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Ducks, Beavers set to kick off in what could be the final chapter in a storied rivalry

The OSU Beavers logo and the Oregon "O" logo rise above a treeline with a football between them.

We still don’t know the full picture of what the Pac-12 will look like in the future, but there is one thing we do know: the anticipation for this week’s Rivalry Game between Oregon and Oregon State football is palpable.

There’s a lot on the line for No. 6 Oregon when they host the No. 15 Beavers Friday evening at Autzen Stadium. The Ducks can clinch a spot in the Pac-12 Championship game with a win over Oregon State OR an Arizona loss to Arizona State. The Ducks are looking to avenge last season’s loss to the Beavers that kept them out of the conference title game.

Oregon (10-1) is touted as the best one-loss team in the College Football Playoffs. The only UO loss this year came in Week 7 against Washington, who is now at No. 4 in the CFP rankings. The Huskies clinched a berth to the Pac-12 Championship game with last week’s win over the then No. 10 Beavers, eliminating OSU (8-3) from championship contention.

UO would clinch its sixth-ever trip to the conference title game with a win, setting up a rematch with Washington for a possible CFP berth.

A Storied History 

The Ducks and Beavers have played against each other continuously since 1945. Their first match-up was in 1894, making it one of the top-10 most played college football rivalry games in the FBS. Overall, the Ducks lead the series at 67-49-10.

Beavers football players and their coach celebrating in a locker room. Fists are raised in the air in joy.
Oregon State University
Oregon State head football coach Jonathan Smith celebrates after No. 21 Oregon State rallied from 21 points down to beat No. 9 Oregon 38-34 at the 2022 Rivalry Game Nov. 26, 2022, in Corvallis.

OSU Head Coach Jonathan Smith knows the importance of this traditionally annual game: he was a four-year starter at quarterback for the Beavers from 1998-2001. In his four match-ups against Oregon as a player, he was 2-2. As a head coach, Smith has led the Beavers to victory in two of the five meetings.

“There’s emotion and pride,” Smith said, speaking this week ahead of the game. “You win this game, you get to talk about it for a full year. And so the intensity and the emotions that come with it is a cool thing about college football.”

The future of this match-up is uncertain: Oregon is moving to the Big Ten in 2024 and when next year’s schedule was announced, notably missing was a non-conference contest against OSU.

Smith has addressed the absence of a 2024 Beavers/Ducks matchup, saying “it’s not for me to decide.” He acknowledged the “long history of a series that has been good for the state itself, for both programs.” He said “if it can work out, I think it’d be a good thing.”

When asked whether he, as head coach, should have any say in the schedule, Smith said Oregon State has “great leadership,” who “know what's best for this university.” He acknowledged that “it's a complicated issue” but asserted his support for OSU Athletic Director Scott Barnes and the decisions being made.

Meanwhile, Oregon’s second-year head coach Dan Lanning, who is newer to the state, also recognizes the importance of this annual game, especially for fans. Speaking after last week’s win over Arizona State, Lanning said “this game is our Super Bowl.” He added that he’s “excited to see what our fans do when they show out to this game, but this is a big one.”

A Questionable Future

A football player in green carries the ball.
University of Oregon
Travis Dye (26) had two TDs in the Ducks' 38-29 win over Oregon State in Eugene, Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021.

The future of the Pac-12 is up in the air as only Oregon State and Washington State remain committed to the conference. Last week, a Whitman County Court judge ruled that OSU and WSU can remain as the Pac-12’s only two voting members. This was quickly followed by an appeal from the Pac-12 and departing schools, and a stay of the preliminary injunction was granted pending further rulings. Hundreds of millions of dollars from television deals and other sources of income are at stake in this dispute.

The Associated Press has reported that Oregon State and Washington State are in talks with the Mountain West conference to fill their 2024 schedules. If an agreement is reached, this could mean a long-term deal between Oregon State and Washington State and the Mountain West.

Just this week, Washington State and Washington announced that even though their two teams will be in different conferences, they are committed to continuing the Apple Cup, the annual rivalry game between the Cougars and Huskies, for the next five years.

Full House

Friday’s Rivalry Game at Autzen is officially sold-out. This means more than 59,000 fans are expected to be in attendance for this much-anticipated match-up between these two storied teams, as the regular season of the Pac-12 as we know it comes to a close.

Friday’s game will be broadcast on Fox, with a 5:40 kickoff.

Love Cross joined KLCC in 2017. She began her public radio career as a graduate student, serving as Morning Edition Host for Boise State Public Radio in the late 1990s. She earned her undergraduate degree in Rhetoric and Communication from University of California at Davis, and her Master’s Degree from Boise State University. In addition to her work in public radio, Love teaches college-level courses in Communication and Public Speaking.
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