Colleague Jason Vondersmith reminds me I haven’t forecast an Oregon State Civil War victory since 2006, when the Beavers won a 30-28 thriller at Reser Stadium.

The next year, Oregon State scored a 38-31 overtime upset win at Autzen Stadium, the first time a visitor had won in the series since 1996. Over the last four years, the Ducks have emerged victorious every time, making me 4-0 with my Jeane Dixon work through that span.

In 2010 and ‘11, there was as little anticipation for the state rivalry game as I can ever remember, because an Oregon victory seemed a foregone conclusion.

That’s not the case this year. Oregon remains the prohibitive favorite, but Stanford exposed some fallibility in the UO offensive machine that provides hope that Oregon State’s defense — one of the best in the country, especially against the run — may be able to slow the Ducks down a little.

There are so many weapons in the UO offense — Kenyon Barner, De’Anthony Thomas, Josh Huff — but Marcus Mariota is the X, Y and Z factor. The redshirt freshman quarterback is not just fast but an elusive runner who looks like a tailback in the open field, and he proved against California he can get things done through the air, too. Then there is Colt Lyerla, the seemingly superhuman tight end who, with the ball in his hands, goes down only when absolutely necessary.

Oregon State’s defense has speed on the edges — Dylan Wynn and Scott Crichton at end, D.J. Alexander and Michael Doctor at outside linebacker — and the work they do in containment will be critical. In recent Civil War games, OSU defensive coordinator Mark Banker has talked to his players about staying home and plugging gaps for the Ducks to run through. Maybe this time they’ll have a little more success.

Sean Mannion is back in a good place both mentally and physically, and the Beavers need their sophomore QB’s “A” game along with that of the O-line, which must protect as well as open some holes for Storm Woods and Terron Ward. The Ducks will surely send plenty of blitz action Mannion’s way, and how the Beavers handle it will go a long way toward deciding Saturday’s verdict.

If it comes down to the kicking game, I like OSU’s Trevor Romaine over Oregon’s Alejandro Maldonado or Rob Beard. I don’t think a game-winning field goal is in the cards, though.

So much is on the line for both teams. Oregon remains with an outside shot at the national championship game but an excellent chance at a BCS bowl berth with a victory. Oregon State would be in the picture for the latter and a no-brainer for the Alamo or Holiday bowls with an upset of the nation’s No. 5-ranked team.

Inside mild-mannered OSU coach Mike Riley stirs a tornado-force desire to knock off the Ducks after four straight losses. Chip Kelly, 3-0 as Oregon’s coach against the Men in Orange, can’t even contemplate the possibilities of what would happen should the Ducks lose Saturday.

I’m not thinking along the lines of friend Aaron Fentress of the daily, who wrote earlier in the season that Oregon State has “zero” chance to beat Oregon. Like Desmond Howard, though, I’m not sipping on that Beaver Juice. Not this time.

THE PICK: Oregon 35, Oregon State 27

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