Oregon State's offense is only slightly better than Washington's. The Beavers rank 9th in total yards per game (399ypg), 9th in yards per play (5.71), while the Huskies are 11th in both categories. OSU averages a mere 27.6pgg (11th), compared to 30.3 (9th) for the Huskies.
Mannion's 2014 Stats: 233 of 368 (63.3%), 2688 passing yards, 7.3 yards per attempt, 12 TDs, 7 INTs, 131 Rating. -272 rushing yards, 1 rushing TD.
Cyler's 2014 Stats: 151 of 229 (65.9%), 1627 passing yards, 7.1 yards per attempt, 12 TDs, 2 INTs, 141 Rating. 259 rushing yards, 4 rushing TDs.
Mannion (Sr., 6-5, 227) has obviously passed for greater yardage, but ypa and accuracy are basically a wash and Miles has tossed five fewer picks and contributed to the run game.
I'm not really arguing that Cyler is the better quarterback, but the OSU passing game has certainly regressed since last season when Mannion tossed 37 TDs. The Beavers are 8th in both passing yardage and yards per attempt, while the 12 passing TDs ranks dead last in the conference.
The pass-blocking has not been pretty this season. Mannion has been sacked 30 times, tied with UCLA for worst in the conference. Narrowed down to conference games, that figure goes down to 22 sacks, which is still tied for last in the Pac-12. Even in Saturday's upset win over ASU, the Sun Devils managed 2.0 sacks.
Kikaha, Andrew Hudson, and the rest of the Husky pass rushers should have a banner day against the rare (in this conference) double-whammy of a bad OL and a (largely) pocket-confined QB. Speaking of Hudson, he has completely validated Petersen's decision to bring him back for his final year of eligibility. He showed up for this season in fantastic physical shape, and he has taken advantage of the chaos created by Kikaha. 7.0 sacks and 11 TFLs is nothing to sneeze at.
Oregon State's run game has also underwhelmed. In conference play, the Beavers rank 11th in the conference in rushing yards per game (112) and 11th in yards per carry (3.71). Only WSU has been worse, but that offense has passed the ball at a record-setting clip.
The one bright spot has been scoring touchdowns on the ground. OSU has scored 11 rushing TDs in conference play (tied for 4th), and honestly it is partially responsible for Mannion's surprisingly low touchdown total.
The starting five: LT Sean Harlow (So., 6-4, 295), LG Fred Lauina (RSFr., 6-4, 312), C Josh Mitchell (Jr., 6-3, 288), RG Gavin Andrews (Jr., 6-6, 340), and RT Dustin Stanton (So., 6-5, 270).
The listed co-starters are Storm Woods (Jr., 6-0, 212) and Terron Ward (Sr., 5-7, 201). Woods is the quicker, more versatile back. He has logged 88 carries for 591 yards (6.71ypc) and four rushing TDs. Ward is a short-yardage beast and all around bowling ball. He has 133 carries for 696 yards (5.23ypc) and 10 rushing TDs.
It's worth noting that after generally struggling throughout conference play, both backs exploded for over 100 yards rushing. After rushing totals of 12, 147, and 37 yards in three straight losses, the two combined for 247 yards and 2 TDs on 37 carries.
When two backs with very different running styles each manage to shred a defense like that, you can bet the offensive line is winning the line of scrimmage. The explosion of production both skewed the season numbers and suggested that they may not reflect the team that will face the Huskies on Saturday.
*Editor's note: After this was written it was announced that Ward will miss the next two games for Oregon State due to a knee injury suffered late vs. Arizona State this past weekend.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
OSU's starting outside receivers stand in stark contrast. Victor Bolden (So., 5-9, 175) and his elite speed and quickness more closely resemble a sterotypical slot receiver, but he starts at flanker. Jordan Villamin (RSFr., 6-4, 240) plays split end despite the body of a tight end.
Bolden has caught 58 passes for 640 yards, but only two TDs. Villamin has reeled in 29 passes for 511 yards and 4 TDs. Both have averaged around 100ypg over the last three contests.
TE Connor Hamlett (Sr., 6-7, 266) is a massive target, but his production has been modest: 30 catches for 330 yards and two scores.
Above I mentioned Woods being the more versatile back, but that has more to do with his style than the way he is used. Ward has been targeted more in the passing game: 29 catches compared to 14 for Woods.
The toughest thing about looking towards this matchup is deciding how much stock to put in the win over ASU. That was a classic "trap-game" situation in Corvallis, and this game will instead be Washington's senior night. On the other hand, the Huskies have arguably been a better team on the road.
Washington is favored by slightly less than a touchdown, and probably should be, but a win here is in no way automatic. No win has been automatic for Washington.
Personally, my eyes will be on the battle between the young Husky defensive backs and Oregon State's wide receivers. Will Jones, Ross, and Hale struggle against the deep ball like they did early in the 1st half against Arizona, or will they pick up right where the left off in the 2nd half, when Sidney Jones picked off two passes and several other throws were defended very well.
The answer may well depend on the performance of the defensive front seven as well, especially the ability of the pass rush to keep Mannion uncomfortable, but it will still be on Jones and his safety help to avoid letting Bolden loose over the top.
I'm less concerned about the run game, simply because a Husky front-seven boasting all three of its stars (Shelton, Kikaha, Thompson) healthy and committed to the defensive side should be more than a match for OSU O-line. Despite allowing rushing scores close to the goal line, the Huskies limited Arizona to 3.33ypc, and I expect a similar outcome this Saturday.
How do you all feel about this one? What are you looking forward to or worried about?