The pressure’s on both Washington and Oregon State. One team will become bowl eligible Saturday night. The other will head into its in-state rivalry game in must-win mode.
The Beavers (5-5, 2-5) have struggled at times this season, particularly on offense (they’re 11th in the Pac-12 in scoring at 27.6 points per game). Senior QB Sean Mannion became the Pac-12’s all-time leading passer on Nov. 1, but he hasn’t lived up to the billing as a potential first-round NFL draft pick. Two week ago, Oregon State lost to Washington State at home.
Then last week the Beavers pulled off one of the biggest upsets in the Pac-12 this season, stunning No. 7 Arizona State, 35-27. The Beavers have some momentum, and they have some nice pieces in the passing game that could give UW’s young secondary fits.
The Huskies (6-5, 2-5) counter with perhaps the Pac-12’s best defensive line. Danny Shelton and Hau’oli Kikaha will almost surely garner all-America honors, and the Hudson “brothers” — Andrew and Evan — have been consistently dependable. This is where UW should have a significant edge Saturday night.
The Huskies have 40 sacks this season, second-most in the nation. The Beavers have allowed 30 sacks this season, tied for the most in the Pac-12. Let’s set the over/under for Kikaha at 2.5 sacks Saturday. Sacks aren’t everything, of course, but the Huskies should be able to get enough pressure on the immobile Mannion to give UW’s young, but improving, secondary a chance to slow down OSU’s underrated receivers.
The Beavers will also be without their leading rusher, Terron Ward (696 yards, 10 TDs). That would figure to make them even more one-dimensional, which figures to further play into UW’s defensive strength.
From week to week, we’re still left to wonder about what the UW offense will be able to do, or not do. That remains true. The Huskies surely won’t be able to rush for 530 yards as they did in the 69-27 blowout over OSU last year, but Dwayne Washington’s breakthrough last week was a much-needed boost, and Kasen Williams’ reemergence was another positive sign.
Even with all that in UW’s favor, I’m counting on a tense (and very late) finish. Those Husky fans brave enough to stick around after 11 p.m. will go home happy when Cameron Van Winkle kicks the Huskies to victory and into bowl season.
Prediction: Washington 27, Oregon State 24.
Around the Pac-12:
Washington State at Arizona State: Yes, the Sun Devils were overrated. You would think the loss to the Beavs would provide plenty of motivation for ASU this week. The pick: Arizona State 45, Washington State 21.
USC at UCLA: I’m not sold on the Bruins as a top-10 team, but they’re on a roll lately, and I think they’ll do just enough to slow the Trojans. The pick: UCLA 34, USC 31.
Colorado at Oregon: The Buffs, 32.5-point underdogs, should cover. That might be the only positive takeaway for them in Eugene. The pick: Oregon 49, Colorado 24.
Stanford at California: Jared Goff and the Bears finally go Beast Mode on Stanford for a big Big Game win. The pick: Cal 35, Stanford 24.
Arizona at Utah: I have no idea how the Wildcats are 8-2, but I don’t see that Arizona offense having much success in Salt Lake City. The pick: Utah 24, Arizona 17.