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Know Thy Enemy: Washington State Cougars

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Washington v Oregon Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images

The high flying Ducks travel to Pullman for a high stakes showdown with the always high octane Cougars offense. Will the Ducks pull off the Washington double this year?

2018 Record: 5-1 (2-1)

Key Numbers + Info (2018 season)

OOC Opponents: Wyoming, San Jose State, Eastern Washington

Points per game: 41.8

Points allowed per game: 23.8

Avg. yards per rush: 3.4

Avg. yards per rush allowed: 3.9

Avg. rush yards per game: 71.8

Avg. rush yards per game allowed: 148.2

Rushing TDs: 12 for, 12 against

Avg. pass yards per game: 413.7

Avg. pass yards per game allowed: 163.0

Passing TDs: 20 for, 6 against

Collective Pass Completion Rate: 68%

Collective Pass Completion Rate Against: 52%

Leading Rusher: James Williams (64 carries for 267 yards and 5 TDs)

Leading Receiver: Tay Martin (40 receptions for 440 yards and 6 TDs)

Leading Tackler: Peyton Pelluer (50 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss)

Leader in Sacks: Domini Silvels (3.5)

Analysis

  • In true Mike Leach Air Raid fashion, the Cougars are pretty much at an expected 72 to 28 pass to run ratio. Opponents are the complete antithesis of Wazzu with a 60 to 40 run to pass ratio.
  • The Cougars have outgained their opponents 2,913 to 1,867 while outscoring the competition 251 to 143.
  • The highest point total was 59 against Eastern Washington. The lowest total they put up 36 in a close loss to USC.

Key prospect to watch

1. Jalen Thompson 6’0 191 S Junior

- One of the more underrated safety prospects in the country. Rangy, ball hawking type of free safety. Instinctive as a pass defender. Fundamentally sound in coverage. He should be an interesting test case as to declare early or stay for a senior season.

Keys to an Oregon win

  • Pass rush. The Ducks’ ever improving pass rush has to get to Gardner Minshew II or the rest of the defense will be in a world of trouble. The front seven will need to rise up to the challenge like they did against Washington. Fat Mac controlling the line will be essential. Jalen Jelks will need to make some money (draft wise) against an interesting offensive line.
  • Run offense. In the Cougs’ two close games (1-1), both Utah and USC chose to pound the rock a combined 81 times for 317 yards. The Ducks need to follow a similar game plan to keep the prolific Cougars’ offense off the field as Oregon can’t go score for score armed with an average defense with some key holes on it. A lot of CJ Verdell and company, please.
  • Mental toughness. The Palouse is traditionally tough place to play for road teams even without any stakes. The pressure on the Ducks from the start will be amplified even more with College GameDay there for the first time ever. Can the Ducks hold it together mentally and avoid simple procedural penalties like false starts and offsides? The program has turned over a new leaf in terms of discipline but a young team will have to navigate a tough road environment with a new coaching staff.

Keys to an Oregon Loss

  • Scheme. As hythloday pointed out in his post, Oregon repeatedly called similar offensive plays to some ineffectiveness. Yes, I know that the game winning play was one of those same play calls but the endless similarity is a huge detriment. Some variety in the play calling will be needed to force opposing defensive coordinators to adjust instead of keying on one single facet. It seems like both coordinators stick to a certain philosophy and refuse to adjust from situation to situation. Marcus Arroyo kind of gets a pass due to his relative inexperience but he needs to grow up as a play caller in a hurry. Jim Leavitt doesn’t get as long of a leash due to his pedigree.
  • Defense. More specifically, the secondary reverts back to their consistently inconsistent ways. Even with the improvement on defense, it’s still a work in progress. The defensive backs will need to make tackles in open space as the Cougars offense is heavily reliant on quick hitter plays such as slants, screens, and the like. Wazzu’s second leading receiver is their starting running back so expect a lot of heavy usage from him in the short passing game. Gardner Minshew II is the top rated passer in terms of yardage. The Cougs don’t hide what they do and as such, they are the top ranked passing offense in the entire nation. The Ducks corners will get a work out, that’s for sure. We just have to hope that they don’t make game changing mistakes.
  • Depth. WSU isn’t known for its punishing defense but can still make life for the offensive line a chore. Oregon’s OL depth will be tested without the services of stud freshman left tackle Penei Sewell for the next several weeks. The adjustment went fairly smoothly last week midstream but it’s a double edged sword now. The Ducks have had a week to adjust but so have the Cougs. It’s going to be a battle of adjustments in the trenches. Also, can a receiver not named Dillon Mitchell step up, please?
  • Ball control. It seems like a weekly thing but the Ducks have a rather annoying habit of turning the ball over in the most critical situations. Last week, it was a fumble on a kick return. Coach Cristobal needs to enlist the help of the entire UO campus to try to knock away the ball Peanut Tillman style from the running backs on a daily basis to remind them of ball security.

What are the odds?

The WestGate Superbook has Washington State as 3 point favorites. O/U is set at 68. The money line is Washington State -140 Oregon +120

William Hill has Washington State as 3 point favorites. O/U is set at 67.5. The money line is Washington -145 Oregon +125