On one hand, Washington has shown they can do fine against a down Cal defense as long as it’s for one half only. On the other hand, Oregon State’s defense is improving (I feel like they’re at a similar level to Cal right now but in different trajectories) and I don’t trust this staff to be offensively competent for a full game. Add to that the fact that Oregon State’s offense since turning to Nolan at QB has become way more consistent — although their scheme plays veeeery slightly more into UW’s defense than Cal (gosh dang it Chase Garber’s legs), so my gut is that it gets close to evening out. That being said, I’m worried about BJ Baylor having a big game against this rush defense for the Beavs.
All things considered, I feel like Washington’s offense will look pretty similar to last week: a handful of good drives that make us think “Oh maybe this’ll go alright” and then drives that make us realize our hope was misplaced, and an annoyingly close game. And if the Dawgs won that by like 6 inches, they’re probably due to lose this bad boy even though that shouldn’t be remotely inevitable.
Last weekend I made two predictions, one for if Washington ran their Unstupid Offense and and one for if Washington ran their Stupid Offense. Now I’m assuming they’ll go halvsies and have less luck. Although again, that shouldn’t have to be the case. Still, let’s go:
Washington- 24, Oregon State- 27
Which Husky offense is going to show up? The one that trounced Arkansas State and looked great in the first half versus Cal? Or that other one that scored 20 points in 10 quarters?
There’s the saying “fortune favors the bold”, but I prefer “Valor pleases you, Crom”, spoken by Arnold Schwarzenegger in Conan the Barbarian. Conan is asking his supreme being to help him slaughter a horde of approaching bad guys and recognizes that Crom is more likely to help those who help themselves when it comes to annihilating one’s enemies. (Conan also basically says to his God “If you don’t help me, then f*** you.” - talk about bold maneuvers!)
Why do I bring this up? Because I have a feeling that there will be mischief in this game. UW’s offensive output has been astonishingly meager when playing conservative and predictable. I think the football gods may decide to punish UW if the offense takes the same tack it did the first two weeks. But this punishment may be doled out elsewhere, like a blocked field goal that goes for 7 the other way, or other improbable plays that work to the Beavers favor. On the other hand, if the Husky offense comes out aggressive and inventive, this would do well to please Crom, or whatever names the football gods go by.
Oregon State has rung up 826 rushing yards in their last 3 games with a 6.25 yard/rush avg. Couple that with 24 pass attempts per game, and the Beavers appear to have a clear identity with the football. I think this game stays mostly close but hinges on a few strokes of good fortune for the Beavs.
Washington- 28, Oregon State- 30
Based only on how both teams have played so far this season, Oregon State has been the better team. They have run and passed the ball much more efficiently, especially with Chance Nolan established as QB1. On a per-play basis, the gap between the defenses is not particularly large, although UW has defended the opponents’ air attacks better than the Beavers have. Oregon State has made up for the yardage deficit by intercepting eight passes through four games.
Of course, those resumes come with caveats. Oregon State hasn’t played an opponent as good as Michigan. Depending on how you rate USC, the Beavers’ best opponent to date might be a very average Purdue team, and they looked overmatched in that one. Piling up big offensive totals against Idaho and Hawaii is the equivalent of what UW did against Arkansas State. The raw stats don’t tell the whole story.
More importantly, the Huskies and most of their fans still hope and believe that the resume to date is not a definitive description of the team’s ability. UW has struggled through injuries and self-inflicted schematic woes that have depressed offensive production. If the Dawgs have moved beyond those problems, it’s possible for them to exert physical superiority over the Beavers and win convincingly.
I’m not ready to hand-wave away Washington’s underperformance. If the first half of the Cal game carried over into the second and the Dawgs put the Bears away by 2+ scores and scored 35+ points in regulation, I would feel more confident that our coaches learned tough lessons from the Montana and Michigan games. Instead, we slid back into a predictable, repetitive strategy that made the defense’s job very easy. Oregon State’s offense is good and diverse enough that we can’t sacrifice a half or a quarter of the game with a non-competitive approach.
Washington- 21, Oregon State- 27
My fellow UWDP staff don’t appear to have a lot of faith in the Huskies this week. Which is a good thing because it means I have coworkers who have eyes and functional brains. Oregon State is coming off what is likely the best win of the Jonathan Smith era even if the favorite among the fanbase was their thrilling late triumph last year over Oregon. Meanwhile Washington mostly seemed to sleepwalk through the second half against Cal and required a missed field goal and clutch fumble to come away with the win at home.
Ever since Oregon State installed Chance Nolan at QB part way through the Purdue game their offense has been absolutely humming. They’ve scored 45, 42, and 45 points in their last 3 games which is impressive even if none of the teams they’ve played this year rank in the top-40 in defensive F+. Jermar Jefferson may be gone but BJ Baylor could still absolutely punish the Huskies on the ground. He’s averaging 3.19 yards after contact per rush which is basically more than Washington averages at all per carry. The Dawg defense actually did a good job last week against Damien Moore who came in averaging similar numbers before getting 67 yards on 18 carries so there’s a chance UW can improve here without a QB quite as mobile as Ethan Garbers.
In recent years Washington has absolutely smothered Oregon State’s passing game. The Beavers have thrown for fewer than 100 yards in 3 of their last 4 games against UW and haven’t eclipsed 200 yards since back in 2014 with Sean Mannion. The status of Trent McDuffie and Bookie Radley-Hiles is uncertain for Saturday but having both back healthy would be a huge boon for UW’s chances. Nolan has been efficient getting the ball downfield but half of his pass attempts this season have been within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage so if UW can wrap up and tackle without giving up yards after the catch like they traditionally have done then it will be a huge plus against OSU’s passing game.
There are certainly opportunities for UW’s offense if they can execute a little bit better up front. Only one starter on Oregon State’s defense ranks top-5 in the conference at their position per PFF. Outside corner Alex Austin ranks last among starting corners in the Pac-12 in PFF defensive grade by virtue of giving up nearly 16 yards per completion and missing about 30% of his tackles. If the Huskies commit to getting the ball out to their receivers on slants and quick outs then they’ll have athleticism mismatches outside. And while having Cade Otton unavailable again is assuredly a bad thing it might mind trick John Donovan into playing 11 personnel at all times which is best for the offense right now.
If Washington wants to win this game then in all likelihood the defense is going to have to put forth their best effort of the season and play to their potential. Special teams also going have to step up and can’t have any of the miscues they did last year with the botched long snap for an OSU touchdown and the short missed field goal. Finally I don’t trust the Husky offense to consistently move the ball which means they absolutely have to convert and score touchdowns anytime they get remotely close to the goal line.
I’m going to go ahead and let the Mariners fervor carry over. Believe. And take your heart pills.
Washington- 28, Oregon State- 27
A couple of staff got their predictions in after the deadline this morning but we’re an inclusive community so let’s go ahead and add them to the pile for you to make fun of on Sunday morning.
This weekend’s game is an interesting not. The Huskies have shown some life the last few weeks and with the return of Odunze and McMillan we can start to throw the ball a little more. They have a team that they should be able to score some points on through the air, and the real question is will they pass first and then run or be dead set on running the ball.
On the other side of the ball the Beavers are able to run the ball well while the Huskies haven’t really been able to stop a mobile QB and a good running attack. Cade Otton missing in this game could be a big difference for the Dawgs, and in the end I think we come up just short and lose a close one.
Washington- 24, Oregon State- 28
A lot has been made of Oregon State’s offense this season. I have certainly contributed to that with my fairly glowing review of their attack earlier this week. They are an offense reliant on coaching, experience, and timing. They are well drilled in their roles and responsibilities.
However, I think the big matchup will be Washington’s pass game against the Beaver secondary. More accurately, Washington’s coaches verse themselves. Will they attack the relative weakness of Oregon State with Washington’s relative strength on offense, the pass game? Assuming he’s healthy enough, will Rome Odunze continue to be integrated into the offense? Or will they lick their lips at a less talented team and think this is “finally” their chance to run downhill against someone? The Beavers have gotten a whopping eight interceptions this season but they also have given up some chunk plays - the secondary gambles and isn’t helped by a not-so-ferocious pass rush. There are big pays to be had.
The Huskies need to come out aggressive in the pass game early and force Oregon State to play catchup. When teams are forced to throw from behind into the strength of this UW team - the secondary - that is when blowouts start happening. If Oregon State can get an early lead, they will bound B.J. Baylor into Washington’s front seven and then keep them guessing all game.
Washington is not a great team this year - the run game is fundamentally broken because of choices made by the coaching staff, and the defense is not as stingy as in years past. But, I have a hard time seeing a Beaver blowout. Or a UW blowout for that matter. Oregon State knows this could be “their year” and will fight to the end. Washington is desperate to built momentum and get their season on track entering conference play. This will be a close game that I ultimately think UW wins on the strength of its secondary and a couple well timed Rome Odunze deep shots. Sean McGrew will create Washington’s first 20+ yard of the season.
Washington- 28, Oregon State- 27
THE FINAL TALLY
Straight Up: Washington- 2, Oregon State- 4
Against the Spread (UW +1.5): Washington- 2, Oregon State- 4
Average Score: Washington- 25.5, Oregon State- 27.7