If there's any doubt that Oregon State has adopted a "pass first" mentality, allow me to dispel it now: Through ten games, the Beavers have thrown the ball more than all but three teams in the nation, and have attempted fewer rushes than all but two. In fact, Sean Mannion has more completions (327) than the entire team has rushing attempts (261—and that figure includes sacks). In all likelihood, Washington will feature its Jetsons defensive line front for the vast majority of Saturday's snaps, and will count on pass rushers Hau'oli Kikaha and Cory Littleton to pressure Mannion while hoping that Sean Parker, Greg Ducre and Kevin King can keep from getting burned in pass coverage.
After throwing 31 interceptions in his previous 22 games, Sean Mannion has finally become the efficient quarterback that Mike Riley always wanted him to be. This year, he's putting up numbers that are eerily similar to Keith Price's breakout campaign in 2011: 33 touchdowns versus 10 interceptions, a 153.55 passer rating and a 67.8 percent completion rate. For comparison, Price's numbers that year were 33 touchdowns versus 11 interceptions, a 161.92 passer rating and a completion rate of 66.9 percent.
Without question, the primary beneficiary of Mannion's performance has been wide receiver Brandin Cooks. Last year, Cooks had a solid year but was the clear No. 2 wideout behind Markus Wheaton. The question heading into this year was whether or not Cooks could handle the pressure of being his team's go-to receiver, and to say that he's answered it would be a fantastic understatement: Cooks' 1,443 yards on 100 receptions leads the nation, and his touchdown haul (14) is just one behind the nation's leader, Fresno State's Davante Adams. He's turned himself into the kind of receiver that you can only hope to limit, let alone shut down. Cooks is followed distantly in production by fellow receiver Richard Mullaney (46 catches for 702 yards and three scores) and tight end Connor Hamlett (36/321/1).
Of course, having such a successful passing game tends to leave the running backs feeling neglected, and there's little question that the new offense's biggest loser has been sophomore tailback Storm Woods. In 2012, Woods carried the ball 192 times for 940 yards and 13 scores; this year, those totals are down to 82 attempts for 288 yards and four touchdowns. Adding further insult is the fact that Woods isn't even getting the vast majority of the team's diminished carries: After handling 43 percent of OSU's rushing attempts last year, Woods is essentially splitting his carries with junior Terron Ward, who has taken 82 attempts for 288 yards and four touchdowns. And lest you think he's only a threat on passing attempts, Cooks is a danger to score any time he takes a handoff on a fly sweep, having rushed 25 times this year for 185 yards and two touchdowns.
When the Beavers don't punch the ball into the end zone, they call upon Trevor Romaine to put it through the uprights. Romaine has been money in his mid-range attempts, hitting eight of 10 shots from 39 yards or closer, but has struggled from beyond that range, making just two of six attempts from 40 yards and beyond.
In the other special teams games, freshman receiver Victor Bolden has attempted 36 of the team's 43 kickoff returns, and has been fairly pedestrian in his production: He averages just 18.9 yards per return, and Oregon State is one of just four teams in the conference to not earn a single kickoff return of 40 yards or more.
Oregon State's primary punt returner is—who else?—Brandin Cooks, who averages a respectable if unspectacular six yards per attempt. Get him into open space, though, and he's a dangerous player, as he showed with a 41-yard return against Stanford earlier this year.
As always, thanks to College Football Statistics, ESPN and USA Today's College Football Injury Report for the relevant data that went into this article. You can follow me on Twitter by clicking below.
<a href="https://twitter.com/ryanpriest" class="twitter-follow-button" data-show-count="false">Follow @ryanpriest</a>