For the ninth-ranked Oregon Ducks, there is no use looking back at what might have been.
Oregon (9-2, 7-1) lost last Saturday to USC, eliminating any chance of a repeat bid for a national title. But the Ducks still have the inagural Pac-12 championship game to look forward to, and perhaps even the Rose Bowl, if they can get past rival Oregon State in the annual Civil War game.
“We’re not really used to handling losses but you just think it over for about a day and when Monday comes around you just have to focus on the next week,” Ducks tight end David Paulson said. “It’s the same as a win. You get to enjoy it for a day, then you have to come back and focus on the next week.”
While the Civil War doesn’t seem like much of a challenge—the Beavers have won just three games this season—the Ducks are wary. They were supposed to beat the Trojans, too, but instead lost their first game at Autzen Stadium since September 2008.
The Ducks trailed USC 38-14 in the third quarter but pulled within 38-35. On Oregon’s final drive, Alejandro Maldonado missed a 37-yard field goal that would have sent the game into overtime.
“When you lose a game you can’t wait to play the next one,” Ducks running back LaMichael James told reporters on Tuesday. “Practice has been going really well. We’re really fired up. It’s gonna be a different game than it was last week. Everybody’s really motivated to put that loss behind them.”
The Beavers (3-8, 3-5) are coming off a 38-21 win over Washington last Saturday. A victory over Oregon would further ease the disappointment of a second straight season with no bowl berth.
“They’re going to bring everything they’ve got,” Paulson said.
Oregon State coach Mike Riley grew up in Corvallis and his dad was an assistant for the Beavers under celebrated coach Dee Andros, so he’s seen more than his share of Civil Wars.
“It’s especially tough this year with a great Oregon team,” he said on Tuesday. “Every phase of the game we’re going to have to play at a tremendously high level to compete. But, I’ll tell you this: I think our team will compete hard and prepare well. I know they’re looking forward to a great opportunity.”
Saturday’s game is the 115th Civil War. Oregon has won the last three, sending the Ducks off to the Rose Bowl in 2009 and the national championship game against Auburn last season
With a victory over the Beavers, Oregon will win the North Division and host the first Pac-12 title game on Dec. 2. The championship game was added this season after Colorado and Utah joined the league.
Should the Ducks lose, Stanford (10-1, 8-1) will host the game. The Cardinal play Notre Dame in a non-conference finale on Saturday.
The South Division’s representative for the game is also undecided. UCLA can clinch with a victory over USC in their rivalry game, but Arizona State and Utah could still claim the South under certain circumstances.
The league champion will earn a trip to the Rose Bowl on Jan. 2, to play the winner of the Big Ten title.
While Oregon has long espoused Chip Kelly’s “every game is our Super Bowl” philosophy, the Ducks still headed to practice this week with a little extra enthusiasm.
“For us, it’s the same every week. Practice is Groundhog’s Day here,” offensive lineman Mark Asper said. “But I do enjoy the energy around town and on campus and stuff when we’re playing a traditional rival. I get excited for that. The community energy fuels the fire a little bit.”