Against UW, Beavs might not need balance

THE HUSKIES COME to Corvallis this week to take on the Beavs, and both squads are desperate for a win. The UW has arguably the best running back in the Pac-12, yet his infrequent touches last week have fans scratching their heads. His carries figure to go way up at OSU. But who will be handing the ball off to him, that's still in question.

When teams get behind they, of course, throw it more. But it's hard to figure how Chris Polk carried the ball only nine times last week against USC. He came into the Week 10 already having topped the 1,000 yard mark, with 1,196 hashes.

UW coach and playcaller Steve Sarkisian is getting a little heat about it. Starting QB Keith Price underwent an MRI that showed no structural damage. Still, Price has swelling in his knee still and whether he plays or not, all signs point to a UW game plan built on running the ball again, and again, and again at OSU.

It's clear what OSU needs to do defensively, but knowing and doing are two different things, and OSU will have to play in a way they rarely have this year if they're going to shut down UW's running game, and/or get out to a big enough lead to force UW to go more to the pass with backup Nick Montana the possible starter.

AND IF OSU does stop the run, the UW receivers are an above average group, though they haven't necessarily played like it in recent weeks. TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins has been a productive pass grabber however, and causes matchup problems.

If Price plays he figures to be less than 100 percent. He began the year with a bang, and was making a fairly strong case for postseason accolades. But injuries have steadily sapped his ability to move and his mechanics have suffered, let alone his ability to run and escape the rush.

He hasn't been nearly as effective in recent weeks.

DEFENSIVELY, THE HUSKIES don't get the credit they deserve for their run defense. They're right in the middle statistically, rated 61st nationally at stopping the run but they've held runners to a lot of short gains. The big problem has been sandwiched in between all those, they've also been susceptible to the big gainer ripped off against them.

OSU has struggled mightily to run the ball and has gone away from it early in games, they rank dead last nationally in rushing against FBS temas, and next to last, at 119th, overall for the season. On paper, it seems likely the Beavs must try and beat UW with their passing game. And the UW pass defense, while playing somewhat better of late, has been a big weak spot this season for the Huskies. How weak?

The Huskies rank 104th out of 120 FBS teams in pass defense.

This may be one game where, because of the UW pass defense, that it's okay not to absolutely strive for balance. Mike Riley said exactly the opposite, however, on Tuesday, insisting the Beavs would take to the ground and have run-pass balance against UW.

But there are different ways to achieve balance, too. Some teams pass to set up the run. OSU might find that to their liking. First things first, though, and that's dealing with a UW defense that is likely to blitz and apply run pressures until OSU makes them pay for it.

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