Washington State isn't very good.
Don't get me wrong, they're a tremendous improvement over the squads that the Cougars have fielded the last few seasons. But still not very good. Yes, the game in Pullman last season was close until the fourth quarter. But with this game being at Autzen and Jeff Tuel sitting on the bench, I don't really way for the Cougars to keep it close.
And that's not as much an indictment of the Wazzu offense as much as its defense. The stats aren't pretty. Washington State ranks 111th nationally in pass efficiency defense, 96th in opponents' yards per play (6.1 ypp), 110th nationally on defending third down (50.5%), and 81st in sacks. This is still a bad defense, without much mature talent other than Alex Hoffman-Ellis. While they seem to be one of the worst in the country against the pass (103rd, and they just gave up almost 400 yards to Sean Mannion last week), they are still sub-50 against the run as well, a stat that simply isn't going to cut it against Oregon.
I'm very interested to see if LaMichael James and Darron Thomas come back for this game, but, either way, the game plan is pretty much the same. This is a better team than Colorado, but still not a team that should mount a serious challenge. Give Washington State a steady dose LMJ and Barner, and compliment it with a few shots to DAT, Tuinei, and Paulson. Its the same gameplan we saw against Colorado. WSU doesn't create turnovers, and they rank 85th nationally in TFL (5/game). Large numbers of turnovers are the only way I see the Cougs staying in the game, and they just don't get them.
The offense, especially with the excellent play of the offensive line of late, should be able to grind out first downs regularly, and, while our receivers haven't been great, we'll take just enough shots downfield to keep them from stacking the box. Its not complicated, but, then, it doesn't have to be when you're playing a team that's not very good.
I want to see Ayele Forde getting a lot of carries in the fourth quarter. Against this team, that should be the goal.