As the Beavers prepare to face a tough Washington State opponent this weekend in Reser Stadium I can’t help but think about the off-the-field similarities between the schools. Both schools have less money and resources than their rivals who are desperately trying to follow USC/UCLA to the Big Ten in hopes of staying nationally relevant.
If the Big Ten were to also snatch our rivals (and maybe even Cal/Stanford); then it’s natural to speculate that AZ, ASU, Utah & Colorado would jump ship and join the Big 12 expansion bandwagon. Leaving WSU and Oregon State left out in the cold, tucked away deep in the Pacific Northwest. A scenario I think both schools are rather concerned about.
Meanwhile Oregon State football is desperate to end a long EIGHT game losing streak to the Cougars. Over the last few years these teams have played a handful of thrilling contests, but WSU just seems to keep making one more big play than the Beavs. Remember back in 2019 when ‘the pandemic’ was a phrase only found in history books. That year both teams racked up over 600 yards of offense. Washington State of course pulled out the victory 54-53 with a late touchdown; ultimately shutting the door on Oregon State’s bowl-eligibility dreams. In total the two schools have faced each other 106 times and I hope the matchups keep coming every year.
As conference realignment, NIL deals, the playoffs and ultimately money continue to shape the discourse around college football I’m sure Cougar fans are feeling a lot like Beaver fans these days. What can you do? Some will argue there’s no use in worrying about things you can’t control; but I think Oregon State and Washington State should form an alliance. A tentative handshake alliance has NEVER come back to bite the Pac-12 before!
The Big Ten/PAC-12/ACC Alliance was about as real as Jim & Dwight's on The Office pic.twitter.com/7SqjxCw57J— Blue By 90 (@bluebyninety) June 30, 2022
Anyways we should focus on Washington State’s football team this year. Before the season started I highlighted Cameron Ward’s transfer to WSU and how he’d likely shine in Pullman. The Cougars had a huge win on the road over Wisconsin in week two and almost (definitely should have) defeated the Ducks to open Pac-12 play.
Washington State honestly mirrors Oregon State’s football team in a lot of ways. Their defense has been really pretty good. Offensively it’s been a tad bit of a disappointment, but injuries have played a role. Let’s take a look at who will be making plays in Reser on Saturday night:
- Cameron Ward (QB) - 1,617 yds, 15 TDs, 7 INTs
- Nakia Watson (RB) - 325 yds, 2 TDs (OUT vs. Oregon State)
- Jaylen Jenkins (RB) - 257 yds, 1 TD
- Donovan Ollie (WR) - 333 yds, 31 recs, 2 TDs
- De’Zhaun Stribling (WR) - 314 yds, 25 recs, 4 TDs
- Renard Bell (WR) - 282 yds, 20 recs, 2 TDs (OUT vs. Oregon State)
- Robert Ferrel (WR) - 208 yds, 20 recs, 3 TDs
Washington State is quite good this year and I’m honestly a little surprised the Beavers are 3.5-point favorites. Oregon State has been formidable at home though and the Cougars aren’t quite at full strength.
It’s looking like Ben Gulbranson will probably make his 2nd consecutive start at QB. He’ll have to be better at avoiding sacks than he was against Stanford though. WSU leads the conference in tackles for loss and is 2nd in sacks. Daiyan Henley (LB), Brennan Jackson (DE) and Ron Stone Jr. (DE) will be disruptive and will get in the backfield. The Beavs will need to avoid turnovers and try to establish a running game to open up passing lanes for Gulbranson and company.
On the other side of the ball losing top running back Nakia Watson for an extended period of time is a big blow for the Cougs; but true freshman Jaylen Jenkins looks ready for the moment after rushing for 130 yards against USC (just 13 carries)! Cameron Ward hasn’t rushed for a ton of yards, but he sure is elusive and does a great job extending plays and helping out his offensive line. The Beavers have struggled to consistently pressure opposing quarterbacks and when they do get pressure they haven’t done a particularly great job at actually taking the quarterback down. Regardless of what happens this weekend (and beyond) I’m just glad fans of both schools will have a secret appreciation for each other going forward.