CORVALLIS OR - DECEMBER 04: LaMichael James #21 of the Oregon Ducks runs te ball against the Oregon State Beavers during the 114th Civil War on December 4 2010 at the Reser Stadium in Corvallis Oregon. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
The scene in Corvallis was one of joy for the Oregon Ducks. It was the ultimate triumph of speed and pace, a culmination of two years of conference dominance. With another conference title plus a berth in the national championship game, it was all the Northwestern powerhouse could have ever dreamed of.
It was inevitable that Oregon would take a step down from those heights. No one can stay on top forever.
A year later, Oregon gets ready to play the Oregon St. Beavers. The stakes are slightly diminished, but still very important. Win, earn a berth to the Pac-12 championship game and get one step closer back to Pasadena. All seem within reach against Mike Riley's most banged up and weakest Beaver squad.
Still, considering what Oregon was playing for even a week ago, it must be a bit of a disappointment to see that they won't be in the title mix. Moreover, their foe is no longer worthy. Two years ago, the teams fought each other for what amounted to a Rose Bowl berth in Eugene. Now Oregon is mighty and Oregon State is anything but. The Ducks are huge favorites, and anything other than a decisive beatdown would be somewhat of a disappointment.
The Beavers have proven they have mettle by beating a fairly solid Washington team last week and winning the battle in the trenches, but since Chip Kelly took over in gameplanning Oregon's offense the Ducks have captured the last three, including the two most meaningful battles in the series in 2008 (ruining Oregon State's Rose Bowl hopes) and in 2009. The Beavers defense is pretty good at stopping and diagnosing pro-style offenses, but it has yet to figure out how to hold down the up-tempo attack of Oregon, which has worn them down game after game.
This game is all about Oregon maintaining their grip on the conference and not let Stanford sneak right by them. It's not as firm as before as the loss to USC proved, but the Ducks need to make sure they're the mightiest of all at weekend's end.