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The pick: Why Washington State will beat Oregon State

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A redshirt freshman might make his second career start at quarterback for Oregon State against Washington State’s veteran defense.

Beavers QB Ben Gulbranson had pressure in his face throughout OSU’s matchup with Stanford last weekend, but he found some late magic and lifted his team to a 28-27 comeback win.

The Cougars will take the field in a hostile environment against a strong Beavers defense without their starting running back and their most experienced receiver. Tailback Nakia Watson and slotback Renard Bell both sustained injuries last weekend against USC and will be out indefinitely. WSU’s offensive line, already a questionable group, will play the first half without its starting right guard – Grant Stephens was ejected for targeting late in the 30-14 loss to No. 6 USC.

With all the uncertainty surrounding the two offenses, expect Saturday’s Pac-12 game between WSU (4-2, 1-2 Pac-12) and OSU (4-2, 1-2) to come down to defense.

If that’s the case, we’re giving the edge to the Cougars.

Can the Beavers’ rookie QB stay composed against a WSU defensive front that has established itself as one of the Pac-12’s best? The Cougars should be able to rattle Gulbranson with pressure.

OSU will presumably lean on its ground game. But the Cougars have proven themselves as capable at stopping the run this season.

We’re predicting unsteady performances from the two offenses and plenty of defensive highlights. The Cougars’ offense has been a touch more consistent than the Beavers’ attack in recent weeks.

In the end, WSU’s defense will spearhead a victory in a low-scoring game at Reser Stadium. The Cougars boast the No. 3 scoring defense in the Pac-12 (20.2 points per game), and they’ll move a spot up the rankings in that stat category.

The pick: Washington State 20, Oregon State 16