COMMENTARY: Looking ahead to Oregon

PRESENTING THIS WEEK'S college football Poor Timing Award, which you Cougar fans know as Washington State vs. No. 2 Oregon this Saturday in Seattle.

The Cougars desperately need a get-back-up-on-the-horse kind of opponent after last week's pratfall to Colorado. After all, the Buffaloes found a perfect foil in WSU after their uber-embarrassing 69-14 loss at Fresno State on Sept. 15.

The bounce-back opponent doesn't have to be dreadful. Just capable of distraction, like, say Washington State was on Sept. 22. The kind of opponent caught thinking it's just a little too good for a team like a Colorado and inexcusably decides to win the day with a cruise-control performance.

Oregon is not that kind of opponent. The Ducks have a lot of physical talent, and generally, show up mentally. It's a lethal combination that will likely give Cougar fans a handy excuse to again frustrate Bill Moos and leave CenturyLink Field by halftime.

There will be no getting back up on the pony this week. And maybe not for a few weeks, given that Oregon State – WSU's opponent on Oct. 6 – is suddenly staging an uprising in Corvallis.

I know many of you had Washington State penciled in for a bowl game this season. At this stage, it's hard for me to see four wins on the horizon that would get WSU to the bowl minimum of six.

I'd like to sit here and write that it will be OK for Washington State and its 2012 season. That this team is capable of a lot of improvement. If I wrote it, you'd sniff it out for the guess that it is. The Cougars are going to have a lot of long Saturdays until they figure out how the minimize the opponent's pass rush, limit explosion plays on defense, and stomp an overmatched opponent.

How long that takes is anyone's guess. Maybe it's a month, six weeks or not until 2014. But seven days surely isn't enough time to cure all that ails Washington State. I see the Duck mascot doing a lot of celebratory pushups Saturday at CenturyLink.

The kickoff: Oregon (4-0, 1-0) vs. Washington State (2-2, 0-1) at Seattle, CenturyLink Field, 7:30 p.m. Saturday. Game televised on ESPN/ESPN 2. The betting line is Ducks by 29.

About Oregon: In recent years, it used to be all about Oregon's video-game offense. This season, it's hard to tell which side of the Ducks' ball is better. Oregon's defense has been formidable in 2012, and was at its best in last week's 49-0 whipping of Arizona.

Oregon's offense is still, well, lights out. The Ducks are averaging 53 points a game, and rank fifth in the country in total offense at 571 yards a game. If there's a bit of shift this season, it's that Oregon's offense has a little more balance. Freshman quarterback Marcus Mariota has completed nearly 70 percent of his passes for 10 touchdowns.

The player to watch on the Ducks' offense is De'Anthony Thomas. It's hard to classify Thomas, as Oregon uses the sophomore as a running back and various receiving positions, anything to get the ball into his hands. Thomas is averaging 11.6 yards per play this season.

Last year: Washington State surprised Oregon for a half before the Ducks pulled away for a 43-28 victory in Eugene. The Ducks led just 15-10 at halftime, and ended up yanking starting quarterback Darron Thomas in favor of Bryan Bennett, who threw a pair of third-quarter touchdown passes. WSU pulled to within 29-20 on a Jared Karstetter touchdown reception, but De'Anthony Thomas shattered the Cougars' upset hopes by returning the ensuing kickoff 93 yards for a score.

The series: Oregon has won five consecutive games over WSU, including two in Pullman. The last time the Cougars beat the Ducks was 2006, a 34-23 win in Martin Stadium. Oregon leads the all-time series 44-38-7.

Streaking, wrong direction: Washington State has lost 15 consecutive games against ranked opponents. The last time the Cougars knocked a Top 25 team, was, surprise, in that 2006 game against Oregon when the Ducks were No. 16.

At No. 2, Oregon is the Cougars' highest ranked opponent since playing No. 1 USC in 2007.

Familiar faces: Times have sure changed for Oregon, which used to routinely mine talent from its bordering state of Washington. The Ducks' current roster includes only two Washingtonians. Both are seniors, offensive lineman Nick Cody (Brush Prairie) and defensive lineman Nick Morrison (Everett). The UO coaching staff has a former Coug in Tom Osborne, a 1983 WSU grad who coaches tight ends and special teams.

Read Nick Daschel's occasional Pac-12 ramblings at

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