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

CORVALLIS -- No. 7 Oregon State visits the home of the Twelfth Man this Saturday. Will Storm Woods finally have another 100 yard day? How will the No. 19 ranked passing defense in the nation stand up to the big play ability of Jordan Poyer and Rashaad Reynolds? Does Sean Mannion's return mean increased production through the air? BF.C covers all that and more in the weekly position breakdown…

QuarterbackSean Mannion returns as the head honcho of the OSU offensive attack after missing (just) two games with a meniscus tear. Mannion's stats to date – 107 of 169 for 1,358 yards accompanied by seven touchdowns and four interceptions. Unfortunately for Husky fans, OSU's strong QB play is not a storyline they can identify with up in Seattle, where junior quarterback Keith Price is struggling to find a groove. Price is 143-238 and has thrown eight TD's – he matches that number with eight INT's however. Prince has been an on-again-off-again type of QB this year, despite projections that he was going to excel further under Steve Sarkisian. Price seems to play his best when the odds are stacked against him – he is a versatile player with some weapons at his disposal, but can he catch fire against an OSU defense that has been unkind to QBs and offenses all year long? Edge goes to OSU

TailbackStorm Woods carried the OSU offense in last Saturday's bout against Utah – literally. Woods had all three of the teams' touchdowns, effectively doubling his scoring production on the year. Yet Woods only had a net gain of 47 yards and averaged less than three yards per carry, and he has yet to really ignite the Beaver offense. But a stout offensive line for OSU and a struggling defensive line for UW could provide different results in Seattle. On the flipside, you have a Washington Husky offense that have come to rely on their rushing attack to make clutch plays on first and third downs. Bishop Sankey has delivered for the Dawgs, posting seven TD's, 574 yards and 94 yards receiving. He is a prime asset when it comes to moving the chains, and he has a strong option behind him in Erich Wilson. The combo of Woods and Malcolm Agnew has been mediocre at best this season, and Washington's corps of runners show a bit more moxy on third down and short. Edge goes to Washington

Tight End – Austin Seferian Jenkins has been a big bright spot for Washington this year. The sophomore tight end has shown a knack for turning small gains into big yardage, consistently providing a dependabletarget to Price in tight situations. Seferian Jenkins is the owner of 3 TD's, 37 receptions and has top receiving honors for the Husky's with a total of 447 yards. He also boasts the longest catch for a Husky player this season – 40 yards. Meanwhile, Colby Prince and Connor Hamlett have come into their own as part of the dual tight end set that Mike Riley seems fond of implementing. But OSU's tight ends do much of their work behind the line and in terms of pass catching, the production, speed and overall athletic tally goes to Seferian Jenkins – he has been most effective weapon for Price this season. Edge goes to Washington

Offensive Line - No contest here. OSU's front five (Grant Enger, Isaac Seumalo, Colin Kelly, Michael Philipp and Josh Andrews) have been dynamic this season, and have allowed only 11 sacks. Seumalo and Andrews put on a blocking clinic against Utah nose tackle Star Lotulelei last weekend, and Philipp and Kelly are having an explosive season on the edges. Compare, if you will, OSU's 11sacks allowed to UW's 21, an average of three sacks a game. The Dawgs have been hit for a loss 54 times, and have lost over 200 yards in the process – the malfunctioning nature of their offensive line is partially responsible for the shaky play of Price on game day. The Huskies have done a better job in run blocking but a team is only as strong as its weakest link, and the Husky O-line is that weak link. Edge goes to OSU

Wide ReceiverMarkus Wheaton and Brandin Cooks can't be left holding the bag for the lack of aerial production last weekend - Cody Vaz had a rough game against Utah. A blurb from the announcer in the booth on Saturday summed up Vaz's evening quite succinctly – "Cody Vaz' pass is incomplete, intended for nobody in particular." There is proof in the footage of the BYU game that you could throw Vaz or Mannion in – take your pick – and Cooks and Wheaton would still rip off chunks of yardage. Any team would kill to be in possession of the two threats Mannion will have at his disposal in Seattle, with 1,321 yards, 83 receptions and eight touchdowns as a collective. Washington, even without a glitchy QB, would only have one primary receiving threat outside of Seferian Jenkins, and that is Kasen Williams. Williams has four TD's, and can outpace defenders when he gets physical within the first five hashes. But the sophomore has a third of the yardage of Cooks and Wheaton, and no viable threat at the X to keep the likes of Jordan Poyer and Ryan Murphy distracted. Edge goes to OSU

Defensive LineScott Crichton is mopping up Pac-12 backfields with eight sacks and 12.5 tackles for loss. The diversity of big, talented pass rushers for OSU will likely generate confusion against a porous Washington O-line. Dylan Wynn sits in the top five of Beaver tacklers with 27 total stops and one sack. With the exception of the Utah skirmish (where OSU allowed 175 yards on the ground), the OSU defensive front four and their super sub Rudolf Fifita have dominated the run lanes, and are currently ranked fourth in the nation in rush defense. Washington's D-line is young and inexperienced, with sophomore Danny Shelton and true freshman Andrew Hudson leading the Husky front seven with a combined two sacks and five tackles for loss. On balance, the Dawg D-linemen have struggled to jump off the page (with the exception of the Stanford game), and the line for that matter. Edge goes to OSU

Linebackers –These teams look pretty even here. D.J. Alexander, Michael Doctor, and Feti Unga Taumoepeau have combined for 91 stops, 10 tackles for loss and a sack (Alexander). They do have a weakness though – the middle of the field. OSU linebackers struggle with pass coverage. Washington's ‘backers are young in many ways and they struggle occasionally with defending the outside edges - but they showed great recognition of interior runs against Stanford. Between redshirt Travis Feeney, Justin Glenn, John Timu and Thomas Tutogi, Washington's starting ‘backers hold it down with 157 total tackles, eight tackles for loss and four sacks. Particularly impressive has been the big play ability of the redshirt Feeney. Despite being listed as 6-4, 209 he makes big hits and wraps up well. His speed is sure to make Woods and Agnew think twice - but can he penetrate the line deep enough to make the returning Mannion move around in the pocket? Edge: Tied

Secondary – Arguably the best kept secret for Washington is their secondary. Keep an eye on the safeties Sean Parker (junior) and Shaq Johnson (freshman). Parker is currently the top tackle machine for the Huskies with 42 stops – but many of those tackles been due to the Washington front seven's inability to stop runs to the outside. A safety should not be the top tackler on a squad – typically that does not bode well for the caliber of a rush defense (Dawgs are ranked 94th in the nation, allowing 196 rushing yards per game). BUT as a unit, Washington has seven interceptions on the year, 21 passes deflected, and Parker has two forced fumbles. Healthy statistics, despite games like LSU and Arizona where the score told a much different story. In fact, Washington is ranked 19th in the nation in regards to pass defense, averaging a mere 184.6 yards allowed/game. Meanwhile, it is all well and good that Poyer and Co. have big play ability (Poyer has five picks, Rashaad Reynolds is tied for team lead of 37 tackles and also boasts two picks). What is not great is that despite their big play ability, the Beaver secondary is still ranked 106th nationally in pass defense with an average of close to 275 yards per game. But stats don't always tell the tale, and the prediction here is Poyer and Reynolds will come up big with an INT apiece. Edge goes to OSU

Coaching – Well if Sarkisian hadn't essentially come out and said "I don't have control over my quarterback" in public discourse earlier this week, we would have been more likely to call this coaching matchup at least a close battle. But when your offense is 105th in the nation in terms of measurable statistics and your QB needs an attitude check, the one thing you don't want to do is admit vulnerability. What the heck was Sarkisian thinking? Did the Husky coach make those comments to kick Price into gear with a little national media attention? Riley meanwhile has proven to have complete control of his offense, and has a tenured and intelligent coaching staff that has stuck behind him. Washington's coaching staff below Sarkisian is in the midst of remodeling and reorganizing, even when his team is officially past the mid-season marker. Edge goes to OSU

Intangibles – The Twelfth Man! Loud Noises! Ahhhhh! Things are amplified to an astonishing degree at Century Link Field. I've been there, I've heard the noise – Washingtonians get rowdy there no matter the occasion. A small bar mitzvah could be held there and it would sound like 50,000 crazed fans were in attendance. Mannion's first set of snaps in three weeks will take place amidst a boom of noise. Oregon State has had issues with false starts all season long and those are commonplace at Century Link -- where you are more apt to hear the drunken old guy in the nosebleeds than you are to hear yourself thinking.

Final Thoughts – Washington has been very Jekyll and Hyde this season. One game they are beating Stanford, the next they are getting trounced by Oregon and ‘Zona. Lack of discipline is obviously a contributing factor, as is the inability of the passing game under Price to get kick started. Our gut tells us Price is going to come out firing on all cylinders, as will Sankey, if the offensive line can toe the line. But the Beavs are on one hell of a roll. OSU has a clear advantage over the Huskies in certain categories QB, WR, and OL and a not so distinct advantages in others (LB, Secondary). Washington has proven difficult for OSU in the past, but the magic eight ball shows OSU walking away victorious in Seattle by a final score of 28-24.

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