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Oregon's Civil War draws attention

It's a rarity for Rose Bowl ambitions to hinge on Corvallis, Ore.


© St. Petersburg Times, published November 18, 2000

The schools are located just a few hours apart, and feelings get hurt among families when the football teams play. High school friends and teammates become adversaries; work colleagues don't speak.

The Florida-Florida State rivalry fits the description, and tonight's game in Tallahassee certainly has plenty riding on the outcome.

But who would have dreamed they would be dealing with the same emotions in Corvallis, Ore., where the college football world rarely has looked for such a compelling matchup?

The annual Civil War between Oregon and Oregon State has a Rose Bowl berth at stake.

"It used to be you could leave two season tickets on the dashboard of your unlocked car and when you came back there'd be two more," said Floyd Woody, a longtime Oregon State fan.

Now, you can't get a ticket -- at least not for less than the scalper's fee of $250.

That's because the Beavers have nine wins for the first time since 1939. And their six wins in the Pac-10 are the most in league play since 1957. And for the first time in 104 years of football, the Beavers will play in consecutive bowl games.

Who would have believed that the Alabama-Auburn game would mean less than Oregon-Oregon State? Or that Michigan-Ohio State has only a slim chance of having a bearing on the Big Ten race. Or that USC-UCLA would be just another game?

Today is rivalry day, and outside of Florida-Florida State, there can't be a bigger one than the Civil War.

If No. 5 Oregon (9-1) defeats No. 8 Oregon State (9-1), the Ducks capture the Pac-10 and head to the Rose Bowl.

"To lose this game would be heartbreaking," Oregon State linebacker Richard Seigler said. "They'll be able to celebrate the Rose Bowl on our field. We can't let that happen. That would be too much to take."

An Oregon State victory coupled with a Washington State win over Washington would mean the Beavers go to Pasadena for the first time since 1964.

That means the Apple Cup game between Washington and Washington State also has plenty riding on it. For the 9-1 Huskies, who still cling to slim national championship hopes, the game is huge.

Ranked sixth, the Huskies could be denied the Rose Bowl but still be in the national title picture if the right combination of things happen to Oklahoma, Miami, Florida State and Florida. The Cougars are just 4-6, so this is their bowl game. And it's in Pullman.

The other side of the Rose Bowl can be determined in West Lafayette, Ind. If Purdue defeats Indiana in the annual Old Oaken Bucket game, the Boilermakers (7-3) will make their first Rose Bowl appearance since Bob Griese was quarterback in 1967. It won't be easy, even against a 3-7 team. The Hoosiers' Antwaan Randle El is one of the country's most exciting players.

If Randle El somehow orchestrates an upset, the Michigan-Ohio State game suddenly takes on new meaning. Both teams take two Big Ten losses into the game, a rarity, but the Buckeyes would head to Pasadena with a victory over the Wolverines and a Purdue loss. For Michigan to make it, the Wolverines need to defeat Ohio State coupled with Purdue and Northwestern losses.

Meanwhile, the Auburn-Alabama game is being played in Tuscaloosa for the first time since 1901. For years, the game was played in Birmingham.

The Crimson Tide will be playing its final game under coach Mike DuBose. The Tigers are 8-2 and still have a shot at claiming the SEC West and appearing in the SEC title game.

"It's the difference between a winning season and a losing season," Auburn linebacker Alex Lincoln said. "I don't think anybody in this building will consider this a successful season if we lose to Alabama."

Rivalry games often are viewed in that manner. Among the others being played today: Stanford at California, South Carolina at Clemson, North Carolina at Duke and Yale at Harvard.

But just try telling Oregon and Oregon State fans that any of those games are bigger.

Two years ago in Corvallis, Oregon State pulled off an upset, a 44-41 double-overtime thriller against Oregon. Fans stormed the field. And the Ducks have not forgotten.

"Their fans and little kids were rude, and the old people were rude," Oregon defensive end Saul Patu said.

That's what a rivalry is all about.

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