Oregon coach Chip Kelly says the Civil War against Oregon State is like any other game for the No. 9 Ducks.
That's just how Kelly looks at it. So while it's the 115th meeting in the annual rivalry with the Beavers, in his mind it has no added significance in terms of team preparation -- or motivation.
"Every game is a Super Bowl for us. I don't know how it can get bigger than that," Kelly said. "People say we diminish it, but we're not diminishing it. It's the biggest game we're ever going to play."
The Ducks (9-2, 7-1 Pac-12) are overwhelming favorites for Saturday's game at Autzen Stadium. Oregon will clinch the Pac-12's North Division with a win and host the league's championship game. Win that one and it's on to the Rose Bowl.
"It's a huge game. Having the chance to clinch the North Division, that's what you play for, trying to win the conference," said tight end David Paulson, veering a bit from his coach's mentality. "And the first thing you have to do is win your side of it."
Oregon looked as if it was making a strong bid for a spot in the BCS championship game until last weekend, when the Ducks fell to Southern Cal 38-35.
The Beavers (3-8, 3-5) aren't going to a bowl game for the second straight season. So -- unlike the Ducks -- the Civil War actually is more than another game to them.
"This is our bowl game. This is our Super Bowl," cornerback Jordan Poyer said.
While the Beavers may be dangerous because they have nothing to lose, they face a considerable challenge against the Ducks. Oregon, with its speedy spread-option, is averaging about 496 yards in total offense and nearly 46 points. The Ducks are the fifth-best rushing team in the nation with 284.27 yards a game.
LaMichael James leads the nation with 142.78 yards rushing a game, but he was held to 78 (an average of 3.9 per carry) against the Trojans.
"They are fast obviously," 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."
Oregon has been hurting on defense. Linebacker Dewitt Stuckey (shoulder) and end Dion Jordan (ankle) left early in the loss to the Trojans, while cornerback Anthony Gildon (neck) did not play at all.
As a policy, Oregon does not discuss injuries.
"This team's as banged up as any team I've been around," Kelly said. "But we don't talk about it, so if you have to go, you have to go."
Oregon State was hit by injuries in fall camp and has never quite recovered. Projected starters at the beginning of the season have missed a total of 54 games. Only six positions have been
manned by the same starter in each of the 11 games this season.
The Beavers opened the season badly with an overtime loss to lower-division Sacramento State and struggled from there. But last week they defeated Washington 38-21, giving them a measure of momentum going into the Civil War.
Oregon State has not defeated their in-state rival since 2007, when then-freshman James Rodgers, on a fly sweep, ran 25 yards for a touchdown in overtime for a 38-31 victory.
Rodgers, now a fifth-year senior, has been uneven just like his team. The older brother of Jacquizz Rodgers returned to the Beavers this season after a pair of knee surgeries but never really recaptured the form he'd had in past years.
Against the Huskies, Rodgers caught four passes to give him 222 receptions for his career, surpassing Biletnikoff winner Mike Hass on Oregon State's career list. One of those catches was a 6-yard touchdown from quarterback Sean Mannion.
Rodgers left the game against Washington at the half because of a sprained ankle. He wore a boot earlier this week but said he couldn't miss his final Civil War.
"We're not having the best season," Rodgers told reporters this week. "For us to go out with a win, a big bang, is something. Try to gain some respect."
The Ducks have won the last three Civil Wars. Last year, James and Kenjon Barner ran for two touchdowns each and Oregon won 37-20 in Corvallis to secure a spot in the national title game against Auburn.
Oregon hasn't won four straight in the series since 1994-97.
Last weekend's loss to USC at Autzen snapped a 21-game winning streak at home and a 19-game win streak in conference games. The Ducks haven't lost two straight at home since 2002.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)