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Oregon State Preview: Defense

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Read up on what is perhaps the worst defense in the Pac-12. It will make you feel better about Washington's offense. Maybe.

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

According to several different statistics, Oregon State is among the worst defensive teams in the conference. The Beavers allow the most yards per play at 6.35 (UW is 1st at 4.84). 10th in the conference in scoring defense at 34.0 points allowed per game (UW 1st at 19.6). 11th in rushing yards allowed per attempt at 5.11, tied for last in passing yards allowed per attempt at 8.0.

Basically, if the Huskies cannot get the offense on track against this defense, they will have essentially hit rock bottom.

Defensive Line

DE Kyle Peko (Sr., 6-1, 305), NT Sumner Houston (RSFr., 6-2, 280), DE Lavonte Barnett (Sr., 6-3, 265).

Peko has totaled 35 tackles, including 2.5 TFL and 1.0 sack. On the other side, Barnett has managed 18 tackles, 3.0 TFL, and 2.0 sacks.

Houston has been thrust into a tough spot, responsible for plugging up the middle of the line of scrimmage in this 3-3-5 as a redshirt freshman. His counting stat production has been understandably underwhelming.

Titus Failauga (So., 6-3, 258) has been the most important lineman off the bench, with 24 tackles and 3.0 TFL.

Linebackers

STUD Jaswha James (Sr., 6-2, 266), MIKE Caleb Saulo (Jr., 6-1, 225), WILL Ricky Ortiz (Jr., 6-0, 242).

Saulo is second on the team with 62 total tackles. Neither James nor Ortiz have racked up impressive stats, partly due to the high level of rotation at this position.

Rommel Mageo (Jr., 6-2, 233) is listed as a backup yet he paces the team in total tackles with 70 along with 2.0 sacks, 2.0 interceptions, and a pair of forced fumbles. Not sure what the deal is there.

Secondary

NB Naji Patrick (Sr., 5-9, 194), CB Kendall Hill (Jr., 6-2, 204), CB Treston Decoud (Jr., 6-3, 208), FS Gabe Ovgard (RSFr., 5-10, 192), SS Brandon Arnold (So., 5-11, 198).

So many defensive backs! Worth pointing out that OSU's pair of junior corners are very tall.

Also worth pointing out that despite rolling out five defensive backs by default, this is arguably the worst pass defense in the Pac-12. Quarterbacks have completed 66% of passes for 8.0 yards per attempt, 19 touchdowns, and only 8 interceptions against the Beavers.

The Ducks have allowed drastically more touchdowns, and several teams surrender a greater number of passing yards on a per game basis. But in terms of efficiency, OSU has been brutal.

Overall

I firmly believe that if the Huskies struggle offensively in Corvallis, it will be more about the team's ongoing offensive dysfunction than about the Oregon State defense.

Yes, this game will be played on the road, during OSU's senior night. That doesn't change the fact that the Beavers are 0-7 in conference play, most recently surrendering 41 to UCLA and 54 to Cal.

For encouragement, Oregon State fans can point to defensive efforts that held Colorado to 17 points in a 17-13 game on October 24th, as well as a defensively respectable 12-27 loss to Utah.

I think it's fair to call the Colorado game an outlier. Every other Pac-12 team has scored at least 27 points. The Husky defense, even after a deflating second half performance at Arizona State, leads the conference in scoring defense.

It seems a stretch to imagine Oregon State, without injured starter Seth Collins and perhaps even his backup Nick Mitchell, scoring over 24 points.

Even with a couple turnovers and a few broken possessions, Washington should be able to surpass that mark. In theory, that should be enough. In practice, it's clear that the Huskies are not performing consistently enough for any game to be considered a lock in advance. Especially when Arizona State is not drastically better defensively than the Beavers.

Most obviously, the Huskies need to ride Myles Gaskin and the run game. When Gaskin is picking up solid gains on 1st and 2nd down, Browning has looked downright efficient hitting Jaydon Mickens and his tight ends for moderate gains.

The offense falling apart and Browning getting careless with the ball in the second half against Arizona State tracked pretty directly with the abandonment of the run game. The other variable? Terribly inconsistent offensive line play.

When the Huskies had ASU on the deck in the first half, the line was succeeding in blocking for the run and the pass. As the blitzes mounted starting in the 3rd, they fell apart and Browning started to panic. I'm not sure Gary Anderson will have his defense blitzing nearly as often, and I believe ASU features superior pass rushers, but last week's collapse still looms large.

This Washington offense is capable of shoring things up and dominating the Beavers like they dominated Arizona only a few weeks ago. As we've seen, they're also capable of making any defense look good. Hell, they can do both in the same game.

If the Huskies are to play in a bowl game, we need more Arizona game and less Arizona State game.