WSU attempts to establish itself as a bowl contender against an Oregon State team whose season could be fading rapidly

OH WHAT A difference a game makes - CougFans are still riding high after upsetting the Ducks in Autzen. But a whole lot of the luster from that win will disappear if the Cougs don't hold serve at home Saturday against a team they’re favored over: Oregon State. Here's how Washington State gets it done.

The Oregon State faithful aren’t feeling the same as Cougar Nation. They are feeling the full weight of a rebuilding project after getting schooled by Arizona 44-7 this past Saturday.

All the signals are pointing in the right direction for Wazzu right now. But it's up to the Cougs to keep the momentum going at a place they haven’t had a lot of success at under Mike Leach – at home.

Cougars (3-2) vs Beavers (2-3)

AT A GLANCE

KICKOFF: 1:00 p.m. PT

WHERE: Martin Stadium (32,952)

TELEVISION: Pac-12 Network

RADIO: The Cougar Sports Radio Network covers much of the West. Click here for listings.

THE LINE: WSU by 8

LAST MEETING: WSU won 39-32 in Luke Falk's first collegiate career start last year in Corvallis.

THE SERIES: WSU leads 49-47-3.

CF.C PREDICTION: Cougs 33, Beavers 27

THE BEAVERS ON OFFENSE:

Players to Know

QB Seth Collins: A knee injury last week could slow Collins down. That's a problem for OSU because he is the Beavers leading rusher as well as passer. He's thrown for 637 yards and 5 touchdowns this year and run for 362 yards and 4 touchdowns.

RB Storm Woods: The old veteran has 322 rushing yards and 109 receiving yards this year, but just one trip to the end zone.

Overview

The Cougs face a very similar offense to what they saw in Oregon last week, but without a player like Royce Freeman in the backfield. Collins is still a freshman, and not much of a passing threat. But he can take off and make plays and when he does so, he lifts the entire OSU squad. Neither Woods nor wide receiver Victor Bolden has stepped up to help him out. To be fair, the Beavers have faced several top shelf defenses in Michigan and Stanford but any way you measure it, this offense still ranks near the bottom nationally.

Strategy

The Cougs have a right to be proud of their tenacity on defense last week, but they still gave up over 400 rushing yards. They cannot allow Oregon State to run anywhere close to that. The only thing the Beavers do remotely well is run the ball. Control the line of scrimmage and tackle, tackle, tackle! Make Seth Collins beat you with his arm, because that is a long-odds proposition.

Key Stat

5.05 yards per attempt: OSU's passing game has been scarce, and conservative. Only Old Dominion and Georgia Southern rank lower in the FBS. Collins actually throws a decent deep ball when given time and protection, but he has lacked open receivers.

THE BEAVERS ON DEFENSE:

Players to Know

LB Rommel Mageo: Oregon State has their share of Pago Pago defensemen too. Mageo is OSU's most experienced linebacker. He leads the team in tackles, sacks, picks, and forced fumbles.

Overview

Luke Falk pitched a near perfect game against the Beaver defense last year, but most of those players graduated. Bringing over defensive coordinator Kalani Sitake from Utah was a major coup, but his talent pool is very young at this stage.

Strategy

As I have said in previous articles, the word is out that Pac-12 refs simply do not call defensive holding. Expect the Beavers to absolutely maul the Cougar receivers off the line. WSU can help itself a ton by giving a lot of touches to Wicks and Morrow in both the run and pass game. They just keep getting stronger. Cougar fans had almost forgot what 174 rushing yards from the running backs looked like, but they hope to see it again Saturday from Jamal Morrow, Gerard Wicks and Keith Harrington because of this one stat:

Key Stat

OSU has allowed 347 rushing yards per game in conference play: It isn't WSU's forte, but the Beavers have looked dreadful against the run. The more rushing plays for WSU, the better.

THE BEAVERS ON SPECIAL TEAMS

Kicker Garrett Owens has looked accurate enough, but overall the Beaver special teams have not been much of a factor this season.

FINAL THOUGHTS

-Mike Leach on Saturday continued his extraordinary ability to get the Cougs up on the road. WSU is now 7-6 in Pac-12 road games since 2013. The trick is to not fall into complacency at home. Every time Martin Stadium gains get their hopes up, this team seems to pull the rug out from under them. The Cougs have no right to take the Beavers lightly. WSU has not beaten them in Pullman since 2003. WSU is 5-8 at home since 2013.

-This game carries more weight than you would think. A win here moves the Cougs to 4-2 and possibly playing Stanford next week for first place in the North if things break just so. A loss, however, puts the Cougs bowl hopes back in serious peril. Oregon State looks to be the easiest opponent left on the docket. Washington State could make things very easy on themselves by getting off to a fast start and settling things early. The longer they let Oregon State hang around, the more their confidence will build. OSU is down right now and WSU would do well to throw as much adversity at them as possible.


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