In the Pac-12 Pick’em this week, I selected Washington State to win its game against Oregon State for a couple of reasons.
The biggest is that I don’t think that the Beavers have the defensive stuff necessary to stay ahead in a shootout, which is what this will devolve into. Steven Nelson is going to hate me saying this, but the Washington State secondary — led by Damante Horton — is going to disrupt an Oregon State attack that is currently churning out tons of yards for Brandin Cooks and Sean Mannion. This is an OSU team that probably doesn’t have enough pressure to drape on Connor Halliday, and so I think he’s got a better chance of beating the Beavers.
Scott Crichton‘s junior year made the Beaver defensive front look threatening this fall, but they’ve been anything but as teams have not struggled to run on the weakened Beavs. Oregon State sits, meanwhile, at 92nd in the land in scoring defense, allowing 31.6 points per game to their opponents. Utah was a prime example as Travis Wilson led the way, picking up 142 yards on the ground, and followed closely by James Poole (117 rushing yards).
Luckily for the Beavs, their defense has struggled with running quarterbacks, and Halliday is not what anyone would exactly call a mobile dual threat. And the Wazzu running game isn’t anything to write home about. The Beavers and Cougars are together at (nearly) the very bottom of the country’s rushing attacks, with OSU at 121 and WSU at 122 of the 123 programs listed. Only UConn rushes for less this year.
The difference between OSU rushing and Wazzu rushing is that Wazzu has less carries recorded than any other team in college football. The Cougars have 111 rushing attempts in 6 games.
If you take away the 34 tackles for loss they’ve allowed this year, they’ve attempted 77 rushes this year that have gone for a gain. So Mike Leach is selling out for the pass this season and for the most part, it’s worked. The Cougars are 4-2 on the year and have a big win over a Pac-12 opponent already this year. The team’s one big, glaring problem is interceptions, as Halliday has launched 10 on the season, at least one for six points against the Stanford Cardinal.
While Wazzu hasn’t tried too hard for its 352 yards, Oregon State has 28 more carries in one less game and pulled in just 340 rushing yards.
While I’m not going to go out on a limb and call Washington State’s defense elite, it certainly is improved from the last few years when they were bottom of the barrel. I think that defense is going to be the difference when Oregon State has trouble slowing down the air raid.
The Cougars play with their emotions on their sleeves and come away with a second-straight double-digits victory, leaving WSU one game away from their first bowl eligibility in ten years.
Washington State Cougars 48, Oregon State Beavers 35