As kick-off looms down on Saturday's showdown between Oregon State and Washington State, our own DavidMays checked in with Coug Center to learn a bit about the Cougars.
Q: What is the consensus of the Cougar fanbase on Leach as their Head Coach?
Well, after last season’s 9-4 and now sitting at 5-2 and 4-0 in the Pac-12 North, most fans appear to be pretty happy with the coach. It hasn’t always been that way; when he was hired, he was more or less billed by our athletic director as a savior, but his impact wasn’t nearly as immediate as we all expected. The first three years were pretty up and down, and then last year started with an FCS loss to Portland State, and we just weren’t sure if the program was headed in the right direction. All of Mike Leach’s meandering answers to off-beat questions are a lot less endearing when the team isn’t winning. But that changed last season, and -- despite another puzzling FCS loss to open the season -- the program appears to be in the best shape it’s been in since a run of three consecutive 10-win seasons that included a Rose Bowl in the early 2000s.
Q: With Marks success this season, give a reason why and why won't Decoud shut down Marks for this contest ?
Well, to answer your last question, nobody can shut down Marks with one corner. Last week’s 8-reception, 107-yard, 1-TD performance was due, in part, to ASU’s blitz-heavy scheme leaving Marks one-on-one. The interesting thing is that Marks hasn’t generally imposed his will on games this season the way he did last season; before last week, he had three consecutive sub-40-yard performances, and he’s not even leading the team in receiving yards at the moment. That’s largely because virtually everyone appears to be dedicating extra-extra coverage to his side of the field. He also had a little bit of an injury bug to start the season.
That’s all fine and dandy, but it’s opened up space for River Cracraft, the team’s leader in yards who typically lines up on the inside to the right, and Tavares Martin Jr., the team’s outside receiver to the left. Both are really good. Another thing to watch out for: The Cougs appeared to move Marks around the formation a little bit last week, presumably to get him the ball in different ways. That’s a wrinkle the Beavers will have to deal with.
Q: Do you see any glaring weaknesses for Wazzu and do you think Oregon St can expose them ?
Well, WSU will be missing its really good nose tackle, Robert Barber, who has been suspended from the university for his (alleged) role in a campus brawl over the summer. His backup, Ngalu Tapa, is a redshirt sophomore who hasn’t been used all that much. Whether that creates a big hole in WSU’s up-til-now awesome run defense is a big question.
Q: If a Beaver lives in water and cats are afraid of water, who wins in a real life mascot battle ?
That’s an easy one!
Q: With the revolving door of QB's in Corvallis this season, does this give Wazzu an advantage or disadvantage ?
Any time a team doesn’t have to face the other team’s best quarterback, that’s an advantage for the defense, presuming the offense doesn’t morph into something completely surprising.
Q: Washington St has the #7 Passing Offense Nationally but Oregon St only gives up 196 yards passing a contest. Who wins this battle and why ?
Kind of depends on how the Cougars decide to attack OSU. The run game has proved to be a valuable weapon for the first time in Leach’s tenure, and they showed against Idaho, Oregon and Stanford that they weren’t afraid to use it if it was effective. So, if the Cougs come out and run the ball 30-35 times, it very well could end up looking like Oregon State “won” that battle, simply because the Cougs could end up with suppressed counting stats in the passing department. That said, I doubt it will look to anyone watching the game that the Air Raid gets shut down; nobody does that. The closest anyone came was UCLA, which held the Cougs to 261 yards and 5.4 yards per attempt. But it’s also worth noting that was on a very rainy and windy night, which is really the only thing that typically makes it real hard for WSU (or anyone, really) to throw the ball. I will say this: The odds are roughly zero that OSU holds WSU under 200 yards passing.
Q: Your thoughts on what will be the final score and who wins ?
I’m incredibly leery of this game. The Cougs have come off a very difficult stretch, one in which they slayed a couple of dragons (at Stanford, at Arizona State) and also beat Oregon and UCLA, two teams that are still pretty talented despite their struggles. Away to a team that has been playing hard but not winning much has “trap” written all over it. I think the Cougs still win, but it’s uncomfortably close for our fans -- let’s go 31-27 -- and it wouldn’t shock me at all if some kind of big play for OSU allowed the Beavers to squeak out a big upset.