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Husky Football Blog

The latest news and analysis on the Montlake Dawgs.

October 26, 2012 at 4:25 PM

The pick. …

I’m sure if you really examined it, there are all sorts of betting lines that came nowhere close to foreshadowing what happened on the field — maybe like last week’s UW-Arizona spread, which had a Wildcats team that won by 35 favored by only seven.

Still, the fact that the betting line on this week’s UW-Oregon State game started at 4.5 and in some place has gone down to 3.5 makes you wonder — do the money guys know something about this game that a lot of others don’t?

I’ve only seen a couple of picks of UW to win this game, and most of the numbers and available evidence would point the way of the Beavers, such as the common opponent game against Arizona — OSU beat the Wildcats 38-35 in Tucson while UW lost there 52-17.

Obviously, the one big mitigating factor is the home field — the game is at CenturyLink Field, where UW is 3-1 this season compared to 0-3 on the road.

Will the home field be enough again for UW tomorrow, again making the critical difference as it did down the stretch against Stanford?

I think the trick will be for UW to get to that point, first.

OSU has played a number of close games this season. But it has also rarely been behind, outscoring its six foes a combined 34-7 in the first quarter this year and 71-41 in the first half.

UW, conversely, has been outscored 58-44 in the first quarter this year and 44-13 in four Pac-12 games.

Given the contrasting season momentums of the two teams coming into the game, this feels like a big one for UW to get a lead, or at least be relatively even (as was the case most of the way with Stanford) so it can stick to its gameplan and not allow the Beavers to sit on the ball on offense and tee off on the quarterback on defense.

As noted, though, lots of numbers favor the Bears. Consider a few:

— UW has been outscored 207-145 for the season; OSU has outscored its six foes 157-99, scoring more points in six games than UW has in seven, and allowing half as many points as the Huskies;

— UW has just nine sacks this year (OSU’s Scott Crichton has eight by himself) while the Beavers have allowed just 11;

— OSU is allowing 2.9 yards per rush, UW 4.8; OSU is averaging 8.2 yards per pass, UW 5.6;

— The Beavers are first in the Pac-12 in turnover margin at plus-10, the Huskies tied for ninth at minus-three.

We could argue what some of those mean, especially turnovers, which sometimes are a matter of luck and can come and go pretty quickly (though turnovers are also often forced with quarterback pressure, tight coverage, etc.).

But I throw those out there just to show some of the areas where OSU appears to have an edge tomorrow. Frankly, there’s no stat in which UW really has a significant edge, though one that would give some cause for optimism is rushing —- the Huskies are at 3.7 per carry and OSU just 3.1, one area where the Beavers were dreadful last year and while better this year, still not to a really elite level.

On the other hand, Stanford had a lot of similar edges heading into that game here exactly a month ago, and we know what happened — the Huskies played a great defensive game to keep it close into the fourth quarter and then used opportunistic offense to pull it out late.

I think that’s the same formula the Huskies will have to employ tomorrow, though the way they’ll have to do it is obviously different — OSU will want to throw it early and often rather than UW being able to gang up on the run as it did against the Cardinal.

Undoubtedly, the Huskies have to get a return-to-form game from Keith Price, and it sounds like Steve Sarkisian wants to take some shots against an OSU secondary that will play its share of man coverage.

While the Huskies looked like a pretty emotionally battered team last week at Arizona, they’ve shown a good ability to bounce back during the Sarkisian era. So I think if a few good things can happen for the Huskies early, that part of it won’t be a real issue. There’s also the matter of whether fortune is due to catch up to Oregon State, which has won six in a row, but three by a touchdown or less and all with some degree of suspense going into the fourth quarter.

As you can maybe tell, I’m expecting UW to rebound and play better than it has the last few weeks — and who knows how the Huskies might be inspired by some of the criticism they heard this week that Sarkisian undoubtedly has made them aware of? But the numbers — which start to be more relevant at this point of the season — lean to Oregon State. So call it a close one, but ultimately a win for the visitors, OREGON STATE 24, WASHINGTON 21.

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