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Game 12 Matchups to Watch: Keep the Platypus Trophy in Corvallis

NCAA Football: Washington at Oregon State Craig Strobeck-USA TODAY Sports

What better way to end the final year of the Pac-12 than by ruining Oregon’s college football playoff hopes in Autzen Stadium? The Beavers have a tall task ahead of them, as a 13.5 spread would indicate. The Ducks have had a dominant season so far and bring a defense that rivals UCLA and Utah along with an offense that has put up 81 points in a game and went toe-to-toe with Washington, no offensive slouch themselves.

The Beavers and Ducks share six common opponents this year (WSU, Utah, Cal, Colorado, Stanford, and UW). UO has gone 5-1 against those teams with an average scoring margin of 26 (total points scored/allowed: 253-97). Oregon State is 4-2 against those teams with an average scoring margin of 12 (216-143).

The only games in which the Ducks have not won by two touchdowns or more are Texas Tech, Washington, and USC. The common theme in those games is that Oregon is going to put up points regardless of the circumstances (they averaged 36.6 in those games). It was up to the opposing offenses to generate explosive plays to engage in a shootout. DJ Uiagalelei has another opportunity to compare his game to Michael Penix Jr. and Caleb Williams (and Texas Tech’s Tyler Shough of course), the Beavers cannot afford to miss the throws they did in the first half of the Washington game.

Beavers on Offense

Oregon’s defense boasts an impressive statistical resume and has suffocated inferior offenses. They have four games in which they have held their opponent to a touchdown or less, of those only Colorado comes out as truly impressive (the others? Portland St., Stanford, Utah). The Ducks have allowed 30 points twice, to Texas Tech and Washington, both of whom threw the ball twice as much as they ran it.

The Ducks are a sure-tackling team, they average 7 missed tackles per game (vs the Beavers 15). Thier defense has gotten 19 or more pressures in 8 of 11 games. Oregon State has not allowed more than 14 all season.

Oregon’s numbers against the run look good on the surface but are bolstered with most teams leaning on the pass as they play from behind. Only Portland State and Stanford ran more than they passed, and they lost by a combined score of 123-13.

The Beavers need to win the turnover battle in this game. The Ducks are not a team that is particularly focused on ball-hawking, but the Beavers have had games where fumbles or bad decisions of thier own in the passing game gift the opponent possessions.

RG #61 Tanner Miller vs DL #3 Brandon Dorlus

Unlike the premier pass rushers that the Beaver offensive line has squared off against this year (Utah’s Jonah Elliss, UCLA’s Laiatu Latu, UW’s, Bralen Trice), Dorlas plays in the interior of the Duck defensive line. That has not stopped him from leading the team with 39 pressures and is 2nd with 4 sacks. Those 39 pressures are tied for the most of any interior defensive lineman in the country. It’s a different challenge than the Beavers have seen so far this year.

The interior offensive line is in flux for Oregon State ahead of this game. Center Jake Levengood returned last week and seems to have come out of the game healthy, which allowed Tanner Miller to shift back to his original position at RG. Heneli Bloomfield was then hurt in the 3rd quarter of the UW game and is confirmed out for the rest of the season. With Grant Starck out last game due to injury, the Beavers turned to JC transfer Flavio Gonzalez at LG. If Starck is unable to go, it would not be surprising to see Oregon move Dorlus around in the interior to take advantage of matchups.

TE #88 Jack Velling vs S #33 Evan Williams

A transfer from Fresno State, Williams leads team in tackles with 65. That reinforces a trend for the Oregon defense; safeties and corners make up 3 of the 4 highest tackle totals on the defense. Williams doesn't rush the passer often but is effective when he does with 6 pressures on 15 pass rush snaps.

Washington was able to shut down Velling in the last game and Oregon State cannot allow that to happen again. Oregon State would do well to get him the ball on some shorter routes early in the game rather than purely relying on deeper seam routes as the only way to get him the ball.

Beavers on Defense

The Ducks run a similar tempo to Washington and average 4 more snaps per game than the Beavers offense. They are even more explosive than the Huskies, averaging six more points per game than Penix and crew despite running nearly the same amount of plays. Thier lowest offensive output this year was 33 and they have crossed the 40-point threshold in 8 of their 11 games this year.

Oregon does like to throw the ball but have at least 30 run snaps in 9 of their 11 games so far this year. In their two close games against Texas Tech and Washington, they were more pass heavy, throwing twice as much as they ran. UO will utilize the screen game on around 20% of their passing plays.

Quarterback Bo Nix is living the dream as a 5th year starting quarterback in college and easily having his best statistical season to date. He is completing 78% of his passes with a 35/2 touchdown to interception ratio. Nix’s 9.8 yards per attempt are exceeded by only 5 other QBs, all of whom have thrown at least 58 fewer passes.

CB #23 Jermod McCoy vs WR #11 Troy Franklin

Another week and another elite wide receiver to test the Beaver secondary. Franklin is 30 pounds lighter than Washington’s Rome Odunze, but has no issues getting behind a secondary. His average depth of target is 13 yards downfield, and he averages 7.3 yards after the catch. As the weight difference would indicate, contested catches are what separate the styles of the two receivers. Franklin has a 38.5% contested catch rate (to Odunze’s 68.4%), so keeping tight to the junior from Palo Alto will be key.

That task is going to fall to a secondary that will potentially be without two veteran starters on Friday. Both Jayden Robinson and Akili Arnold left the UW game with injuries and are questionable for Eugene. Even before those two went out, McCoy was trusted to match up against Odunze and played well. With Franklin primarily lining up on the outside, expect to see McCoy challenged again this week.

EDGE #10 Andrew Chatfield Jr. vs LT #76 Josh Conerly Jr.

After a showing against Washington that humbled the Beaver pass rush, they move on to face an arguably tougher test against Oregon. The Ducks are giving up less than 4 pressures per game, and Utah was the only team that got double digit pressures against this offensive line with 11. They are led by center Jackson Powers-Johnson and have talent all along the line.

Conerly Jr. is a sophomore 5-star recruit that has stepped into protect Nix’s blindside this season. It says a lot about the Duck line that he is as much of a weak link as they have. Conely Jr. has allowed a team leading 16 pressures and a grand total of 1 sack. He is the only Oregon offensive lineman to have allowed double digit pressures this year (OSU has 4 that have crossed that threshold for comparison).

If the Beavers are going to pull off the upset, it will more likely be scheming up pressure with movement around the line of scrimmage. A well-timed blitz or two can help, but it's doubtful Trent Bray and company are going to want to leave a short-handed secondary too exposed against an offense ready to pounce on one-on-one matchups. Chatfield Jr. feasted on a couple sub-par offensive lines against Colorado and Stanford, this is the week for he and his front-seven teammates to make a statement.