While Steven Jackson and his St. Louis Rams teammates get ready for their matchup with the Chicago Bears this week, No. 39 will have more than just the Bears on his mind on Thursday night.
Steven's Oregon State Beavers travel into enemy territory tomorrow night, across the state of Oregon to Autzen Stadium in Eugene, where they'll take on the Oregon Ducks in the annual Civil War game.
This year's game is a winner-take-all brawl with a coveted berth in the Rose Bowl on the line for the victor, who will be hailed Pac-10 Champion. It's the first time in the history of the rivalry that the winner will be guaranteed a berth in the Rose Bowl and Action Jackson is psyched for the tilt.
"It's a big deal for me especially with the roses on the line this year," Steven said. "I actually go as far as I don't talk to Oregon alums and I don't talk to anyone that went to Oregon the week of. I don't wear green. I just really despise the Ducks in all senses of it."
SJ39's Beavers are out for a measure of revenge after Oregon deprived Oregon State of a Rose Bowl berth last season with a 65-38 drubbing on their home turf at Reser Stadium in Corvallis. The rivalry dates back more than 110 years, but last year's wounds are freshest on the minds of Steven and his fellow Oregon State alums and fans.
"Last year, we were up for the roses and we could have gone to the Rose Bowl," S-Jax recalls. "But they soured our dream and they beat us to deny our shot at the Rose Bowl. This year, for both teams to be up as a possibility and for whoever wins to go to the Rose Bowl, it makes the game have that much more at stake. It takes what is already a great game to that next level."
INTRODUCTION TO WAR
Being from Las Vegas, Steven didn't have much knowledge of the Civil War rivalry before his arrival at OSU. But that all changed when he took his official recruiting visit to Corvallis in 2000 for the game.
"My favorite memory, I wasn't even a part of it at the time. It was the year 2000 and I was on my recruiting trip at Oregon State for The Civil War. It was the game Oregon State beat Oregon to go to the Fiesta Bowl and it was just an amazing experience. It was the reason why I signed with Oregon State."
That year, Oregon State won one of the most entertaining and memorable games in Civil War history.
Oregon entered the game ranked No. 5 in the nation with the Beavers not far behind at No. 8. But a 23-13 Oregon State victory knocked Oregon out of Rose Bowl contention and sealed an at-large berth to the Fiesta Bowl for the Beavers. It was a game Steven would never forget and he was hooked.
"It actually introduced me into the rivalry and why I love it and why I love Oregon State," S-Jax said. "Once you become a part of it and live it, there's really no riding the fence on this. You have to pick a side and go with it."
All-time, Oregon holds a slight advantage over SJ39's Beavs, with 56 wins to Oregon State's 46. There were 10 ties before overtime was instituted, but there will be no ties in this 113th incarnation of the Civil War and the stakes are higher than they've ever been.
In Steven's three years as a Beaver, the Ducks took two of three meetings between the two.
Knowing what he does now, Steven doesn't understand why the Civil War game doesn't get more attention among the country's biggest rivalries, but No. 39's dislike for all things Oregon runs deep.
"They're arrogant. They have a sense of entitlement, thinking that they're the better university between the two. Those two things stick out the most from when we played them," he said. "We don’t talk to each other. Households are actually split during that week of Civil War. I don't think the rest of the country realizes how big this rivalry is. We're up there with the Ohio State vs. Michigan kind of rivalry."
TRAITOR WITHIN THE RANKS
Steven's own pro team, the Rams, houses a member of the enemy alliance.
Just two weeks ago, in need of help at the wide receiver position, the Rams signed Oregon Alum Jordan Kent, son of Oregon basketball coach Ernie Kent.
Steven's has already made it clear to Jordan that he should stay out of No. 39's way during Civil War week.
"We just signed him last week," SJ said. "He's well aware that there will be no communication between the two of us."
Entering Thursday night's matchup, Oregon State boasts the PAC-10's top rushing defense, while Oregon has the top rushing offense.
Likewise, Oregon State has the No. 1 passing offense in the PAC 10 and Oregon is home to the second best passing defense. With the two teams' strengths canceling each other out, something has to give and the X-Factor may be the man who occupies the position that Steven once called his own, Oregon State sophomore running back Jaquizz Rodgers.
Rodgers has already turned heads in his second season at Oregon State. He's rushed for 1,313 yards this season, 12th in the nation and his 19 touchdowns have him in a tie for third in the country.
"He's an unbelievable runner," S-Jax said. "Every time I get a chance to watch Oregon State play, I pay close attention to him and his game. He's a tough guy. He runs inside and outside. His will and determination, you can just really see it through the television screen."
Rodgers is on pace to pass Steven in the Oregon State record books as a junior next season and the talented runner could very well follow SJ's patch to the NFL after three years at OSU. S-Jax just loves to watch him go.
"I just love the way he plays the game of football," Steven said. "I'm hoping to be able to get a chance to meet him in person before he gets out of school."
Rodgers and the Beavers will look to defend the honor of Steven and all of Beaver nation when they take on the Oregon Ducks tomorrow night at 9 p.m. EST. The game can be seen live on ESPN.