WEEK 11: Let's talk Huskies vs. Beavs

FOR THE BEAVS and the Huskies, two teams who come in struggling and whose fans are smarting, Saturday's game in Corvallis is huge (TV: ESPN2, 7:30 p.m.) The winner moves to seven wins and the fan angst, while maybe not abating completely, will significantly diminish. But the loser of this game will see their current pain amplified. Oh yes, this game is going to be huge.

The biggest question is the availability of Husky QB Keith Price (shoulder). Las Vegas opened the line this week with the Beavs as 3 1/2 point favorites, one book now says 7 points, and everyone else has kept the line closed. Whether the starting QB will play tends to do that in Sin City.

UW Steve Sarkisian had said he would update Price's today but that's turned into Friday, and he only said he'd tell the players who will start, not the public.

Nothing wrong with that. Mike Riley once kept the question open on the status of Beav QB Lyle Moevao all the way until game time. He didn't play and then the next week, Riley did the same thing -- and he didn't play that week either.

Once that happened, did anyone really think Moevao was even a possibility that first week? Nope. But it keeps the opponent preparing for two QBs.

The guess here is Price won't play. He let this slip after Wednesday's practice: "It's when I pick my arm up and try a throwing motion that I really feel the pain," according to the Tacoma News Tribune.

And even if Price plays, or it's his backup, Cyler Miles, it seems to me Oregon State's primary challenge on defense will be found elsewhere -- regardless of all the chatter that UW won't change anything on offense, which sounds like coach-speak to me.

Indeed, OSU in my mind is almost certainly going to see a whole bunch of UW running back Bishop Sankey. If it's Miles, I still think he'll throw a decent amount. But...

But I don't think it's not out of the realm at all that Sankey could see 40 carries against the Beavs.

Through 10 games, Sankey is fifth in the country with 1,396 yards, plus 14 touchdowns. With two regular-season games remaining, he is just short of the pace to break the school's rushing record of 1,695 yards.

Sarkisian has been criticized over the past two years for running Sankey too much -- or too little, although that criticism almost always comes only after a loss.

He's averaging 24.9 carries a game but he has two games this season where he had 40 and 35 touches.

And after starting out 4-0, and then going 2-4, UW is expected to turn early and often to the run with all the QB questions.

You hear football coaches talk all the time about how you have to take something away -- in this case it seems like a safe bet Oregon State is going to try to take away UW's ability to run and force the Dawgs to try and beat them through the air.

Not that the Huskies can't do that - Austin Seferian-Jenkins at tight end has a lot of skills, though he's underperformed this season against outsized expectations. Jaydon Mickens and Kevin Smith are 1-2 in receiving yards with 643 and 608 hashes, respectively.

And Damore'ea Stringfellow broke out in a big way last week in the loss to UCLA, with eight grabs for 147 yards.

AS FOR THE Beaver offense, the Beavs need to do what they do best, throw the ball, but they also have be more willing to get outside their comfort zone if the Huskies get pressure on Sean Mannion.

The Beavers' three game losing streak (Stanford, USC, ASU) has been marked by one thing above all when looking at the Beaver O - and that's an inability to handle the rush.

The o-line has looked significantly outmatched too often during the three-game losing streak and Mannion has been pressing -- exacerbating the problem and looking more like the QB he was the previous two seasons rather than the guy putting up Heisman-type numbers the first seven weeks.

OSU may need to run more if they're going to get their mojo back. Their passing game is off about 150 yards from what they did during their 6-1 start.

You've got to think UW is going to try to take away the pass. And that means Terron Ward and Storm Woods. Of course, it hasn't all year, so there's some question on if the Beavs will really, truly try to run or not. Food for thought: OSU has been dipping their toes in the water this week in looking at Dylan Wynn as a fullback.

If UW instead sends a whole lot of blitzes and pressures, as they've done to other opponents at times, OSU can pivot to the screen game. And that means Terron Ward and Storm Woods.

But if UW decides to blitz and pressure, and OSU's o-line gives Mannion a little more time, the Huskies could be playing right into OSU's hand, and the Beavs can carve up the UW defense.

And wouldn't it be a welcome sight Saturday night for Beaver fans to see Brandin Cooks, Mannion, Connor Hamlett and Richard Mullaney suddenly put up some big numbers again.

BeaverBlitz Top Stories