With their 3-0 start, the Oregon Ducks have survived the non-conference portion of their schedule, and now turn their sights to conference play and a trip to Pullman to face the Washington State Cougars. It is a relative soft landing as Washington State is, for lack of putting it softly, not very good. The Cougars come into the matchup at 1-2, having lost to Rutgers in Seattle and at Nevada before blowing out Portland State last weekend.
We know what to expect from Washington State and their head coach, Mike Leach. Washington State ranks No. 1 in the nation in passing offense, at 517 yards per game. They rank 126th in rushing offense, at 40 yards a game. This is a stark contrast to Oregon's first three opponents, who were all run first. WSU barely gives the run a second thought.
WSU quarterback Connor Halliday is the nation's most prolific passer, but he is notorious for his inconsistency. He'll look world beating for a half, before throwing three picks in the second. The ill timed pick is Halliday's claim to fame. There is also the lack of a run game and mediocre offensive line that gives opposing defenses many shots at the quarterback. Washington State allows almost three sacks a game, good for 103rd in the nation. The Ducks average nearly four sacks a game on defense.
The Cougs have receivers in the passing game. Ricky Galvin (10), River Cracraft (15), Dom Williams (10), and Isiah Myers (26) all have double digit receptions this season, and are a threat to score a touchdown from any place on the field on any play. However, while all of those guys are solid receivers, none of them are really transcendent talents--there isn't a single player you know you can go to when you absolutely need a play.
Defensively, WSU still suffers from a lack of depth on the defensive line. It's not as bad as it was a few years ago, but you really saw it when the Cougars lost to Rutgers, when the Scarlet Knights ran for 215 yards and WSU couldn't stop Tony James late. The passing defense is worse than last year as they lost their one surefire NFL talent in safety Deone Buchanan.
Washington State will get a lot of yards in this game. WSU passed for 557 yards a year ago against the Ducks. The problem was that they supplemented that with only two rushing yards, while giving up 719 yards to the Ducks in a 62-38 Oregon win. I would expect a similar result this season--plenty of points to go around in a shootout, but with Oregon winning by 3-4 scores.
Panic-o-meter: 1 juju
Pullman is always a tricky trip. This is the conference opener, and WSU, for whatever reason, always plays Oregon tough. But this would be a monumental upset should WSU win and, given the talent level, such a result would take an Oregon blunder of epic proportions. Possible, sure, but no even remotely likely.