Washington State broke a rare three-game losing streak last week after they defeated Colorado, 41-10. They'll face No. 11 Oregon on the road, who has won six straight since losing to Auburn in their opener (27-21). The Ducks improved to 4-0 in the Pac-12 after edging Washington on the road, 35-31 this past Saturday.
Last year, the Cougars took this game at home, 34-20 against the Ducks. They've won four straight games in this series and have covered nine straight games.
Expectations not met in PullmanMaybe head coach Mike Leach knew from the start. He scheduled New Mexico State (58-7 win), Northern Colorado (59-17) and Houston (31-24) as non-conference games. The Houston win was solid, especially considering it was on the road, but that's not exactly a murderer's row of teams. But after beating Houston, they were stunned at home by a bad UCLA team (67-63). Utah blasted the Cougars on the road (38-13) and they were edged by Arizona State (38-34).
Last week, the Cougars got back on the winning track, crushing Colorado at home, 41-10. But questions still remain on the defensive side of the ball where coordinator Tracy Claeys resigned after the Utah loss. Roc Bellantoni has taken over and while they did give up 38 points to Arizona State, they showed some improvements against the Bufaloes last week. Washington State held Colorado to just 320 yards of offense, including 141 in the air. They also forced three turnovers in and held them to 5-of-15 on third downs.
The bottom line is that they need to get better on defense to make a bowl game, because they aren't going to win the Pac-12 at 1-3 in the league. The Cougars are allowing 439.1 yards per game overall and 261.9 in the air. That's not a good sign against Justin Herbert and that Oregon passing offense.
Offensively, it's all about the pass in Leach's Air Raid offense. Quarterback Anthony Gordon leads the Pac-12 with 425.9 yards per game and has 29 TDs with just seven picks on the season (2,981 yards). The running game is usually an afterthought under Leach, but that's not the case this season. Sophomore Max Borghi has amassed 512 yards rushing and has 36 catches for 328 yards receiving with nine TDs.
Ducks continue to rollOregon was down by 10 points late in the third quarter against Washington last week from Seattle. The Ducks cut the lead to three on a 36-yard pass from Herbert to Mycah Pittman with no time left in the third quarter. They took the lead for good on a 5-yard pass from Hebert to Jaylon Redd with 5:10 left. Herbert outdueled Jacob Eason, by completing 24 of 38 for 280 yards with four TDs and no picks. The Oregon running game was also solid, adding 188 yards on 34 attempts.
Defensively, they gave up 289 yards in the air but won this game because they were strong on third downs, allowing the Huskies to convert just 3-of-13 (23%).
The Ducks lost running back C.J. Verdell (496 yards) in the second half against Washington to a "soft tissue strain", according to head coach Mario Cristobal. Starting linebacker Troy Dye broke his right thumb against the Huskies and then the broke the cast. He's expected to play after being limited in practice during the week.
Herbert is having a tremendous season, completing 68.1% of his passes for 1,882 yards with 21 TDs and just one pick. The offense is averaging 462 yards per game overall and 283.6 in the air. The pass defense will be tested in this game and they've performed well, allowing just 178.6 yards per game.
Washington State is:
- 4-1 ATS last 5 in October.
- 23-9 ATS last 32 after an ATS win.
- Underdog is 7-2 ATS last 9 in this series.
- 9-0 ATS last 9 in this series.
- 4-12 ATS last 16 after an ATS win.