GABEY LUCAS (5-3 ATS, 5-3 SU)
If OSU was a team with a higher raw talent level, looking purely at their end results game-by-game you’d end up rather confused. How does a team that limits USC’s explosive offense to 17 points give up 42 to Utah, or barely squeak by a Stanford team clinging to David Shaw’s tenure by a thread? As it is, the Beavs ~aren’t~ a team with a very high pure talent level relative to most of their opponents — although Jonathan Smith does deserve credit for improving that in his tenure — so really these occasionally paradoxical results actually reflect quite positively on this team. (I mean, maybe not eeking by Stanford, who’s underperformed their talent level, but the rest of it...)
(And besides, I’d argue that eek-age is more emblematic of Stanford occasionally being able to pull their head out of their woohas and play closer to their superior talent level, even if their scheme doesn’t frequently allow that.)
Anyways, for the Dawgs on defense I keep going back and forth about their pros and cons versus Ben Gulbranson under center: On one hand, he’s a much easier target for the pass rush, on the other, he’s not half-bad at getting the ball out on mid-range throws including while under duress — not exactly Washington’s strength... I feel like we’re not gonna see a lot of instances of UW’s edge rushers getting to the quarterback only for him to finagle his way out and make a great throw, but we ~will~ see UW’s edge rushers aaaaalmost get there only for Gulbranson to get the ball out right before almost getting sacked, all without using his legs at all. It’ll probably be just as annoying.
Because of that though I really think this comes down to the DBs — if they can hang on ~just~ enough to let Washington’s line do their job, it’ll tip things in the Dawgs’ favor massively, but that’s a huge “if.” (Another minor factor: I think UW’s edge rushers are overall quite intelligent and *ahem* savvy, which will give them an advantage over most of OSU’s opponents so far in playing against the Beavs’ misdirections, bootlegs, etc.) Both OSU’s quarterbacks have thrown their fair share of interceptions though, and my gut says if UW can even snag one — granted not something they do that often — the game will be a Washington W.
As for OSU’s defense, it’s crazy to think they only gave up 17 to USC, because they started out that game getting absolutely ~shredded~ on the ground. Overall, though, they look like a generally really well-rounded group, whose “weakness” is just not having a great pass rush. Not even bad, just not necessarily a strength. That, I think, bodes well for Washington; Michael Penix is kind of awesome when given a bit of time.
Overall I could see the script of this game being UW-Cal Lite, where DeBoer initially tests out what the opposing defense is giving them — i.e., goes more run-heavy than usual since OSU’s strength is their secondary — before going “meh f*ck it, we can win a strength-on-strength battle,” trusting Washington’s receivers’ talent advantage, and letting Mikey P more or less grip it n’ rip it.
Washington- 35, Oregon State- 28
ANDREW BERG (4-4 ATS, 5-3 SU)
In a conference firmly split between haves and have-nots, the Beavers and Huskies have established themselves as the upper-middle class. Both teams enter at 3-2 in the Pac-12 and 6-2 overall. Neither OSU nor UW will threaten to break into the CFP discussion and are unlikely to make the conference title game, but the Beavers are already ranked and the Dawgs would assuredly enter the top-25 with a win.
That’s a long way of saying that this is an even match-up. The teams feature different sorts of players and tendencies, but the overall output has been similar. Oregon State likes to run the ball, ranking 6th in the country in their frequency of run calls relative to passes. Most UW fans would prefer to face a run-heavy attack. Although the run defense has not been perfect, it has been better than the pass coverage. The Beavers feature a three-headed monster (four if you count wildcat linebacker Jack Costello) notable for both its speed and power. Damien Martinez has emerged as the leading rusher with his ability to break big plays. Deshaun Fenwick is a bruiser who rarely loses in short yardage situations. The Huskies will have to wrap up and tackle to avoid yards after contact. QB Ben Gulbranson entered the year as the backup but has usurped veteran Chance Nolan after an injury to Nolan. Gulbranson has limited interceptions, but he throws less, moves less, and gets sacked more. Those qualities might help UW’s pass defense, which requires pressure to limit the damage.
Another dramatic distinction between the squads is OSU’s pass defense. The Beavers have a talented secondary that has been successful against more physically gifted opponents. Holding USC to 17 points was a coup and gives the Beavers reason to believe against Michael Penix and his army of prolific pass-catchers. On the other hand, Penix proved in the second half against Cal that he has the patience and persistence to break down a defense that wants to keep everything in front of it. OSU also struggles against the run. Even if the Dawgs aren’t going to hand it off to Cam Davis 25 times, opportunistic play calling could get some chunks of yardage against a defense that will be geared up to cover.
The other important variable is the weather. Rain is in the forecast for Friday and if we face a deluge, it could do more damage to UW’s pass offense than OSU’s running. The rain could have other effects, too. Peyton Henry missed a makeable FG in Berkley that had a meaningful impact on the game. Those types of breaks could go either way and swing the game. In the end, this is the type of tight matchup where I’m picking home field to swing the outcome, but if the playing surface turns into a Slip-N-Slide, that calculation could be washed away.
Washington- 31, Oregon State- 26
MAX VROOMAN (3-5 ATS, 7-1 SU)
There was a point in time where I very strongly considered picking the Beavers in this game. That point came when initial forecasts for Friday suggested that Washington would be playing in a borderline monsoon with wind gusts over 40 miles per hour. That could still turn out to be the case but updates have seemingly suggested that things will calm down to merely quite windy rather than gale and that Seattle will be in a rain shadow.
Why is that good news? Because Oregon State has been one of the most run heavy teams in the conference this season. In the Beavers’ 2 losses they could not stop coughing the ball over via interception and that hasn’t been as much of a problem for new quarterback Ben Gulbranson. So far Gulbranson has been the quintessential game manager. His big throw rate per Pro Football Focus is about 1/3rd of Chance Nolan’s but his turnover worthy play rate is almost in half. Perhaps the biggest difference for UW is that Gulbranson has taken 3x as many sacks in nearly the same number of dropbacks as Nolan. He is not a mobile QB and is much less likely to move in the pocket to evade pass rushers which is great news for a Husky D that has struggled with mobile QBs.
All of that points to Oregon State running the ball a lot and they’ve been very good at it. True freshman Damien Martinez has been on fire lately running for better than 9 yards per carry in OSU’s last 3 contests. Washington’s run defense will be tested in a major way and this would be an ideal time for Tuli Letuligasenoa to have the best game of his career. Even if OSU runs the ball effectively I’m sure that the Huskies will be glad the Beavers aren’t testing their worst unit which is their secondary even if it’s finally fully healthy.
If the winds aren’t in fact too bad then I’m less concerned about the Husky passing offense. Oregon State’s secondary is very good and have the potential to disrupt Washington like no defense has been able to so far. Should Washington keep the ball on the ground more due to the conditions the good news is that Oregon State against the run ranking 86th in EPA/play and 89th in success rate in rush defense.
So far this season I’ve been fantastic straight up and awful against the spread. Let’s hope the trend continues since I have the Huskies pulling out a narrow one but the Beavers covering when Washington gets the stop on a potential game winning 2-pt conversion from OSU.
Washington- 27, Oregon State- 26
THE FINAL TALLY
Straight Up: Washington- 3, Oregon State- 0
Against The Spread (UW -4.5): Washington- 2, Oregon State- 1
Average Score: Washington- 31.0, Oregon State- 26.7