We are 28 hours away from kickoff as of the time of publication and at this exact moment in time there’s still a game on the schedule. So I guess let’s try to figure out what’s going to happen then. Every game we get at this point is a gift so let’s make the most of it.
While breaking in a new QB, new OC, and three new starters on the OL should result in at best mild growing pains, Oregon State’s defensive showing last week did _not_ look great for the Beavs. As I wrote in the defensive preview, that’s especially true up front and in the linebackers, who had exceptional difficulty against WSU correctly reading and reacting to plays. Add in the fact that the defensive ends and tackle aren’t overpowering in the slightest, and that resulted in some pretty noteworthy running lanes. For a new starting quarterback, being able to trust your run game and not feeling the need to press (not to mention the fact that the Oregon State pass rush looked pretty dang bad last week) is a pretty friendly environment. Also throw in the fact that OSU’s linebackers and safeties had some serious missed tackles, and UW’s running backs stable could do some serious damage.
OSU’s offense is much better than their defense, but I still feel like UW’s defense should pretty decisively be the victor in that battle too. Their main weapon is obviously Jermar Jefferson and I could see him having a decently big game — that dude is scary, full stop. Whoever plays most at ILB alongside Eddie Ulofoshio will have to be on it. I feel like for OSU’s passing game to be successful it’s gonna take a lot of Tristan Gebbia extending plays on the ground. He’s better at that than Jake Luton — although for what it’s worth I always felt like Luton had underappreciate mobility — but he doesn’t have the arm ability to get the velocity they’d probably need to really maximize that talent against Washington’s secondary. As it is, my gut is telling me we’ll see Elijah Molden or Asa Turner baiting Gebbia into an interception.
I could see it taking a couple quarters for UW’s offense to find a rhythm, but I don’t think OSU’s offense should be able to get much of a foothold during that time either. In the end Washington’s running backs and defense should be dictating the game and giving the new quarterback a cushion, whose receivers have a talent advantage over OSU’s secondary.
While Oregon State didn’t face-plant in their opening loss to WSU, very little from that game would give anyone reason to believe they will upset the Huskies. Offensively, Triston Gebbia executed Jonathan Smith’s gameplan to take what the defense gave him. It resulted in a high completion percentage on short throws, very few explosive plays, and a razor-thin margin for error. Jermar Jefferson is a talented running back and the Dawg defense will have to keep him boxed in to harness the Beavers’ most dangerous big-play threat. As Husky fans know very well, Smith’s offense relies on movement and deception. UW’s talent and experience in the secondary should help negate that advantage, and the play-making ability may punish Gebbia’s middling arm strength. UW annihilated OSU’s offense in last season’s match-up and it’s hard to find new reasons for Beaver optimism.
Perhaps the more intriguing match-up will be UW’s new-look offense against OSU’s defense. We still don’t know who will line up under center for the Dawgs. Given the large gaps in the middle of the OSU defense last week, the running game might end up meaning more than the passing game. Deon McIntosh’s power running between the tackles was an almost unstoppable weapon for WSU. Richard Newton and nominal starter Kamari Pleasant both have the size and physicality to replicate McIntosh’s success. If OSU brings safety help into the box, it will present one-on-one matchups for a more physically imposing receiver corps. Puka Nacua and Ty Jones, in particular, should be able to win against man coverage and make some big plays. If Jacob Sirmon starts at QB, a steady run game and some play-action shots down field should be a dangerous combination. It might not be the sexiest way for John Donovan to debut a new offense, but I’ll take effectiveness over style every time.
With so many unknowns on the Washington side, I am banking on a sure thing: the Husky defense. There are certainly questions about the front seven, but does anyone doubt Coach K at this point? I’m sure Oregon State will hit some plays with their varied looks, and the Tristian Gebbia to Trevon Bradford connection looking like it has potential. Then there is the engine of the Beaver offense, Jermar Jefferson, possibly the best running back in the conference. It’s hard to say whether they will look to get him going early, or simply use him as bait to catch the Huskies cheating the run. Either way, I trust Washington’s defense to keep the Beavers bottled up, especially in the air.
When Washington has the ball, it’s anyone’s guess what will happen. Oregon State lacks size on the defensive line and plays tons of linebackers, which is easily the strength of their defense, Hamilcar Rashed in particular. He didn’t do much against Washington State last week, but he was so disruptive in 2019 it’s hard to imagine he stays quiet much longer. With a new quarterback, offensive coordinator, and just new faces everywhere, I expect we see lots of Richard Newton and the running backs early on to take advantage of that Oregon State front.
It’s also about easing in the new starter at QB. It sounds like if it isn’t Kevin Thomson, he will at least get a handful of snaps per game similar to Taysom Hill on the New Orleans Saints. If the offense is “aggressive” and “attacking” as we’ve heard it described, I hope that means we see downfield passes to Puka Nacua, Ty Jones, Marquis Spiker, Terrell Bynum, Rome Odunze, and the rest of the four-stars. It feels like we’ve been waiting forever to see the talent accumulated in the WR room make an impact on the field and this should be the game they are let loose. But, I still think we’ll see some bad QB play mixed in with brilliance. I’m also curious to see the TE rotation as well. Cade Otton will be on the field most plays, but where does Mark Redman fit in? He could be too good to keep off the field. How does Jaxson Kirkland look at LT? More importantly, how are the new starters at guard going to look?
Ultimately I see a suffocating defense, good run game, and an inconsistent-yet-at-times-explosive pass game. As in, we’re trading some passing efficiency from years past for more explosion plays. We shall see tomorrow night.
Washington Huskies- 27, Oregon State Beavers- 10
Our Huskies should roll into this game with a lot of confidence, but Smith’s Beavers have the potential to make the game interesting. Smith’s familiarity with the Petersen Era Husky teams allowed his teams to punch a little above their weight, but this shouldn’t be the case under Lake.
I respect Smith’s ability to scheme up production, so OSU should continue to be able to field a reasonably competent offense, even against our defense. However, the stronger of the UW Offense vs. OSU Defense match up will determine how long the Beavers hang around in this game. Our anemic offense last year kept them in the game far longer than any UW fan felt comfortable with. With a new offense and a new QB, its anybody’s guess as to how we will look in the season opener. Conventional wisdom would think that the staff would want to insulate a new starter with a conservative game plan that featured a lot of rushing and easy throws. I’m feeling confident that UW will be able to establish its dominance in the trenches and capitalize on its talent advantage, so the conservative game plan might make too much sense to ignore.
Expectations from the fanbase will be hard to manage given how big of a favorite we are considered locally, as well as in Vegas. The spread has UW by 13.5 at the moment, and I think we’re going to just cover with a 2 TD win. This shouldn’t be the slugfest of last year, and it won’t be a shoot out. We’ll probably have the kicking game chip in a few points, and I think our defense may have a very respectable first outing but not a suffocating shutout.
Washington Huskies- 31, Oregon State Beavers- 17
Obviously this would feel a little bit easier to call if we’d been able to see the Huskies in action. Washington’s starting QB? Anyone’s guess. The starting RB? No one thinks it will be the guy who’s #1 on the depth chart. With that being the case why should UW fans have any reason to expect huge offensive results under a new head coach and new OC?
It certainly helps that Oregon State did not exactly show to have the strongest defense in the world. The Cougars were able to carve up Oregon State on the ground despite missing their starting running back and likely best overall offensive player. We may not know exactly what the Husky offense looks like but if the opposing defense isn’t able to reliably tackle in space or effectively get to the quarterback then it really doesn’t matter all that much. It should help that it appear Puka Nacua will be a full go after seemingly missing almost all of training camp with a lower body injury. Having Nacua, Jones, Bynum, and Otton all expected to be available gives me a lot more faith in whoever won the QB job.
On the other end you can expect that the Beavers will pin their hopes on RB Jermar Jefferson who carved the Huskies up two years ago in an OSU loss. This will immediately be a test for the new Washington inside linebackers to improve upon the play we saw at the position last year. If the young defensive tackles and linebackers are able to at least hold their own at the line of scrimmage though then it seems there’s very little hope for the Beavers to reliably move the ball. Oregon State didn’t try to challenge the Cougar secondary deep much last week and it stands to reason they’ll be much less willing to do so against the talented Husky defensive backs.
I expect we’ll see some early jitters from the Huskies and maybe an overthrow or two from whoever gets the start at quarterback. However, the talent differential will be too much to overcome and Washington eventually breaks it wide open.
Washington Huskies- 26, Oregon State Beavers- 13
Straight Up: Washington-5 , Oregon State- 0
Against the Spread (UW -14): Washington- 3, Oregon State- 1, Push- 1
Average Score: Washington- 31.0, Oregon State- 15.6