when both teams were ranked in the top 10 for the first time in the rivalry's history, or the 2009 game, when the winner-take-all stakes were a Pac-10 title and a Rose Bowl berth. But it's pretty darn big.

The 116th Civil War, the seventh-oldest rivalry game in college football, in Reser Stadium on Saturday (3 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Network) approaches the 2000 game in terms of both teams' rankings, the first time in the series that both were ranked in the top 10. Oregon was fifth and Oregon State eighth in that game, won 23-13 by the Beavers. This go-around, Oregon is again fifth and the Beavers 15th in the latest BCS standings.

There is no Rose Bowl on the line for Oregon State, as there was in 2008 and 2009, but the Beavers can play a spoiler role while boosting themselves in the Pac-12 pecking order.

Oregon still harbors hopes of slipping into the national title game, and the Ducks will win the North Division if they beat the Beavers and Stanford loses at UCLA on Saturday. Then Oregon would play host to UCLA on Nov. 30, with -- at least -- a Rose Bowl berth at stake.

And even if Stanford beats UCLA to win the North, an Oregon victory over the Beavers likely would earn it an at-large berth to a BCS bowl game, probably the Fiesta Bowl, where they could end up playing the Big 12 champ, likely Kansas State.

Oregon State? While its postseason destination is most likely the Holiday Bowl, ending a four-game losing streak in the rivalry series would be significant. It would certainly stem the momentum that has been decidedly in the Ducks' favor since an obscure coach from New Hampshire by the name of Chip Kelly arrived as the team's offensive coordinator in 2007.

While the 2008 and 2009 Civil Wars were big games with big implications, the 2010 and 2011 games were all about the Ducks. They were coronation events, as Oregon earned berths in the national title game and the Rose Bowl. The Beavers, meanwhile, were sucking on lemons, suffering through back-to-back losing seasons.

That had some Beavers fans grousing about coach Mike Riley and his staff. It wasn't only about a program backtrack. It was about what was happening 45 minutes to the south in Eugene. It's no fun losing games, but when you are losing, it's much worse when your rival is thriving.

Beavers fans saw Kelly -- smug, smirking, standoffish, annoyingly brilliant -- and felt they were getting left behind.

But we all know things can change quickly in college football. The Beavers are on a clear uptick. While both teams have a lot of talent coming back in 2013, it's Oregon that now has some question marks.

Will Kelly be lured away by an NFL offer? More than a few NFL sorts believe he will have his pick of jobs this offseason.

And what about the NCAA investigation into L'Affair de Willie Lyles? At some point penalties will be handed out. While those penalties are not expected to be crippling -- despite the uninformed blather coming from some people -- they certainly won't help the Ducks maintain their perch atop the Pac-12.

Just imagine how the next couple of months could go for Oregon State fans: 1. A Civil War victory over Oregon, ending a four-year losing streak in the series and the Ducks' three-year run of conference titles; 2. Kelly leaves Eugene for the NFL; 3. NCAA sanctions for the Ducks.

Let's just say more than a few Beavers fans would be high-fiving each other. And there would probably be more than a few Washington Huskies fans trying to get in on that action.

Or ... or ...

Oregon beats the Beavers for a fifth consecutive time, finagles its way into the national title game and then beats, say, Alabama for the school's first national title. Then Kelly announces he's staying in Eugene "for life" and the NCAA gently slaps the Ducks' wing.

So, yeah, there's a lot going on here.

Still, amid all these possibilities and speculations, good and bad for both programs, there is only one thing that either can control: Saturday's game.

Yes, it's pretty darn big.

Halftime: Oregon 28, Oregon State 7

November, 26, 2011
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Oregon got off to a fast start, stalled, then hit the accelerator in the first half of the Civil War against Oregon State.

The Ducks jumped ahead 7-0 after Beavers QB Sean Mannion threw an interception on the game's first possession. Then they were stopped three times on fourth downs in Oregon State territory. But when the Beavers tied the game on a 58-yard TD from Mannion to Jovan Stevenson, Oregon awoke.

The Ducks scored TDs on drives of 79, 80 and 75 yards. Each ended with a TD pass from Darron Thomas.

Oregon outgained Oregon State 394-125 in the first half. The Ducks defense so dominated -- other than the long TD play -- that Oregon is actually ahead in time of possession: 17:23 to 12:37. That almost never happens.

The Ducks have 20 first downs, Oregon State just four. LaMichael James has 109 yards rushing on 18 carries. He scored the Ducks first TD.

It appears, despite the sputtering period, that Oregon is well on its way to winning its fourth consecutive Civil War for the first time since 1994-97.

Oregon State not short on motivation

November, 25, 2011
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Oregon State seems like nothing more than a bit player against Oregon in the 115th Civil War. The Ducks have moved on to bigger things in the rivalry -- conference championships, national championship games, Rose Bowls, etc. -- while the Beavers are about to tie a ribbon on a second consecutive losing season.

In 2007, Oregon State won 38-31 in double-overtime. In 2008 and 2009, the stakes were the Rose Bowl.

In 2011? The Beavers are four-touchdown underdogs to an Oregon team trying to sew up the first Pac-12 North Division championship and a home game against the South champ on Dec. 2.

"Wow, 29-point underdogs," freshman defensive end Scott Crichton said. "We were underdogs last game and we blew them out. This game is going to be different from what everyone says."

Crichton refers to the Beavers' surprisingly efficient 38-21 win over Washington last weekend, which is easily the highlight of their season.

Still, the Huskies aren't the Ducks. And that game was in the friendly confines of Reser Stadium, not the Ducks' rowdy home base, Autzen Stadium.

Of course, crazy stuff happens in college football and rivalry games. Just when things seem to make sense, No. 2 Oklahoma State loses to Iowa State.

If Oregon State plays its best game of the season, and Oregon plays like it did for 2 1/2 quarters in its 38-35 loss last weekend to USC, the upset could happen.

"Every phase of the game we’re going to have to play at a tremendously high level to compete," Beavers coach Mike Riley said. "I will tell you this -- I think our team will compete hard and prepare well, and I know they’re looking forward to a great opportunity.”

Only two current Oregon State players — receivers James Rodgers and Darrell Catchings — have beaten Oregon. Rodgers scored the winning TD in the 2007 game, taking a fly sweep 25 yards for a score.

A lot has happened to the Beavers and Rodgers since then. Rodgers suffered a serious knee injury in 2010 and didn't return to the field until game three this year. He's yet to regain his All-American form, and he suffered a sprained ankle in the win over Washington, which makes his status questionable for Saturday.

Of course, Rodgers, despite sporting a boot on his injured foot, said this week he has no doubt he will play. This will be his last game as a Beaver and he said it was important to "try to get some respect back."

Still, the stakes for Oregon after the USC loss are no longer just bragging rights. If the Ducks lose, Stanford wins the North, and the Ducks likely end up in the Alamo Bowl. You'd think that would be enough to keep them focused Saturday.

The Ducks are looking to win a fourth consecutive Civil War, which would be their longest winning streak since 1994-97. If the Beavers lose, this would mark their first season with three wins or fewer since 1997, Riley’s first season at Oregon State.

Make no mistake: Oregon State's downturn is even more notable when juxtaposed with Oregon's rise. That has some Beavers fans chirping about the program trending downward under Riley.

The tangible stakes are huge for Oregon. But there's plenty for the Beavers to play for, too.

Said Crichton, "It would help us a lot. I know we can win this game, and it definitely would bring momentum to us and everyone else who doubts us."

Oregon shocked by home loss to USC

November, 20, 2011
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EUGENE, Ore. -- This is most strange. The ball didn't go where it was supposed to go. The kick went to the left of the yellow pole, the clock ran out and the Autzen Stadium scoreboard said, "USC 38, Oregon 35."

We now know what disbelief sounds like.

This wasn't the storybook ending summoned by 59,933 with their collective knowledge that Oregon and Chip Kelly don't waste amazing comebacks. It had been 38-14 in the third quarter, and all was lost. Then it felt certain Oregon was going to win after an unanswered 21-point barrage that was vintage Ducks.

Ah, but this weekend certainly taught us -- again -- that there are no sure things in college football.

"The game comes, the game goes," Kelly said. "It's about making plays."

Both USC and Oregon made a lot of them -- good and bad -- but the Trojans ended up celebrating when the Ducks' final 16-play, 66-yard drive ended with a missed 37-yard field goal from Alejandro Maldonado.

For the first time in 21 games, the Ducks lost in their home stadium. For the first time in 19 conference games, the Ducks lost, period. And for the first time in two years, the Ducks are out of the national title race.

Oregon can't spend too much time shaking its collective fist at the heavens. It now needs to beat Oregon State at home on Saturday to sew up the Pac-12 North championship. While missing out on a second consecutive national title game is a bummer, as consolation prizes go, the Rose Bowl is pretty darn good.

As for USC, it doesn't get a postseason, but it gets a red-letter victory for coach Lane Kiffin and quarterback Matt Barkley, who tossed four touchdown passes as the Trojans jumped all over the Ducks for two and a half quarters. They improved to 9-2 and 6-2 in conference play. If they beat rival UCLA next weekend, they would end up atop the South Division, even if NCAA sanctions ban them from enjoying the fruits of that. Further, they could knock UCLA out of the title game while finishing with 10 victories.

"To break the longest home winning streak in the country says a lot about this team and how far they have come," Kiffin said.

USC went three-and-out twice and fumbled on its first three possessions, but a 59-yard bomb from Barkley to freshman Marqise Lee ignited the offense. Barkley completed 26 of 34 passes for 323 yards. With Robert Woods hurting -- ankle and shoulder injuries -- Lee became the go-to guy, hauling in eight passes for 187 yards.

[+] EnlargeChip Kelly
Steve Dykes/Getty ImagesChip Kelly and Oregon lost at home for the first time in 21 games, to a Pac-12 foe for the first time in 19.
USC stormed ahead 38-14 with 3:28 left in the third quarter. Only then did the Ducks wake up. Or, more accurately, freshman De'Anthony Thomas woke up the Ducks and Autzen Stadium with a 96-yard return of the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown.

The Ducks got a defensive stop and drove 75 yards for a touchdown in 2:16. With its lead cut to 11, USC seemed to tighten up. Barkley threw his only interception to John Boyett, and Oregon drove 60 yards for another TD. After a two-point conversion, the Trojans' lead was just three.

"It wasn't fun seeing the score go in the wrong direction," Kiffin said.

The Trojans drove to the Oregon 11-yard line as the clock dipped inside of three minutes. But Barkley and running back Marc Tyler fumbled a handoff exchange, and that set up Oregon's final -- and ultimately unsuccessful -- drive.

"You're going to lose," Kelly said. "None of us have delusions we're not going to lose in Autzen Stadium."

The Ducks earned a first down on the Trojans' 32-yard line with 38 seconds left with three timeouts. In fact, the Trojans called timeout to regroup. After 9- and 5-yard runs from Kenjon Barner, who led the Ducks with 123 yards on 15 carries, the Ducks had a first down on the 18 with 20 seconds left. That, typically, is an eternity to Oregon. But not this time. The well-oiled machine seemed to get some sand in its gears. An incompletion and a pass that lost 2 yards eliminated a game-winning touchdown as an option.

"What you don't want to do in that situation is force it," Kelly said.

Or miss the tying field goal that would keep your national title hopes alive.

"I don't know how to explain how we feel right now -- this hurts," Oregon receiver Josh Huff said. "We just thought we were going to come in and run over them, but they came out hard and we lost."

It was USC's first victory in the state of Oregon since 2005. It was the first time Kelly lost to a team that had just one week to prepare.

All of it felt a bit weird, but that's college football. Its capacity to astound is part of its appeal.

Unless, of course, your team just saw the ball go wide left.

Best case-worst case: Oregon State

August, 19, 2011
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Fourth in a series looking at potential dream and nightmare scenarios for all Pac-12 teams.

Understand: These are not predictions. They are extreme scenarios and pieces of fiction. You can read last year's versions here.

We're going in reverse order of my post-spring power rankings (which might not be identical to my preseason power rankings).

Up next: Oregon State

Best case

Even the Wisconsin fans couldn't help but notice the crescendo building from the orange and black pie slice in the visitor's section at Camp Randall Stadium.

"Cripes sakes!" says a Wisconsin fan. "What's all that racket?"

"It's for the little guy, don'tcha know," says another. "'That one in the No. 1 jersey. Pass me a brat!"

James Rodgers takes the opening kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown.

"By golly, I tells ya, sure as God made little green apples, he's a fast one!" says the first.

"Ohh, yaaa...Yoo Betcha!" replies the second.

Wisconsin scores a late touchdown and holds on for a 30-28 victory, but the Beavers matching up well physically with the Big Ten favorites bodes well for the season.

"This bodes well for the season," coach Mike Riley says. "You never like losing, but what I saw today made me optimistic after a tough go with injuries in preseason camp."

Rodgers didn't play in the opening win over Sacramento State and his entry was a bit of a surprise.

"That, yeah, well, James thought it would be fun not to tell any of y'all about that," Riley said. "Our little surprise for the Beaver Nation."

Rodgers catches two touchdown passes in a 28-17 win over UCLA.

The Beavers drop a 28-24 decision at Arizona State to fall to 2-2, which is good news: The only time two early losses didn't auger a good season since 2006 was last fall, and that was due to Rodgers knee injury.

"I know it's a great story, but is he a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate?" ESPN College GameDay's Chris Fowler asks. "Eight touchdowns in four games. Rodgers is well on his way to 1,000 yards receiving and 500 yards rushing. And he leads the nation in kickoff returns."

"I hear you, but his team needs to win," replies Kirk Herbstreit.

The Beavers win their next four, besting Arizona, BYU, Washington State and, in overtime, Utah.

"Stanford might be looking ahead to its matchup with Oregon," Fowler says.

Nope. The unbeaten Cardinal rolls 35-21.

Oregon State wins at California and nips Washington. The Beavers, at 8-3, are ranked 17th when they head to Oregon for another high stakes Civil War. The unbeaten Ducks are No. 1 in the nation, with many pundits already salivating over a matchup of the Alabama defense and the Oregon offense.

Rodgers stands up in the locker room. The din of Autzen Stadium can be heard -- felt -- through the walls. "I'm from Texas. I had to learn to dislike Oregon. My freshman year, I scored the game-winning touchdown on a 25-yard fly sweep in this damn stadium in double overtime. I never thought that would be my only victory over them. I know this is only a football game. And know what? I like a lot of guys in that other locker room. LaMichael James is a good dude. We go bowling together. I kick his butt in bowling [laughter]. But [Rodgers voice rises] I am sick of Oregon. Everything about them. Everybody is sick of Oregon. But we will all -- everyone in this room, my brothers! -- will continue to be sick, to suffer, to have something inside us, biting at us, until we go out there and shut. Them. Up. Until we go out there and beat their butts.

"Know what? @%$@! Oregon!"

As his teammates mob Rodgers moments after he hauled in the game-winning 2-point conversion in triple-overtime, they chant together, "@%$@! Oregon!"

"Well, at least we're still going to the Rose Bowl!" angry Ducks fans shout as the ebullient Beavers head back to their locker room.

Utah beats Oregon 45-42 in the first Pac-12 championship game. The Utes, in their first year in the conference, go to the Rose Bowl. Oregon settles for the Alamo Bowl, where it loses to Oklahoma State.

Oregon State beats Texas A&M 24-17 in the Holiday Bowl and finishes 10-3 and ranked 12th. Oregon finishes 17th.

Chip Kelly becomes Georgia's new head coach.

On July 20, the NCAA docks Oregon 15 scholarships and gives it a one-year postseason ban.

Worst case

Though it was using vanilla schemes, the performance against Sacramento State suggests Oregon State has issues. A 45-17 loss at Wisconsin makes it abundantly clear the Beavers do.

The Beavers, not deep to begin with, are missing too many key starters, most notably receiver James Rodgers, H-back Joe Halahuni, cornerback Brandon Hardin, linebacker Cameron Collins and defensive tackle Kevin Frahm.

"I'm hoping we get some guys back," coach Mike Riley says. "James is still a ways away, though."

Frahm and Collins return and the Beavers beat UCLA. Halahuni comes back for the Arizona State game, but the Beavers are overwhelmed 35-20. Arizona takes revenge for a 2010 defeat with an overtime victory in Reser Stadium.

Rodgers returns against BYU. He catches six passes for 80 yards and a TD, and the Beavers win 28-24. But he's clearly not his old self.

Oregon State, highly motivated after losing at home to Washington State in 2010, improves to 4-3 with a win over the Cougars. But all the news isn't good.

"We're shutting James down," Riley says. "He's got an NFL future, and we need to protect that. His knee needs to be cleaned up, and if they do it now he'll be 100 percent before the NFL combine."

Bowl hopes end after four consecutive defeats. The Beavers limp into Eugene to face unbeaten and top-ranked Oregon.

"Chip, a lot of folks are saying this is the best team of all time," Chris Fowler says from the GameDay set in front of Autzen Stadium. "What do you think?"

"Maybe," Kelly replies.

"What are your feelings on the NCAA clearing you and the program of all wrong-doing in the Willie Lyles investigation?" Fowler asks.

"Who?" Kelly replies. "Oh, you mean, Will. My feelings are ... good."

Oregon whips the Beavers 55-10.

The Ducks roll Alabama 48-17 in the BCS national title game.

"That," says Alabama coach Nick Saban afterward, "is the best football team I've ever seen. And that include my tenure with the Miami Dolphins."

Oregon announces it's expanding Autzen Stadium to 100,000 seats and that Nike has figured out a way to get the work done in advance of the 2012 season.

The Ducks sign the nation's No. 1 recruiting class. Kelly signs a lifetime contract. Oregonian columnist John Canzano requests that he be put on the Oregon State beat. His request is granted.

Best-worst case redo: Oregon State

January, 31, 2011
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Every preseason we take a look at potential best-case and worst-case scenarios for every Pac-10 team. While these are often tongue-in-cheek, they nonetheless represent the top and bottom we see for each team.

So it might be worthwhile to revisit each.

Next up is Oregon State, which finished 5-7 and didn't play in a bowl game for the first time since 2005.

Best Case: 11-2 with a Rose Bowl win over Iowa and a final No. 4 ranking.

What was right: Gulp. Not much. Correctly predicted a loss to TCU and wins over Louisville, Arizona State, Arizona and California. But, really, nothing here even remotely feels like what happened to the Beavers this season.

What was wrong: Almost everything, starting with the victory over Boise State. This scenario had the Beavers at 8-1 and ranked No. 6 before losing to unbeaten, third-ranked USC. The Beavers' only win over their final five games was against the Trojans, who had lost three times before going down in Corvallis. Receiver James Rodgers suffered a season-ending knee injury at Arizona in Game 5, and running back Jacquizz Rodgers never became a Heisman Trophy candidate. Stanford blasted Oregon State 38-0, and there wasn't much drama in the Civil War, with Oregon winning 37-20 and earning a berth in the BCS national title game.

Worst case: 5-7, no bowl game

What was right: A lot, starting with the record. The predicted 1-2 start was correct. The win over Arizona State and loss to Washington were correct. The inconsistency of quarterback Ryan Katz was mostly right, as was the ganging up on Jacquizz Rodgers by opposing defenses. The win over Cal was correct. The 5-5 record after 10 games was correct, as were the decisive losses to Stanford and Oregon to end the season at 5-7. Ducks running back LaMichael James was a Heisman Trophy finalist, though not the winner. Oregon won the Pac-10. Rodgers did opt to enter the NFL draft.

What was wrong: Some details. The Beavers won at Arizona but were upset by UCLA and Washington State. They also upset USC, a 36-7 blowout. Oregon won the Pac-10 but lost in the national championship game instead of winning the Rose Bowl. Offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf and defensive coordinator Mark Banker remain on staff. James Rodgers is coming back for a sixth year after being granted a medical hardship waiver by the NCAA for his knee injury.

Conclusion: The worst case was mostly spot on; the best case was not. While James Rodgers' knee injury -- we're not going to predict injuries in this annual exercise -- was a huge blow to the Beavers, the rugged nonconference schedule and struggles of both lines ultimately upended a season that seemed promising in August, when Oregon State was picked in the conference's top three by just about everyone.

Does SEC vs. Pac-10 matter?

January, 10, 2011
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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Just after Oregon won the Civil War over state rival Oregon State on Dec. 4, the Ducks were asked about playing for the national title against massive, football-playing robots who came into existence after monstrous demon blacksmiths hammered them together in the darkest regions of Hades.

Or, you know, an SEC team.

Even five weeks ago, the question -- SEC vs. Pac-10 -- didn't really light much of a fire under the Ducks.

"We're going to play whoever," running back Kenjon Barner said at the time. "Who can say a conference is better than another conference or anything like that? We're just going to go out and play how we have to play."

[+] EnlargeOregon's Chip Kelly
Steve Dykes/Getty ImagesChip Kelly says the Ducks are not playing for the Pac-10 in the BCS title game.
Oregon coach Chip Kelly was asked about the SEC's success in the championship games -- it's been whispered about by a few SEC moles that the conference has won four consecutive BCS national titles -- and whether that was meaningful to him.

For those of us who regularly chat with Kelly, we knew what was coming.

"We never get caught up in that," Kelly said. "We are not playing for the Pac-10. In my opinion, they are not playing for the SEC. It is Auburn versus Oregon. I don't think you can look at past successes and say, 'Hey, this conference did this, this conference did this.' You have no idea. Two years ago we went 5-0 in bowl games in the Pac-10 and everybody talked about us, and last year we didn't do a real good job. So I think it's a cyclical thing and each team is their own entity. We are not playing for the Pac-10, I can tell you that. We're playing for Oregon. It is Oregon versus Auburn ... I will never stand up in front of my team and say we are carrying the flag for nine other teams or whatever."

Is that just coachspeak, or another Chippism about playing a "faceless" opponent and not listening to "outside influences"? Maybe. But it seemed fairly clear that Kelly's Ducks were buying in. If a player was into the whole "SEC vs. the Pac-10" angle, the Pac-10 blog didn't hear it this week.

"We're not really worried about that," quarterback Darron Thomas said. "We're just going out playing against whoever we've got to play against."

Running back LaMichael James refused to bite when asked if the SEC was overhyped by the media: "I don't think they are making too much of it. [The SEC has] won, so I really can't say anything negative." But he then added, "It's not the Pac-10 versus the SEC. It is us versus Oregon. I mean, Auburn."

Oh, but this is a big angle for fans. There will be a lot of football fans across the country rooting for Oregon in the Tostitos BCS National Championship Game just so the SEC doesn't win its fifth consecutive national title.

Further, a Ducks victory would undermine the theory of SEC superiority, at least in 2010-11.

If Auburn loses, the SEC will go 4-6 in bowl games and the Pac-10 3-1. Thus far, the SEC only has two bowl victories over ranked teams (Alabama over No. 9 Michigan State and LSU over No. 17 Texas A&M) -- the same number as the Pac-10 (Washington over No. 18 Nebraska and Stanford over No. 13 Virginia Tech).

Finally, if Oregon wins, the Pac-10 will improve to 13-9 versus the SEC this millennium. That's a fairly robust number in support of a, "Scoreboard, baby!"

While none of this qualifies as a thorough and objective measure of relative conference strength, it will give something for fans to crow about out west.

And if Auburn wins? Well, there isn't much you can say about five consecutive national titles and a fifth different SEC team winning a crystal football. That's impressive by any measure.

As for the Oregon players, they did show some signs of annoyance with certain questions this week, only they didn't really have a regional element to them. The oft-repeated theory that Auburn was too big for Oregon seemed to inspire more than a few smirks from the Ducks.

"They are a big team," Thomas said. "Tennessee was a big team. Like I said, there are teams in the Pac-10 just as physical, just as fast. Nothing we haven't ever seen before. So it is going to be a similar thing."

A similar thing? To the 48-13 win at Tennessee? Or the Ducks' 31-point average margin of victory? Hmm.

Just know this: When the smoke clears Monday night, one of the main headlines will be about which conference came out on top.

Opening the mailbag: Poor Duckies!

December, 10, 2010
12/10/10
6:22
PM ET
What the heck are we supposed to do Saturday?

Follow me on Twitter.

A couple of Oregon fans talk to an SEC defense about Auburn QB Cam Newton.

Dirk from Auburn: Do you really think the Duckies can keep up with an SEC team in the national championship game. This is big boy football and the SEC is the big boys.

Ted Miller: Poor ole Duckies. I just hope they get out of Glendale alive!

If I may humbly speak for Oregon and the Pac-10, we are just grateful that the SEC has allowed the conference to step on the field -- for one shining moment! -- with the big boys.

SEC teams are so big. So absolutely huge. Gosh, we're all really impressed over here, I can tell you that. Forgive us, for this, our dreadful toadying and barefaced flattery. But you are so strong and, well, just so super. Fantastic. Amen.

Dave from Florence, Ore., writes: Ted, assuming both the Rodgers brothers are back, with Ryan Katz having a bit more experience, plus a lighter non-conference schedule, how do you see Oregon State doing next year?

Ted Miller: Not that much lighter on the ole schedule: at Wisconsin and BYU are the nonconference games (with a TBA remaining that, hopefully, won't be filled with a top-five team).

Hey, Beavers, ever thought of playing San Jose State or Utah State or New Mexico State or something?

The Beavers offense should be much improved: QB Ryan Katz in his second year, both Rodgers brothers back, a good crew of receivers and (cross your fingers) better O-line play with four starters back. A good start on the line would be a healthy Michael Philipp at guard, not tackle.

The bigger issue is defense. It loses its best players: DT Stephen Paea -- that leaves a HUGE hole in the D-line -- LBs Dwight Roberson and Keith Pankey, CB James Dockery and DE Gabe Miller. No returning defensive player even earned honorable mention All-Pac-10 honors from the coaches. The Beavers thrive when they play high-pressure defense. Where's the pressure going to come from next year? Dominic Glover? Taylor Henry? A JC transfer. We'll see.

I love Katz's upside, and James Rodgers paired with Markus Wheaton is a nice combo at receiver, but the offense may have to outscore folks, particularly early on as the defense figures itself out. Still, there is no clear No. 2 behind Oregon in the Pac-12 North. If there are some "changes" at Stanford -- goodbye Andrew Luck and Jim Harbaugh -- then the Beavers might even end up picked No. 2.

Owen from Palo Alto, Calif., writes: Hey Ted, a chat with many contenders for awards ran today and Andrew Luck took some questions. When asked about the draft, he said, "It's not a distraction because I'm putting it off until after the bowl game to think about it." However, when asked about the new Pac-12 alignment, he said, "It's going to be fun to have the opportunity to play Utah and Colorado now and have a championship game," and "I'm excited to have the opportunity to go play Colorado and Utah." How far should we read into this, if at all?

Ted Miller: How far? Perhaps one inch.

Luck goes to Stanford. He's smart. He knows that if a reporter asks him about next season, he's not going to go, "I haven't thought about it because I'm going to be in the NFL... oops!"

And think about it: If he indeed hasn't thought about it -- come on! -- then he should talk about next year as if he were still going to be on the Farm.

If Luck enters the draft, he almost certainly would be the No. 1 overall pick. He's a franchise NFL QB in the grand sense of the word (and his character, humility and social skills -- he's a funny guy -- will take him far as the "face" of a franchise).

I'd rate his chances of returning at about three percent.

Pierce from Tempe, Ariz., writes: Given the injury to Tuinei and Huff filling in, I count at least 7 starters for the Oregon offense, 8 if you want to count a combination of Weems, York, and Asper, who have all started and played at both tackle and guard.I also count at the very least 6 returning starters: Turner, Kaddu, Harris, Gildon, Boyett, and Pleasant. The Oregon depth chart also notes that Dion Jordan and Wade Keliikipi have registered starts on the D-Line. Onto the question. Do you think that because of the pace of Oregon and the necessity of substitutions that basing predictions based on returning starters is something to be leery of?

Ted Miller: "Official" returning starters started at least five games, so Weems could be considered a returning starter. But, as I said, when I calculated returning starters, I was looking at end-of-season depth charts and not working my way through those calculations -- or factoring in injuries.

Yes, returning starters isn't a foolproof way to measure teams, particularly when a team -- such as Oregon -- plays a lot of guys. Nonetheless, we have to make distinctions.

And, for example, losing Brandon Bair and Kenny Rowe -- the Ducks two best D-linemen -- is a blow. They are proven, productive guys. Sure, their backups saw action. But let me put it this way. Can you name them right now?

Raymond from Tucson writes: Arizona loses two coaches to Colorado:From a Fans perspective which also means its an outsiders perspective. Can I blame coaches for leaving the spastic and over the top personality of Mike Stoops? How much can an adult take of child like antics?Arizona players have been quoted to say Stoops over-charged, in your face, ready to explode behavior gets them pumped-up. I wonder if the coaching staff shares the same perspective? Cool Hand Luke type coaches over the years have displayed poker face and chess like thinking behavior with great success. Tom LaundryBill WalshTony Dungy.I dont expect Coach Stoops to act like the list above because its not in his nature. But it would be nice to see some self control to possibly eliminate sideline confusion.If I see the confusion so does the opposing team.

Ted Miller: Yes, Mike Stoops is very animated on the sidelines. He seemed more animated this year than last, and more than a few times he probably wishes he had been less animated.

Does Stoops' hyperkinetic way on the sidelines bother some Arizona fans? Yes. Do I think athletic director Greg Byrne wishes Stoops would chill a bit? Yes. Does Stoops intensity bother some of his assistant coaches? Maybe, though it's not like football coaches are a bunch of shrinking violets.

If Stoops asked my opinion, I'd say he might want to ratchet it back a bit. But, to be honest, I find it entertaining. It's sorta his thing. Like I said: It bothers some folks a little. And it bothers some a lot.

But on the list of things college coaches do that are bad, I'd rate rate Stoops' sideline behavior somewhere in the mid-90s, two or three notches below below a coach talking about himself in the third person.

John from Oregon writes: Now that all the bowl games are set, say the Cam Newton is found guilty and is suspended. and if they punish not only Newton, but Auburn too and make them forfeit their wins, then who would be playing for the National Championship? Would they leave it and claim Oregon as the Champion?

Ted Miller: Don't worry. This won't happen.

The NCAA made a quick ruling that Newton is eligible. The larger investigation will take months. And months.

Tyler from Tucson writes: Why, oh why, did the Wildcats' DE Ricky Elmore not make the 1st Team All-Pac-10 Defense team?

Jake from Midland, Texas writes: What's the deal with the snub of Washington State WR Marquess Wilson for Pac-10 offensive Freshman of the Year?

Ted Miller: Two of my toughest choices, and I've had some post-decision regret over USC's Robert Woods over Marquess Wilson.

With Elmore, who would you kick off my D-line? He started fast and had a long lull before playing well vs. Arizona State. What clinched it was the coaches picking fellow Wildcats DE Brooks Reed ahead of Elmore. I'd probably rate them No. 5 and No. 6 among my D-linemen.

As for Wilson: I saw Woods a lot this year. He's really impressive. I didn't see as much of Wilson. That made a difference. While Wilson's numbers were better as a receiver, Woods was pushed over the top by his work returning kicks.

Am I certain that I wouldn't pick Wilson over Woods if I did the team again Saturday? No.

But Cougars fans should want Wilson to be angry about the slight. That should motivate him during the offseason.

Andrew from Portland writes: I'm traveling to the Natty with a bunch of friends and fellow Duck alum. For all of us that have never been to the Glendale/Phoenix area, can you put together a little travel guide for us since you're a resident of the area? Specifically, can you tell me (1) what area to book a hotel (I've heard that Scottsdale is the way to go, even though it's somewhat far from the stadium), (2) what bars/nightlife to go to, and (3) restaurants to eat at?

Ted Miller: I live in North-North Scottsdale, near Cave Creek and Carefree. That's a ways from Glendale. And the wife and I don't get out much because The Lord of Miller Manor just turned two, and he yells a lot -- he makes Stoops look like he's asleep.

The good news about our location: We are a short drive from the best restaurant in the state of Arizona: Binkley's. It's a special event sort of place -- if you run into Phil Knight and he says, "Hey, can I buy you dinner?" This is where you go.

Even closer to Miller Manor: Spotted Donkey. Really enjoy that place. Down south in civilization, we've had good luck with these guys. I haven't been here yet, but it's high on the to-go list. This is good nuts and bolts Mexican, and you might run into a bunch of sportswriters -- this guy and this guy always go there. These guys offer good steaks and their Ocean Club -- part of the chain -- is good for seafood and a cool scene. This place is old school Phoenix.

If I were coming to town, I would stay near downtown Scottsdale -- it's where all the cool stuff happens. Good restaurants and bars. Good scene.

Here's a entry from the preseason -- a fan survey of best restaurants and bars around the Pac-10 -- though a couple of Arizona State fans were later critical of it.

Hope this gets you started. By the way, it's 71 degrees today.

Brrrr.

Grant from Claremont, Calif., writes: Great article on Chip Kelly!

Daniel from Eugene, Ore., writes: I was wondering why you didn't include this story in your lunchtime links? It's a brief little article about DJ Davis' tribute to Declan Sullivan from the Civil War. Considering the bad pub that a lot of our players got after the Rose Bowl last years (and rightfully so), it's nice to see stories about the good things our players do as well.

Mudpuppy from Eugene writes: You should check out the myth of Auburn's size advantage posted by our friends at Addicted to Quack.

Ted Miller: All three worth noting.

Oregon falls to No. 2 in AP poll

December, 5, 2010
12/05/10
1:27
PM ET
Auburn's performances in the SEC title game impressed voters more than Oregon's Civil War win at Oregon State.

Auburn eclipsed the Ducks in the AP poll. Oregon remained No. 1 with the Coaches Poll, which counts in the BCS standings, but the Tigers added 14 first-place votes.

What that means is the Tigers almost certainly will finish No. 1 in the BCS standings ahead of the No. 2 Ducks. They then can decided the matter on the field in the BCS national title game on Jan. 10 in Glendale, Ariz.

Oregon had been No. 1 in the AP poll for the past seven weeks. The Tigers whipped South Carolina 56-17 in Atlanta to finish 13-0. The Ducks are 12-0 after dumping the rival Beavers 37-20.

Auburn got 36 first-place votes in the AP poll, Oregon 23 and unbeaten TCU one. In the coaches poll, Oregon got 34 first-place votes, Auburn 24. The Tigers finished 13 points behind the Ducks.

Stanford remained No. 5 in both polls but it is expected to retain its No. 4 BCS ranking over Wisconsin, which is fourth in both polls, in the final BCS standings, which would guarantee the Cardinal an invitation to a BCS bowl, either the Orange (most likely) or Fiesta (still possible).

Stakes again big for Civil War

December, 4, 2010
12/04/10
1:56
PM ET
CORVALLIS, Ore. -- Oregon coach Chip Kelly has said -- over and over and over this season -- that every game is a "Super Bowl" for the Ducks. Well, with the Civil War, he's got a point.

[+] EnlargeChip Kelly
AP Photo/Rick BowmerCoach Chip Kelly and Oregon can reach the BCS National Championship Game by beating rival Oregon State.
Perhaps the battle with rival Oregon State is closer to the NFC championship. If the Ducks win, they advance to college football's Super Bowl: The BCS National Championship Game in Glendale on Jan. 10.

The Ducks have never finished a season unbeaten in the modern era, nor has the program won a national title. This, therefore, is uncharted territory. But for the laser-focused Kelly and his Ducks, it's just the next game. At least, that's the official word.

"Nothing has changed," Kelly said. "We feel we've got a formula that works for this group. It's worked 11 times and hopefully it will work a 12th."

The stakes are also clear for Oregon State. If it wins, it not only delivers an axe wound to its rival's season, it also reaches 6-6 on the year, which means bowl eligibility. The Beavers this week leaned on that as a primary motivation, not crushing the Ducks dreams (though the consolation prize for Oregon is the Rose Bowl, which typically ain't too shabby).

"There's no hatred," Beavers running back Jacquizz Rodgers said when asked if he were jealous of the Ducks' success. "When you win games, you get that attention."

So, for a third consecutive year, the Civil War is a high-stakes affair. The previous two seasons, it had major Rose Bowl implications. In 2008, the Ducks blew out the Beavers in Reser Stadium, which knocked Oregon State out of the Rose Bowl. Last year, the stakes were the Rose Bowl, and the Ducks won again in Eugene.

The Beavers, however, have won five of the past six in Corvallis, so home field has mattered of late in a series where the teams have split their past 12 meetings, though the Ducks actually have a better all-time winning percentage in Corvallis (.573) than in Eugene (.519).

Most prognosticators believe Oregon should roll. Even if Oregon State keeps things close, it's hard to believe a team that lost to UCLA and Washington State can keep up with the point-a-minute Ducks.

The Beavers will need to play a near-perfect game and hope that the Ducks are out of sorts. Perhaps the largeness of the moment finally gets to Oregon?

And you know what they say: You throw out the records in rivalry games.

Pac-10 lunch links: Beavers have a plan

December, 3, 2010
12/03/10
2:30
PM ET
Happy Friday.

Pac-10 did you know? Week 14

December, 3, 2010
12/03/10
9:04
AM ET
Some quick notes to get you through the hours until Saturday. Many thanks to ESPN Stats & Information.
  • Warning, Oregon! Warning, Oregon! A team ranked in the BCS top two has lost its final game of the regular season 13 times in the previous 12 years. The last time neither of the top two teams lost on the first weekend of December was 2005.
  • That said: Oregon State definitely doesn’t have history on its side in the Civil War. In the history of the AP poll, AP's No. 1 is 95-3-1 when playing a game in November or December against a team which entered the game with a losing record. The last time the AP No. 1 failed to win a game in November or December against a team with a losing record was Nov. 8, 1980, when 7-0 Notre Dame went to 1-7 Georgia Tech and tied the Yellow Jackets 3-3. Since that tie, AP No. 1 is 36-0 in this situation with only five games decided by a TD or less. The average score in those games: 44.3 to 9.9.
  • Oregon was the first top-ranked team in the BCS standings to drop in the final four weeks of the season without losing.
  • Oregon leads the nation with 50.5 points per game. The Ducks have scored a school-record 555 points and are on pace to score 656 points this season in 13 games, including their bowl game. The record for most points scored by a team in a 13-game season is 652 (2005 Texas Longhorns). The Horns averaged 50.2 PPG that season. In order to break that record, Oregon would need to score 98 points the rest of the way (49.0 PPG).
  • Oregon’s 42 touchdown drives in under two minutes is more than 74 FBS teams have in total offensive touchdowns. The Ducks have 11 more drives that lasted less than two minutes than Oklahoma State, which ranks second in the nation.
  • The Ducks also have 23 TD "drives" that took three or fewer plays. Auburn is No. 2 in that category at 19.
  • Oregon also leads the nation with 30 TDs of 20-plus yards. Auburn in second with 26.
  • Oregon State QB Ryan Katz's downfield passing might be a key to the Beavers' success. In their five wins, Katz has completed 48.7 percent of his passes of 15-plus yards with four TDs and no interceptions. In the Beavers' six losses, he completed 34 percent of his downfield throws with five TDs and five INTs.
  • Oregon actually has a better winning percentage against the Beavers in Corvallis (.573) than at home (.519).
  • Oregon is trying to beat Oregon State for the third straight time. No team has won more than two straight in this series since Oregon won four in a row from 1994-97.
  • Oregon State has won five of the last six Civil Wars in Corvallis.
  • Beavers junior running back Jacquizz Rodgers has 3,793 career rushing yards. If he rushes for 129 yards against the Ducks, he will move past Arizona's Trung Canidate and former Beaver Yvenson Bernard into sixth place on the Pac-10's all-time list.
  • If the Ducks beat the Beavers, they will become the first Pac-10 team to go undefeated in a nine-game conference schedule.
  • Oregon State, which is trying to avoid its first losing season since going 5-6 in 2005, will be wearing Nike Pro Combat Uniforms. It will be a tribute to the Beavers “Giant Killers” team of 1967 that beat top-ranked USC, second-ranked Purdue and tied second-ranked UCLA. That team went 7-2-1 and finished seventh in the AP poll.
  • This is the 103rd edition of the Apple Cup. Washington leads the rivalry 65-31-6, including a 33-15 record since the Apple Cup trophy began being awarded in 1962. The series dates back to 1900.
  • Washington becomes bowl eligible with a win. The Huskies haven’t been to a bowl game since the ’02 Sun Bowl.
  • Washington State ranks 117th in rushing offense (89.3 YPG), 109th in scoring offense (18.8 PPG), 115th in both rushing (211.6 YPG) and total defense (457.6 YPG) and 111th in scoring defense (35.9 PPG).
  • The Cougars won their last game, three weeks ago against Oregon State and have not won two straight since the 2007 season (vs. San Diego State and Idaho). The Cougars have not won consecutive Pac-10 games since 2006 (vs Oregon and UCLA).
  • A win would be the Cougars' third this season. Over the 2008-09 seasons, Washington State went 3-22.
  • This is the 80th meeting between USC and UCLA, but the first since 2000 that neither is ranked for the game. USC has won 10 of the last 11 games (although they vacated the 2004 and 2005 wins). The Trojans’ only “on-field” loss came in 2006, when they entered the game as No. 2 in the AP poll and were upset 13-9 by unranked UCLA.
  • Both teams will wear their home jerseys. These teams play for the Victory Bell and the winning school paints the bell with their school colors. The bell is painted cardinal red right now thanks to USC’s 28-7 win last year.
  • Lane Kiffin is looking to win his eighth game in his first year as USC head coach. The last coach to win more in his first year with USC was John Robinson, who went 11-1 in 1976. Pete Carroll won six games his first year.
  • USC would be bowl-eligible this season were it not for the NCAA sanctions that prevent it from going to a bowl, so the Trojans will miss out on a bowl this season for the first time since 2000. That was the last year with Paul Hackett as head coach and the year before Pete Carroll arrived.
  • UCLA will miss out on a bowl for the second time in three years under Rick Neuheisel. UCLA went to a bowl every year in Karl Dorrell’s five seasons.

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