Oregon St. takes on their long-time regional rivals from Washington tonight in Seattle, looking for their 8th win in 9 years. The Huskies won't enjoy as loud a crown as usual, with the game, and all of Washington's home games this season, at the Seahawks' Century Link Field, while Husky Stadium is being rebuilt.
That Dawg Pound crowd, which can be one of the loudest in the country, was definitely a factor in Washington's 35-34 double overtime win 2 years ago, as a botched dubious 2 point conversion is all that stands between the Beavers and 8 straight wins in the series. But the Purple horde that once saw their beloved Huskies win 25 times in 27 meetings hasn't been quite its usual self in the games played down town instead of on Montlake.
The Beavers welcome back Sean Mannion to the starting quarterback job, after Cody Vaz led Oregon St. to back to back wins, first over BYU, and then 21-7 over Utah while Mannion was recovering from a knee injury.
The Huskies are coming off an awful effort in Tucson, where the 'Cats clawed them for 21 unanswered second half points on their way to a 52-17 win. Arizona tore up the Washington defense for 277 rushing yards, and 533 in total.
This is a trap game if ever there was one. A steadily rising in the rankings team with a potentially rusty quarterback on the road against a wounded rival, especially a bunch of wounded Huskies, is as dangerous a combination as can be.
Fortunately, the Beavers have the best defense they have fielded in quite a while. And while Keith Price is extremely dangerous, he's been inconsistent enough to make a couple of mistakes a game. Hello Jordan Poyer (the Pac-12 leader in interceptions), Rashaad Reynolds, and of late, Ryan Murphy.
Because Bishop Sankey is becoming a first rate rushing threat, I expect Washington to actually out-rush Oregon St. But bet on the Beaver defense to come up with a couple of turnovers, be they interceptions or the work of the very active, 2 deep defensive line.
Also, regardless of whether its been Mannion or Vaz at the controls, Oregon St. has put together a 4th quarter touchdown drive to put the game away the last 4 weeks in a row.
Those are the qualities that make for a team that can escape a trap. Which the Beavers will probably [have to] do tonight.
Beaver Believer believes:
Its pretty simple this week.
BB12's Keys to the Game:
1. Contain Price. The Beavs have still struggled at times when a running quarterback is in the game, there were some moments against UCLA, Arizona, and BYU where there respective quarterbacks ended up earning first downs after some pretty good coverage. Using a qb spy with Michael Doctor or DJ Alexander might be a good way to go here.
2. Get off to a quick start. The Beavs have been in grind it out games and shootouts, but what they need is a blowout. We can say that the contested wins build characters and that's fine, but I want to see the Beavs come out and demolish a team that they actually should crush. The Huskies have been in a rut and OSU needs to remind them of that from the opening whistle.
3. Get Brandin Cooks the ball. Cooks did not get enough touches in the last game, 2 rushes and only 1 reception. I would like to see more of the wr screens that OSU ran earlier in the season but it seems like the Beavs have gotten away from that.
The Huskies always seem to be a test and I do expect a close one even this year, 28-20 Beavs.
Mannion's back, baby. It will be a welcome sight to see him back on the field. With him in pre-injury form, the offense should do just fine. Washington has surrendered 271 passing yards per game this year, Mannion's tallied over 1,300 in just 4 games. Not a good combination for Husky fans.
Washington QB Keith Price has racked up 8 touchdowns and 8 interceptions in his 7 games, and he's also thrown for 1300+ yards. The Beavers defense shouldn't have too much trouble containing him, although targets like Austin Seferian-Jenkins complicate things a bit. Sankey is a talented back, but it takes a truly special rusher to consistently defeat the Beaver defense.
An area of concern this week is definitely penalties. The Beavers may be able to get away with their 9 penalty per game average for this week, but that won't do the job in upcoming games. The only other concerning thing was the lack of Brandin Cooks last week, but I fully expect Mannion to restore order in that regard.
I expect the Beavers stay perfect and knock off Washington.
The Beavs have their best start in the "modern era", and are looking to add to it against a UW team that should be in a mood for a win themselves. Coming into this season, we would have been pretty happy to have six wins at the end of the season and here we are at the midpoint, sitting on that number with the chance to win more.
What I think is most interesting so far has been the way in which this has come about; by this I mean just the feeling and mood of it all. One might think that we should have the slight sense of "okay, when will we wake up from it all?" But the funny thing is I don't think that sense is at all the reality; the reality is that we should have high expectations for this team.
And for high expectations I see this game as key for this team as it goes into what is the next stage of the season. Sure, it is the midpoint of the season, but I think it is even more than just that, for what I mean as the "next" stage.
To me it is actually the "third" stage of the season. The first stage was the first four games, where the Beavs got off to a start we did not at all expect with Mannion as QB. Then the second were the two games with Vaz coming in for the injured Mannion, and going 2 and 0. Now we have Mannion back and the team is going into a tough stretch of games against UW, ASU, and Stanford.
I believe these next three games are going to separate this team from a very nice improvement year and what could be an historic OSU football program type of year. As such the fourth stage will be a 'to be determined' by these three games.
What I am specifically looking for against UW:
1. More rushing production.
2. Mannion and the offense to pick it up a notch from the Utah game and find that dynamic passing game we saw, with Cooks and Wheaton both consistently going over a 100 yards each. I don't know if I expect it to be quite where they left off, say, against Arizona, but I do want this part of the game to open it up more than what we saw last week.
3. A dominant on the road defensive game. The defense I believe needs to set the tone for this game. Sure, above I said I want a big game out of Mannion, Cooks, and Wheaton, but I do think with having Mannion just coming back and it being in Seattle, the 'D' needs to set the tone early. I think this will also be important to make sure the Huskies don't get into a groove and feel confident. We need to keep them off balance and down, as they were last week against Arizona.
4. A bit more dynamism for the special teams return game.
As I keep seeming to say in wrapping up my thoughts, this is yet another big and winnable game, but I am not sure it is an easy win. Beyond that, it is a game that will continue to help define what this team is made of, and as we enter the third stage of the season, it is a game that could well continue to make OSU football history.
(And Oh, by the way, Kill The Huskies!)