1 Get pressure on the QB. Oregon State quarterback Sean Mannion leads the conference in passing yards with 2,018. His success is partially due to the fact that he has all day to throw the football, as the Beavers rank third in the Pac-12 with just six sacks allowed. The Cougars notched three sacks in their win over Cal last week, and nearly had a few more. If they can collapse the pocket and force Mannion to make quick decisions, it will make key No. 2 much easier.
2 Come up with interceptions. The last time these two teams played Mannion threw three interceptions. The Cougars defense ranks first in the conference with nine passes picked off in 2013 and WSU’s coaches emphasize takeaways. If WSU’s defenders can end drives by snagging a few of Mannion’s passes it’ll go a long way toward giving WSU the win.
3 Bend, but don’t break. Last week against the Golden Bears, the Cougars gave up more than 500 passing yards, but still only let Cal into the end zone twice. Both of those touchdowns came thanks to secondary breakdowns that resulted in explosive plays. The Beavers will get their passing yards, but it won’t matter if WSU can once again keep the other team out of the end zone.
4 Win the special teams battle. Punter Mike Bowlin had a dismal showing against Stanford, but bounced back last week. He put three balls inside Cal’s 20-yard line, and his ability to replicate that will be critical against the Beavers. Of equal importance will be WSU’s ability to put points on the board, so making field goals will be crucial. Fortunately, the Cougars have one of the country’s best in kicker Andrew Furney.