Do Cougs Have Any Hope At Oregon?
By John Baker
It would be easy to try and lay out a trap game scenario for the Oregon Ducks when Washington State comes calling Saturday night.
We could talk about Oregon's big, emotional win over Washington last week draining the Ducks. We could further the cause by insisting Oregon no doubt will overlook the Cougars as other, more fertile ground is just off the horizon. We could even offer up Cougars quarterback Connor Halliday having the kind of night that coach Mike Leach used to routinely enjoy from his quarterbacks at Texas Tech.
Yeah, we could preview Saturday's Washington State at Oregon contest with a lot of nonsense about Washington State having a chance to pull the upset. But that would just be a bunch of paragraphs built around bulls... The truth is folks, if this one were being played under the cold and snowy conditions of the Palouse, I'd consider stitching that tale together. But under clear skies on a crisp night at Oregon's Autzen Stadium, the question becomes how many points can the Ducks put on the Cougars before it's all over?
Oregon has the advantage in nearly every statistical category, but more than that, brings a trailer full of athletes better than Washington Stat. Leach has done a wonderful job of improving the Cougars program in this, his second season, but he's about to run into a well-oiled machine that has so many big-play parts that even if half those playing poorly, there's still enough talent to hammer home touchdown after touchdown.
A few Pac-12 rankings to ponder on the eve of this game:
1) Oregon — 56.8 ppg
9) Washington State — 29.9 ppg
1) Oregon — 13.8 ppg
7) Washington State — 25.3 ppg
1) Oregon — 630.5 ypg
9) Washington State — 413.3 ypg
1) Oregon — 338.7 ypg
8) Washington State — 400.3 ypg
In fact, the only two real valuable statistical categories in which Washington State competes with Oregon are passing offense and interceptions. The Cougars are winging it for 346 yards a game. (By the way, WSU rushes for only 66 yards a game. Hello, one-dimensional offense.) The Washington State secondary has 11 picks in seven games — second in the Pac-12.
The best you can hope for is that Cougars quarterback Halliday gets to fling it all over the arena, offering up a double dose of passing yardage and pick opportunities for the Oregon defense. You have to wonder, even given a big passing day from Halliday, whether the Cougars can keep it close given they can't run the ball. By being so one-dimensional, Oregon's front four, including defensive end Tony Washington, will be coming hell-bent-for-leather and we could see a bushel of turnovers and some defensive scores.
Here's my best advice, with game time at 7:30 p.m. on the West Coast, tune in early and make a night of the first half. Hopefully what you'll see is quarterback Marcus Mariota throwing and running the ball effectively, running backs Byron Marshall and Thomas Tyner continuing their development, Oregon's slew of receiving threats running free all over the field and enough big plays to keep you interested before tuning to the next station to see how Oregon State is doing against California.
No, Virginia, Santa won't be bringing Washington State a miracle Saturday. Instead, the coal will fill the stocking full in, say, a 59-10 Oregon win.