The Huskies, who are busing to Corvallis as I write this, have been down this road before.
In fact, it was almost exactly two years ago — Nov. 9, 2007 — that UW was also 3-6 and traveling to Oregon State needing a win to keep bowl hopes alive.
Those ended that night in a wild game that saw Jake Locker sent to the hospital, four players ejected, and a wild finish when a controversial call of an Yvenson Bernard fumble at the goal-line almost allowed the Huskies to come back and win.
Instead, it was a 29-23 loss that clinched another bowl-less season for the Huskies.
UW was five-point underdogs that night, and is up to a 13-point underdog for tomorrow, depending on the book. And that feels about right — this seems like the toughest game of the year so far for the Huskies to pull out a win against a surging OSU team that is coming off a dominating win at Cal.
Doesn’t mean it can’t be done, but the smart money — as evidenced in these line movements — is heading in the other direction. And that’s been pretty ominous for the Huskies this season when the line has begun to really move in the other direction.
When I broke down the position rankings for the preview box in the paper, here’s how it unfolded:
QB — Even. I think this is the first time all year Jake Locker hasn’t gotten the check mark. But Sean Canfield deserves it for leading the Pac-10 in passing and probably being the All-Pac-10 QB if the season ended today.
TB – Oregon State. This is a close call as Chris Polk is really playing well. But hard not to give the edge to Jacquizz Rodgers for all that he does for the Beavers, including catching an astounding 58 passes so far.
WR — Even. OSU has the leading WR in the conference in James Rodgers so this may seem like a homer vote. But UW’s overall group has been playing pretty well and OSU has some injury issues with other WRs. OSY H-back Joe Halahuni could make this another check mark for OSU by game’s end, however. He has 26 receptions this season.
OL — Oregon State. This looked to be a question mark for the Beavers before the season ended, but a young group has come together quickly led by true freshman left tackle Michael Philipp, who was one of the more highly-touted players to sign with OSU in recent years.
DL — Oregon State. OSU has one of the best in the Pac-10 in DT Stephen Paea and a deep group overall. UW is still trying to find the right combination, especially with Cameron Elisara out another week.
LB — UW. OSU has a solid group but I gave this edge to UW as Donald Butler and Mason Foster continue to play at a high level and Cort Dennison has been solid filling in for E.J. Savannah. The Rodgers brothers will be a big test for this group tomorrow, however.
Secondary — Oregon State. OSU has been susceptible this year in this area, giving up 16 TDs, second-most in the Pac-10. OSU has been especially bad in the red zone against the pass, giving up 13 TDs there, five more than anyone else in the conference. But hard to give UW’s secondary the edge over anyone right now.
Special teams — Oregon State. OSU has solid kickers, each ranking higher than UW’s in the conference standings, and their returns also have better numbers — James Rodgers is sixth in the conference in kickoff returns.
Add that up and it looks like a rout. And I know from talking to a few people around UW that this was a game they feared from the beginning — a bad matchup in some areas, on the road on OSU’s Senior Day, etc.
And it could well be. But the Huskies have shown a knack to stay in games all season, and with Locker healthier than he’s been in a few weeks, they should be able to score a few points. The key will be scoring TDs and not field goals, and not making big mistakes. But I don’t see the Huskies really slowing down the Beavers unless OSU just self-destructs on its own. So ultimately, I see OSU pulling away and sadly extinguishing UW’s bowl hopes for another season, 35-24.