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Know Thy Enemy: Washington State Cougars

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Who are these 2019 Cougs from the Palouse?

NCAA Football: Colorado at Washington State James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

2019 record: 4-3 (1-3)

Key Numbers + Info (2019 season)

OOC Opponents: New Mexico State, Northern Colorado, Houston (pre-tank version)

Points per game: 42.7

Points allowed per game: 28.7

Avg. yards per rush: 5.4

Avg. yards per rush allowed: 4.7

Avg. rush yards per game: 92.0

Avg. rush yards per game allowed: 177.3

Rushing TDs: 7 for, 13 against

Avg. pass yards per game: 440.7

Avg. pass yards per game allowed: 261.9

Avg per attempt: 8.4

Avg per attempt allowed: 8.3

Passing TDs: 31 for, 11 against

Collective Pass Completion Rate: 70%

Collective Pass Completion Rate Against: 63%

Leading Rusher: Max Borghi (70 carries for 512 yards and six TDs)

Leading Receiver: Easop Winston (47 receptions for 578 yards and nine TDs)

Leading Tackler: Jahad Woods (66 tackles, 5.0 tackles for loss, 2.0 sacks)

Analytics

Credit to Zane Murffit of Cougcenter.com for doing the Sports Source Analytics charts weekly. They are an immense help. Here’s a glossary to help you translate the numbers.

Win probability

credit: Florida Cup and /u/rcfbuser

As you can see in the image above, Washington State has a win probability of 29.2% against Oregon. Also the link, is the explanation behind the formula of the win probability for all teams. Oregon’s win probability chart as seen below for comparison.

Oregon’s odds of running the table undefeated has massively increased from a 12.5% chance to 22.5% from last week.

Washington State Offense vs. Oregon Defense

Washington State’s offense is the toughest that Oregon will have faced to date based on success rate. The Cougars rank within the top 5 nationally in terms of pass AND run success rate. They are a clearly expected pass first team based on counting stats but the analytics tell a different story. They are ranked within the top 20 in both yards per pass and yards per rush.

Oregon ranks in the top ten in both yards per play and yards per pass attempt allowed so it’s a really good match-up of strength on strength. Washington State has converted 42.11% of its third downs but Oregon saw a decrease in conversions to the tune of 33.91% on defense.

Wazzu is miles better than last week’s opponent in generating the explosive play while Oregon slipped to 30th from eighth place over the weekend. Oregon still maintains it’s supremacy in red zone defense but the Cougars have a much better red zone offense than the Huskies did.

Where the Ducks can stop WSU is on stuff rate and havoc rate as the Cougars are slightly below average in FBS.

Safe to say that the Ducks’ secondary will have its work cut out for them.

Washington State is somewhat better than Washington in terms of explosion plays ranking above average in the FBS in the pass game and better than above average in the run game as the counting stats don’t tell.

Defensively, Oregon dropped like a rock from tenth in the country to 30th in stopping the explosive pass play. The secondary will certainly be put to the test against Anthony Gordon and the cadre of Cougars receivers.

WSU will provide a far better test for the Ducks defense inside the 40 as they rank 11th in such opportunities. The Ducks dropped from having the top ranked defense to third.

As you can see, second down will be a strength on strength match-up (58% to 27% allowed) as both teams rank among the best in the country on those downs. First down will be a battle between top forty squads. Washington State has a third down success rate of 42% while Oregon stops them on 34% of those.

Oregon Offense vs Washington State Defense

As you can see, Oregon’s rushing offense should have a bit of a better time of things against a similarly lowly ranked Cougars’ defensive metrics in that category. The run game success rate dropped four places from the week prior to Washington. It will be interesting to see how the pass game fares against a a little worse pass defense than the one Washington presented.

Oregon’s offense is averaging 6.39 yards per play while Wazzu’s defense is averaging 6.35 yards per play given up. The Cougs’ run defense is an issue as they have allowed nearly 5.3 yards per carry while the Ducks go for nearly 5.24 per rush.

Where the Cougars can try to stop Justin Herbert is on third down. Oregon is 59th in the country converting almost 40% while Washington State allows 40%, also ranking 81st.

The Ducks can be equally benefit from the pass and run game as the Cougars are equally adept at giving it up at an alarming rate.

After a rather interesting week exploiting the Huskies’ tough passing defense, the Ducks are 59th in explosive pass plays. The Cougars will present less of a challenge to Herbert and co. in that this category as they rank 22 places lower than Washington in every passing metric.

Where the Ducks can exploit them is in the run game, where Washington State is woeful 113th in the FBS in rushing explosion plays allowed. Both teams are comparatively up to the task in attacking and defending inside the 40.

If you look at this chart, the game clearly will be decided on second downs on Oregon’s offensive chances where they are dominating over the Cougars’ below average defensive numbers. Where the defense can attack and attempt to neutralize the Ducks’ attack is on first and third down but allowing over eight yards per passing attempt will get them in not good situations defensively.

Oregon

Week 1: 4.74 yards per play (#10 nationally)

Week 2: 8.41 yards per play (#3)

Week 3: 6.9 yards per play (#5)

Week 4: 5.9 yards per play (#8)

BYE

Week 6: 5.5 yards per play (#5)

Week 7: 6.1 yards per play (#3)

Week 8: 5.6 yards per play (#5)

Washington State

Week 1: 9.0 yards per play (#1) (Win)

Week 2: 10.4 yards per play (#1) (Win)

Week 3: 7.3 yards per play (#4) (Win)

Week 4: 8.9 yards per play (#1) (Loss to UCLA 67-63)

Week 5: 5 yards per play (#9) (Loss)

BYE

Week 7: 6.6 yards per play (#5) (Loss)

Week 8: 6.8 yards per play (#1) (Win)

Key players to watch

1. Anthony Gordon 6’3 189 RS Senior Washington State

  • Not the greatest athlete at the position. He’s the next Johnny come lately for the Cougs at QB. Possesses a rocket arm that can make all the throws, either to his receivers or to the defense is anyone’s guess. Somewhat slow to read his progressions.

2. Easop Winston 5’11 183 RS Senior Washington State

  • He’s an excellent route runner that understands what he’s doing in any given route. Size limits him to the slot position in the NFL. The Coug’s top weapon. Has been really good this season finding holes in the coverage and using them.

3. Jahad Woods 6’1 228 RS Junior Washington State

  • Wazzu’s offense gets all the fame and accolades but Woods is arguably the best defender the Cougs have this year. He’s tackling machine that can play in space and rush the passer in certain situations.

4. Max Borghi 5’10 197 RB Sophomore

  • He is this year’s version of James Williams for the Cougs. A brilliant pass catcher from the backfield and their leading rusher.

Keys to an Oregon Win

  • Defense. The Cougars offense is like none other than any offense that Ducks have faced to date. It should provide them with a blueprint to scheme against USC down the road. Andy Avalos will need to focus on assignment sound defensive fundamentals. Max Borghi is the engine that makes the Cougars hum so a linebacker will have to be devoted to him. The pass rush was almost nil last weekend so that must be improved against a not so stout OL this weekend.
  • Offensive line. They should’ve gotten plenty of practice against a stemming defensive front so it shouldn’t be a surprise. As we’ve seen in games past, the line has been an issue at times this season, namely the rotating cast of right guards. Hanson had a bad snap last week. The Cougars can be had both on the ground and in the air, can this OL provide the protection?
  • Mental Toughness. The 2019 rendition of the Ducks has shown a resiliency like no other Ducks squads before within the past several of years. Can they hang tough against an opponent that hasn’t lost against them since the Mariota administration?

Keys to an Oregon Loss

  • Injuries / Youth. The defense has suffered little bumps and bruises here and there (season ending injuries notwithstanding). Can they hold up for a full game against a powerful offense? If there are injuries, can the youth step up and fill the void like they have been so far?
  • Marcus Arroyo. He called a near perfect game last weekend, it’s just that Justin Herbert didn’t execute at times as well. Can Arroyo do it again and potentially have to go score for score? Washington State’s defense isn’t exactly the 85 Bears so there are points to be had. Can he take advantage?
  • Herbert. He had a not so great outing last week against a far better talented Huskies secondary. Can he execute against a far worse Cougars D?

What are the odds?

The WestGate Superbook has Oregon as 14 point favorites. The O/U is set at 65. Money line is Oregon -600 Washington State +425

DraftKings has Oregon as 14 point favorites. Their O/U is set at 64.5. Money line is Oregon -560 Washington +400

William Hill has Oregon as 14 point favorites. O/U is 65 even. Money line is Oregon -550 Washington St +425

Note: You don't need JPDX's "concoctions" to know these Cougars. (One would hope, anyway)