Oregon-Cal Preview II

Nov. 9, 2000

AP Sports Writer

EUGENE, Ore. - After Saturday's home game against California, the Oregon Ducks willbecomecouch potatoes for Oregon State-Arizona, the latest game that could decidetheRose Bowl race.

Should No. 6 Oregon win and the No. 10 Beavers lose Saturday night, theDucks will go to the Rose Bowl. If the Beavers win, the Pac-10 championshipcould come down to the Civil War in Corvallis on Nov. 18.

'This is the first leg of what we call championship week,' Oregon coachMike Bellotti said Wednesday. 'This one gives us the opportunity to continueto control our own destiny. This game certainly is the most important, notonlyto date, but of my career here.'

Oregon (8-1, 6-0 Pac-10) has a one-game lead in the conference overOregonState and Washington. Oregon already has beaten the Huskies, but itstoughesttest could come in the final game, against the Beavers.

If Washington loses to UCLA this weekend, and the Beavers win, theCivil Warwill decide the Rose Bowl participant. Even if the Ducks lose this weekend,they still could win the conference title by beating Oregon State.

Never before have Oregon and Oregon been ranked in the Top 10 at thesametime, and the Ducks are at their highest position ever. Long the worst teamsinthe Pac-10, they played to a miserable 0-0 tie in 1983. But this year's gamecould be the most important of the 104 meetings.

'It's the biggest rivalry we have,' Bellotti said. 'The Civil War'saptlynamed because it truly divides the state, it divides households. It'salways,regardless of records, a tremendously hard-fought, intense rivalry with verydeep-felt feelings on both sides. We want to live in the state and be abletohold our heads up high.'

First, the Ducks have to get past a Cal team that is just 3-6 but beatUCLAand Southern California, and nearly knocked off Washington. Oregon is tryingfor its 20th straight home victory.

Oregon is coming off consecutive overtime victories against ArizonaStateand Washington State - teams that weren't expected to give the Ducks muchtrouble. Two weeks ago, Oregon had the conference's top-ranked defense, butinthe last two games it has given up more than 1,000 total yards, including667in a 56-55 double-overtime win at Arizona State.

On Monday, Oregon defensive end Saul Patu asked Bellotti for permissiontohold a players-only meeting to address the team's slippage.

'We just wanted to get everyone refocused and their attitude adjusted,tothink about how special this season could really be and to remember why wehaveput in so much work, to remember what all this is for,' Patu said.

Defensive end Jason Nikolao was expected to miss the next few weekswith apartial ligament tear in his right knee, but Bellotti said he should playSaturday.

Oregon State is 8-1 for the first time ever, and is looking for itsfirstRose Bowl appearance since 1965. Coach Dennis Erickson said his team has totryand forget about what Oregon and Washington does before the Beavers take thefield in Tucson.

'It really makes no difference what happens in either of those twogames,if they win, lose or draw, because we've got to win that game,' Ericksonsaid.

Bellotti and his coaches will be watching, with the Ducks surely tuninginalong with every Oregon fan in the state.

'I think that every one of us will watch the game,' Bellotti said.



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