This is the followup to last week's Oregon/Arizona analysis.
Washington State was expected to have a huge resurgence under Mike Leach. WSU had good QBs with excellent long passing technique, a great receiver in Marquess Wilson and other talent - especially on offensive line - to give Leach the ability to hit the ground running and take WSU back to their successful runs in the late 90s. I personally thought WSU would go to a bowl game this year and likely beat Washington. It seemed tailor made for Leach.
Unfortunately for him and fortunately for the Ducks, Washington State's statistical performance is closer to Arkansas State than it is to a good team - they are 108th in the nation by FEI and 97th by S&P. And this means that Oregon should be able to beat Washington State with about the same force and success they had against Arkansas State. I would expect that the Ducks don't cover - but only because they will not have their starters in for a good chunk of the game.
How S&P sees the results:
WSU: 97th overall (175.6), 91st offense (89.3) 96th defense (86.3)
Oregon: 2nd overall (300.5), 9th on offense (125.2), 2nd on defense (175.3)
And this is how we were ranked last week:
Oregon: #2 overall (312). 127.0 offense (#9), 185 defense (#2)
That's right - S&P actually sees Oregon's defense decline after last week. How come? I'll follow up with Bill C on this, but in general the primary reason is that Oregon's success on D was due quite a bit to turnovers - and S&P doesn't value turnovers that heavily. It also doesn't value things like interception returns for TDs as anything more than 'interception', so it doesn't see the shellacking of Arizona as this amazing game; it sees it as a game where Oregon got luckier than normal on turnovers, could not stop Arizona often and gave Arizona awesome field position over and over again. This is pretty common for S&P, and was a big part of the narrative for while S&P hated Oregon so much in 2010 while loved Oregon in 2011 (and vice versa for FEI)
On offense: WSU is 103rd on success rate, 83rd in explosive plays, 93rd combined. They are equally inept on rush (96) and pass (93rd). Their only real shine is that they have been more successful on passing downs (74th) than standard downs(104th). But there is really no sign of anything that would indicate a problem. Oregon's D by direct comparison is 6th on success rate, 2nd on explosive plays (huh), 6th on rushing S&P, 3rd in passing S&P, and 41st in standard downs but 9th in passing. WSU might, maybe, have a little bit of success with play-action pass, but I even doubt that; they simply do not have a strong enough running attack to be concerned.
On defense, WSU is 81st on success rate, 77th on explosive plays, 82nd overall. 77th on rushing S&P, 74th on passing S&P, 77th on rushing downs and 93rd on passing downs. There's nothing bringing them down; they're simply poor in every category across the board. Oregon is still king here - 6th in S&P, 10th in explosive plays, 9th overall, 6th in rushing S&P, 14th in passing S&P, 8th in standard downs and 42nd in passing downs.
How FEI sees the results:
WSU: 108th overall. -.188 FEI, 75th game efficiency (-.068), strength of schedule .172 (43rd), offensive efficiency -.210 (81st), Defense efficiency .292 (93rd), field position .498 (58th)
Oregon: 8th overall. .244 FEI, .6th game efficiency (.367), 59th in strength of schedule (.222), offensive efficiency .525 (19th), defense efficiency 9th overall (-.720), 63rd field position (.492)
Oregon last week:
Oregon: 8th overall (.231). GE .350 (10th), offensive efficiency .898 (10th), defense -.535(25th), field position .487(69th)
Nothing hugely exciting here. FEI does value the turnovers more, so we see improvements in Oregon's overall performance instead of declines like we saw with S&P. We also see the offense dropping a bit for the same reason.
So what does this mean?
As odd as it sounds, it means don't bet on the Ducks to cover the spread. In every game where Oregon has faced a team which should be obliterated Oregon got to close to 50 early on and then stopped playing with starters. That led to a bunch of garbage time points. It kills me to say it, but expect the same thing here. Expect Oregon to jump out early, get a lot of successful fast drives and basically shut down Washington State. The non-statistician in me indicates that Oregon has had problems in the past with athletic, dominant receivers - and Wilson will likely get a few catches - but Mitchell is significantly improved from last year and Olomu looked stellar. There's very little reason to have any optimism for the Cougs; even the away game part is significantly reduced in value given the essentially neutral field.
If you're driving up from Eugene say hi - I'll be on the Oregon side in row 108. And then expect to leave early if you're into that sort of thing :)