Pac-12 footbalL this week: Civil War always has lot on line

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When his father started coaching at Oregon State in 1965, 12-year-old Mike Riley started caring, deeply, about the Civil War.

The annual Oregon-Oregon State game still is "probably the biggest sporting event in the state," the Beavers head coach said Tuesday.

Only now - and in recent years - has the 116-game rivalry taken a national bent.

"The great thing is, it used to be for the local championship," Riley said. "In the last decade it's been for much bigger ramifications."

All three of the Pac-12's games Saturday will have stunning national implications:

• USC is hosting No. 1 Notre Dame, which will advance to the Bowl Championship Series national title game with a win.

• One week after toppling the Ducks, No. 11 Stanford can clinch the Pac-12 North crown by beating No. 15 UCLA in Pasadena, Calif.

• And No. 16 Oregon State has a chance to eliminate No. 5 Oregon from a shot at the Rose Bowl and the national title.

The Civil War is used to those stakes in the last few years.

"The ramifications in the last few years have been Rose Bowls for both teams, or the national championship for Oregon," Riley said.

Last year, the Ducks rolled Oregon State before winning the Pac-12 title game and the Rose Bowl. A year earlier, Oregon beat Oregon State before playing for the national title.

In 2008 and 2009, the Ducks beat the Beavers on the way to back-to-back 10-3 seasons. Both times, the Rose Bowl was on the line.

Stanford can clinch a title game berth, and a rematch with UCLA next week, by winning in Pasadena on Saturday.

The Cardinal could eventually land in a BCS bowl, but coach David Shaw said he learned last year - when Stanford was shut out of the national title game - that "you can't win an argument with a computer."

"For coaches and players," he said, "we have to concentrate on what happens on the field."

USC isn't playing for the Rose Bowl after losing to UCLA last week; rather, the Trojans can salvage their season by beating the No. 1 Fighting Irish.

"Nobody's really moved the ball on them," USC coach Lane Kiffin said.

The Trojans will have to try with Max Wittek, their backup quarterback, who, Kiffin said, "has prepared all year" to be the starter.

He replaced quarterback Matt Barkley, who sprained the AC joint in his throwing shoulder against the Bruins. The Trojans "assume" he'll be ready for a bowl game, Kiffin said.

Barkley will miss his second-straight home game against Notre Dame; he sat two years ago with a sprained ankle.

"Luck of the Irish, I guess, for (Notre Dame coach) Brian Kelly," Kiffin said.

The coach said a better defense would have helped Barkley, a one-time favorite to win the Heisman Trophy, earn more accolades.

"If we were playing defense here like we were with Carson (Palmer) or with Matt (Leinart) when they were winning Heismans," Kiffin said, "I think Matt would be on his way to New York."

Who wins the North?

UCLA clinched the Pac-12 South last week; here's a look at how the North will be decided Saturday:

• Stanford would host the title game if the Cardinal defeats UCLA on Saturday

• Oregon would host, if the Ducks beat Oregon State and UCLA beats Stanford

• Stanford would play in the title game, if UCLA beats Stanford and Oregon State beats Oregon. The Bruins would host the title game in that scenario.