What is it? Washington State (4-3, 1-3) aims for its first road win, and ranked win, of the 2019 season when it visits No. 11 Oregon (6-1, 4-0) for the Ducks’ Homecoming game.
Where is it? Autzen Stadium in Eugene.
When is it? Kickoff is 7:30 p.m. Saturday.
Where can I watch it? The game will air on ESPN.
Who is favored? Oregon is currently a 15-point favorite.
How did they fare last week? Washington State snapped a three-game losing streak and saw lots of improvement on defense, routing Colorado 41-10 on Martin Stadium. Oregon took a massive step toward wrapping up the Pac-12 North title, beating No. 25 Washington 35-31 in Seattle to stay unbeaten in conference play.
Why WSU will win: In four straight wins over Oregon, Washington State has generated 40 points per game, and scored at least 30 points in the two losses prior to that. Similar to Washington’s ability to consistently shut down the WSU offense, the Cougars’ Air Raid has always been able to put points up against the Ducks. Admittedly, Oregon’s defense hasn’t looked quite this strong in awhile, and the Cougars shouldn’t presume another 40-point game will be inevitable. But the Ducks, who’d given up just 16 points in three Pac-12 games, finally looked vulnerable in the win over the Huskies, giving up 31 points to a UW offense that has struggled this season. The Cougars functioned much better, especially on third down, with slot receiver Brandon Arconado back in the fold against the Buffaloes; WSU scored touchdowns or field goals on seven of its 14 drives. Oregon’s run defense had been stout most of the season, but UW’s Salvon Ahmed exposed a few holes there, rushing 24 times for 140 yards and a touchdown. Against Colorado, Max Borghi had a career-high 21 touches for 162 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns. This will be another chance for the Cougars to put the ball in his hands early and often.
Why Oregon will win: WSU’s pass defense has struggled against much lesser quarterbacks than the one they’ll face Saturday in Eugene. The Cougars must feel more confident they can manufacture a few takeaways after picking off three passes in the 31-point win over Colorado, ending a turnover drought that lasted 10 quarters and 166 minutes. But Oregon senior Justin Herbert has thrown just one interception in seven games, compared to 21 touchdowns. That’s one for every 232 pass attempts. Herbert isn’t rattled easily, partially because opponents aren’t usually able to generate the pass rush that’s needed to force the QB into poor decisions. Oregon’s offensive front is among the best in the country, and left tackle Penei Sewell is already a three-time recipient of the Pac-12’s Offensive Lineman of the Week award. Calvin Throckmorton and Shane Lemieux are other members of the Oregon O-line who could be considered for All-American honors when the season is over. Oh, and those three former WSU assistants on Mario Cristobal’s Oregon staff won’t hurt, either, as the Ducks plan for the Cougars.
What happened last time: Oregon’s visit to Pullman in 2018 coincided with ESPN College GameDay’s first-ever visit to the Palouse. Together, the theatrics of the game itself and a visit from the award-winning TV show produced one of the most memorable days in school history for Washington State fans. ESPN analyst Lee Corso slipped on the Cougar mascot’s head near the end of GameDay, picking No. 25 WSU to beat No. 12 Oregon, and the home team led throughout, even after the visitors stormed back in the second half, making things interesting. Four players scored touchdowns for the Cougars to put them up 27-0 at halftime, and WSU went into the break outgaining Oregon 295-39. Herbert led a third-quarter scoring spree for the Ducks, though, and two touchdowns plus two field goals enabled Oregon to cut the lead to 27-20. But Gardner Minshew found Travell Harris downfield for a big completion and later hit Dezmon Patmon for a 22-yard touchdown, driving the nail in the coffin.
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