While making the mistake of reading an OLive comment board recently, I ran across this gem:
“OSU frequently rises up and smacks the Ducks when they come in as heavy underdogs… Look for history to repeat itself”
As is my apparent role in life, I started looking into the history. Could this actually be true?
But I did discover a few facts that might come in handy for bar bets or to shut up an annoying orange neighbor. (Civil War Fun Facts data)
- OSU has not come into the Civil War with *more* wins on the season than Oregon since 1978. (Oregon won that year, 24-3.) Yes, Virginia, that is 33 years, and counting.
OSU has pulled off that “big upset” — a win over an Oregon team that came into the CW with a winning record — exactly three times since 1946:
- 1959 — arguably the biggest upset of the Ducks in postwar history: 8-1 Oregon hosts 2-7 OSU expecting a win and a Rose Bowl bid, but apparently didn’t want it bad enough, losing at Hayward Field 15-7.
- 1988 — Oregon, in a tailspin after losing Bill Musgrave for the season against ASU, enters the game at 6-4, but without a QB and just wanting to get the season over with; 3-6-1 bavers win, 21-10.
- 1998 — Oregon, 8-2 but playing the last half of the season without a Pac10-quality running back, fights valiantly against the conditions, the officiating and the bavers, but loses a 44-41 thriller in 2 OT to 4-6 OSU.
That’s it. Three times in the last 65 seasons has OSU risen to smite its dominant oppressor.
Of the other eight “underdog” wins by scrappy, lunchpail-toting OSU, six came in seasons where both teams had losing records, and the other two were between teams within one game of each other in the win column — no big underdogs there.
Admittedly, OSU has more big upset wins over Oregon than the opposite — simply because Oregon hasn’t been an underdog to OSU very often since 1946.
Only seven games have been played where OAC has more than a one-win advantage on the season over the Ducks; that last happened in 1978, when a one-win Oregon team shocked 3-8 OSU, 24-3. (The line on that game was even.)
This is not to say that a win by four-touchdown-underdog OSU is unpossible. Stranger things have happened. But if the baver fan wants to hang his nutria-skin pill box hat on historic precedent, he’s going to have a hard time finding the hook.