PULLMAN – Washington State head coach Jake Dickert was thinking about the matchups in his team’s showdown with Oregon State this weekend, and as he considered the Cougars’ run defense against the Beavers’ rushing attack, he contemplated one question.
Is this an unstoppable force against an immovable object?
“That’s an interesting way of putting it,” Dickert said. “The challenge is real. I think our strain, the first few days of physical preparation has been real.”
The matchup that Washington State will use to attempt to win this one, though, involves the approach of each team’s offense. The Cougars want to air it out. The Beavers want to run it. Both have excelled in those departments.
The difference, then, is twofold: WSU hasn’t met an opponent that can slow down its air attack. The Cougars have also unleashed a sturdy run defense, the same one that toppled Wisconsin two weeks ago. Pair those together and you get a Washington State win.
Consider a few numbers from Cameron Ward, the Cougars’ starting quarterback: He’s one of four signalcallers nationwide with nine-plus touchdowns and zero interceptions. He’s led a WSU passing attack that has averaged 401 yards per game, good for third in the country, and with three wide receivers, Washington State has the tools to earn a second ranked win this fall.
Thank WSU’s offensive line for that, too. Left guard Christian Hilborn, back from injury, has earned one of Pro Football Focus’ best guard grades in the country. Ward has usually had time, and even when he hasn’t, he’s excelled: On 24 dropbacks against the blitz, according to PFF, Ward has completed 75% of his passes. He’s lagged a little under pressure, completing just 50% and making two turnover-worthy plays, but he hasn’t thrown an interception.
Ward is developing into one of WSU’s better quarterbacks in recent memory. Keep this up – and defeat OSU – and he’ll add to his status.
The pick: Washington State 31, Oregon State 27.