The Oregon State Beavers understand that hardly anyone gives them a chance against No. 9 Oregon on Saturday, but the extent to which some say they're supposed to lose has the players shaking their heads.
"Wow, 29-point underdogs?" defensive end Scott Crichton said. "Well, we were underdogs last week and we just blew them out."
That was the Beavers' 38-21 win over Washington on Saturday, probably the brightest moment so far in a dismal 3-8 (3-5 Pac-12) season.
The Ducks (9-2, 7-1) are coming off a down-to-the-wire 38-35 loss to USC last weekend and have plenty of motivation with a trip to the Dec. 2 Pac-12 title game riding on the outcome Saturday.
Oregon has won the Civil War in each of the last three seasons, including 37-20 last year. Only two current Beavers -- receivers James Rodgers and Darrell Catchings -- were suited up on the field the last time Oregon State beat Oregon in 2007. In that game, Rodgers scored on a fly sweep in overtime to give the Beavers a 38-31 win.
As Oregon has reached the highest echelons of college football, with trips to the Rose Bowl and the BCS championship in coach Chip Kelly's first two seasons, the Beavers have toiled in their shadow, logging an 8-15 record over the past two seasons.
If that has taken some of the luster off of the 117-year-old rivalry, the Beavers don't see it. While the Ducks may be playing Saturday for a spot in the conference championship game, Oregon State is playing to salvage its season and show it shouldn't be taken for granted.
"I have never beat Oregon, so that is something I want to accomplish," senior linebacker Cameron Collins said. "We are 3-8 right now and I want to get a win, not just for myself but for the program. Hopefully, we can get a win and end the season on a high note."
Oregon State will need more than motivation to pull off the upset. The Ducks boast an innovative, fast-paced offense and elite athletes including running back LaMichael James, quarterback Darron Thomas and multi-position star De'Anthony Thomas.
"They are fast obviously," cornerback Jordan Poyer said. "They've got a lot of athletes on the field, so it's going to come down to open-field tackles and assignments."
It will also probably require the Beavers to force some turnovers. Poyer leads the team in interceptions with four, while Crichton has forced five fumbles.
Only No. 1 LSU has held the Ducks to under 34 points all season and Oregon scored 27 in that game.
The Beavers will also have to avoid their own turnovers. Freshman quarterback Sean Mannion has thrown 16 interceptions this season and the Beavers have 28 turnovers. Both statistics are among the worst in the Football Bowl Subdivision.
The expected return of James Rodgers is good news for the Beavers. Rodgers became Oregon State's all-time leading receiver last week but left the Washington game with a sprained ankle. He appeared at media day Tuesday wearing a protective boot, but said he planned to play against the Ducks.
Either way, while Oregon has big postseason plans, the Beavers know that win or lose, the 2011 season will end for them Saturday at Autzen Stadium.
"This is our bowl game," Poyer said. "This is our Super Bowl."
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)