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(photo by Morgan Genser)

CORVALLIS, Ore. — Oregon State quarterback Ryan Katz is quickly finding out that life in big-time college football isn’t easy.

The former Santa Monica High School star, who is completing his first year as a starter, is preparing to lead his OSU Beavers against Oregon in the Civil War this Saturday and the stakes couldn’t be higher.

Oregon, ranked No. 2 in the country and undefeated, comes into the rivalry game with aspirations of playing in the Bowl Championship Series national title game. Katz and Oregon State (5-6) are playing for their bowl lives, needing one more win to become eligible. It is the final regular season game for each team.

But, to hear Katz explain it, he seems confident in his team’s chances of walking away with a shocking win.

“I try not to get caught up in it,” Katz said of the attention surrounding the game. “There will be a lot of press there, a lot of people will be watching.

“I’m not trying to get hyped-up on that.”

The prospect of facing one of the top ranked teams in the country should be enough to give any young quarterback pause, but Katz has had practice at it.

This will be the fourth top-10 team Oregon State will be facing this year with previous losses to TCU, Boise State and Stanford. Oregon State’s schedule is ranked as the toughest in the country as a result of these big matchups. Yet, aside from the Stanford game, Oregon State was competitive in two of the three games and have one advantage this time around. For the first time, the Beavers will be hosting a nationally ranked team in Corvallis, Ore.

“We’ve played well at home,” Katz said. “Hopefully that will carry over into Saturday.”

The Beavers are 4-1 at Reser Stadium this year, but the fifth victory would be sweetest for Katz and OSU. But, like he said, Katz is taking it in stride.

“I’m just going to enjoy the moment,” he said. “We just want to be bowl eligible.”

As if the game needs more subplots, the game between Oregon and Oregon State is heated enough to have earned the nickname, the Civil War. This will be Katz’ first start in the annual rivalry game, but Head Coach Mike Riley in his 10 years at OSU has been there enough to have an idea of what to expect.

“I think that our state is rather unique. I’ve been involved in rivalry games a few places but this one always, for me personally, has been the biggest,” Riley said during his weekly press conference. “There’s no fence-riding and it’s probably the biggest sporting event in our state every year. The other side of it is the games have gotten bigger and bigger for many reasons; not just winning the Civil War.”

daniela@smdp.com