OSU v. WSU: Position breakdown, who has edge?

ON PAPER, Saturday's game against WSU is a total mismatch in Oregon State's favor -- but OSU cannot afford to get cocky despite three headline making wins, two of which were on the road. Expect the unexpected in the Pac-12. And the Cougs will be looking to give the Beavs a dose of exactly that, on the prowl and hoping to upset No.14/17 OSU in Corvallis. So who has the edge? Glad you asked...

QuarterbackSean Mannion is coming off a career high 433-yard game in Tucson last Saturday, and boasts six TD's tossed compared to one interception. It appears as if Mannion has found his stride early into the 2012 season, and he will go up against a WSU secondary that has struggled in pass protection this season. For Washington State, Connor Halliday looks to have surpassed (at one-time injured) Jeff Tuel and has thrown nine TDs -- but six picks. Halliday has shown progress in finding his wideouts despite an offensive line that occasionally gets tossed around like a rag doll. Edge goes to OSU.

Running BackStorm Woods is also coming off a career high of 161 yards and a TD on 29 carries from the showdown in Tucson but it's just one game and must still be considered a budding rushing attack for OSU. Still, Woods had more zip in his step last Saturday than ever before, navigating blocks with precision and moving the chains. Malcolm Agnew certainly has not seen the same volume of carries Woods has, but he's capable and contributing. Meanwhile, WSU doesn't run much in Mike Leach's Air Raid. And when they have run, the o-line hasn't opened many holes. Carl Winston and Teondray Caldwell have a mere 280 yards and one TD combined through five contests – compare that to Woods 302 yards (two TD's) and Agnew's 66 yards in just three games. Edge goes to OSU.

Tight End: Washington State doesn't list any tight ends on the roster, but utilize a heavy "wide receiver" like redshirt senior Andrei Lintz (6-5, 250) at the Y-receiver, one of four wideouts the Cougs run in their base. Leach's Air Raid is about stressing a defense in various zones, but the Cougs haven't done much of that in Leach's first year. And Lintz has all but disappeared after a torrid spring and even lost his starting spot. Meanwhile, not many thought OSU had tight ends until Connor Hamlett caught the game winning touchdown last weekend in Tucson. Hamlett and the senior Colby Prince have put up a modest 97 yards between the two of them this season but while both figure to play important roles blocking for the run game against WSU, there is also evidence now that OSU tight ends can catch it and make big-time plays, too. Edge goes to OSU.

Wide ReceiverMarquess Wilson is a beast for WSU but doesn't always play like it (and has had a case of the drops recently.) Still, the third-year junior already holds the career receiving yards mark at Washington State and posted 12 receptions for 182 yards against Oregon. Second year WR Isiah Myers has been an emergent surprise and true freshman Gabe Marks is dangerous – the duo have combined for over 550 yards and six of the Cougars' TDs (Wilson has four, as does Myers). However, Markus Wheaton (403 yards, three TD's on 27 receptions) and Brandin Cooks (404 yards, two TD's on 21 receptions) get the nod here because they've been very consistent while very good. Washington State has more targets to throw to and a more diverse stash of receivers but Cooks, Wheaton, and the seldom mentioned but talented slot receiver Kevin Cummings have the talent to run away (literally) with this one against a struggling Washington State secondary. Edge goes to OSU.

Offensive Line: At the expense of having this article feel oh-so-lopsided toward OSU, we again have to give the nod to the Beaver O-line. Isaac Seumalo, Josh Andrews, Grant Enger, Colin Kelly and Michael Philipp have done a solid job of giving Mannion time in the pocket in all three games and improved last week in opening running lanes. WSU's line has been abysmal when the Cougs have tried to run and allowed 11 sacks in five games compared to OSU's six in three games. Mike Leach again questioned his team's tenacity after Oregon and a lot of those questions were surely directed at the WSU O-line – they too frequently allowed Halliday to be rushed around the field like a dog chasing its tail. Edge goes to OSU.

Defensive Line: Washington State has depth issues when it comes to their D-line. They got some solid pressure during the first half of the UO game, but they don't have the rotation as OSU does this season. Ioane Gauta showed some life as did Xavier Cooper but all in all, the Beavers have more talent on both the 1's and 2's. Mark Banker and Joe Seumalo keep guys fresh with a nearly constant rotation of players on and off the field. It is this ability to keep players from running out of steam after the first half expires that gives OSU a bit of an advantage over many teams in the Pac-12. OSU takes the edge over Washington State. Edge goes to OSU.

Linebackers: The quartet in WSU's 3-4 are tough, fast and have a nose for the ball. BUCK Travis Long is among the nation's leaders with 6.5 sacks and will split his time between the line and in the box and MIK Darryl Monroe has claimed two sacks among his 26 tackles – and none of the Beavs' starting linebackers have a sack to their credit. But WSU's four linebackers have also been hit or miss against the run and careless against the pass while OSU has been anything but. And given the WSU O-line, this may be the game where the OSU 'backers shine. D.J. Welch and Michael Doctor are excellent against the pass – something they'll see a lot of against WSU. Edge goes to OSU.

Secondary: With Rashaad Reynolds becoming a household name in the same way Jordan Poyer did last season, OSU is being called Cornerback U in some circles. It looks like Anthony Watkins is out of the safety picture, with Tyrequek Zimmerman starting in the last three games and playing some great football alongside Ryan Murphy. Yes, the OSU secondary has allowed a handful of big plays through the air, especially against ‘Zona (Dan Buckner). But those have been the exception. Poyer will probably be on Wilson all day long – can he eliminate one of WSU's biggest threats? On paper the answer seems to be yes. Washington State's corners have struggled immensely against efficient passing attacks and the safeties haven't been much better. And Mannion and Co. are going deep more often. Edge goes to OSU.

Coaching – Battle of the two Mikes. Leach's resume at Texas Tech is impressive (10 years, 10 bowl games) and Riley has OSU competing again at a level few expected -- so it could be argued either one of them has the edge. The difference lies within their staffs. Leach has a far less BCS-experienced group and it's their first year together in Pullman. Riley and crew have been through the high and low BCS tides together and are in 2012 generating consistent yardage against just about any team/style of defense -- and the defense is making life very tough for the other guys. The cohesiveness and longevity of the OSU coaching staff gives them the edge here.

Intangibles: So, OSU is on a roll and they have home field advantage for the first time in two weeks. In those last two weeks, the Beavs have gone from unranked to No.14/17 in the nation, and pulled out a doozy of a fourth quarter comeback in last week's game in Tucson. Reser is going to explode with noise as soon as the starting whistle is blown. WSU hasn't been as resilient as Leach expected and they will have to play with a tenacity that can take away OSU's momentum (as well as the crowds energy) early if they have any hope of winning this game. Edge goes to OSU.

Final Thoughts: We really thought long and hard about this article – how can you not give a single "edge" to the other team?? But we gave the edge to OSU every category for a reason – they look better, play faster and possess more offensive weapons than Washington State. OSU's defense can last all the way through the game and so far, Washington State's hasn't. OSU is playing with good form this season – but if they don't stay humble and focused, they could slip, we have seen it all happen before. The 31-14 shocker loss to WSU just a couple seasons ago in 2010 is a good example.

Prediction: In 2012, OSU slides past WSU by a score of 35 – 24 in a game that isn't as close as the final score would indicate.


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