Saturday Preview: Cougs will whip Beavers on the road

Big weekend in the Pac-10. Not a lot will be decided tomorrow, but one game will go a long way toward setting up the rest of the conference race. Oregon travels to Berkeley to take on a Cal team that has come back awful strong after getting embarrassed in the season opener at Tennessee.

Additionally, I think the cream of the conference will begin to separate itself tomorrow. The Cougs take on Oregon State, and a convincing win there will cement the Cougs clearly in the upper echelon of the Pac-10. Meanwhile, Washington has a chance to try and show the country that it is deserving of the "Others receiving votes" recognition it received after a good-looking road win at Arizona last Saturday. Here's betting they don't.

Here's my take on how the WSU game shapes up: (Sorry Husky fans, no time to write two previews after going to see "The Departed" last night. FABULOUS movie, by the way ...)

Washington State (3-2) at Oregon State (2-2)

Line: Cougs by 3.

How we got here: The Cougars nearly pulled off the stunner of the season last Saturday, giving USC all it could handle before Alex Brink's game-winning hail mary attempt was intercepted at the goal line. In their first five games, Washington State now has three wins against pretty marginal competition and losses to the No. 2 and No. 3 teams in the country. The defense continues to prove it is improved, as it gave the team a chance to win by holding the Trojans to "just" 28 points. Probably the most underrated aspect of the game was the play of the offensive line, which kept Brink from getting sacked even once and paved the way for 131 yards rushing. (Find a great story about it here.)

Oregon State is about to play for the fourth time in five games at Reser Stadium, yet the Beavers only have two wins to show for it. Perhaps the most disappointing loss was a 42-14 drubbing at Boise State. The game was close initially before the Broncos blew it open in the second quarter and never looked back. The Beavers had a chance to get back on track last weekend against Cal, but got spanked again. Yvenson Bernard has rushed for over 400 yards at tailback, but only about 40 percent of that came against BSU and Cal.

Key matchup: So much of fans' criticism (and occasional praise) falls on Brink, but the Cougs ultimate success today will rest on how well they're able to run the ball against a suspect OSU rush defense. Cal was able to rush for 134 yards last week, and Boise State rushed for 300 yards against the Beavers. If the revamped WSU line plays like it did last week against USC, and Dwight Tardy continues to develop into a star, the Cougs will control the clock and control the game.

Prediction: How good are these Cougs, really? Are they the team that took USC to the wire? Or are they the team that barely beat Baylor? I tend to go with the former, simply because this is a team that seems to be getting better with each week -- something Vegas clearly hasn't figured out yet. The Cougars genuinely are unhappy that they let an opportunity slip through their hands against the Trojans, and I think that's because this is a pretty darn good team that has high expectations for itself. I said this last week, but if I was a betting man, I'd bet the house on the Cougs and laugh all the way to the bank. WSU 31, OSU 10.


erik said...

after the UW game yesterday, I ll take UW in the apple cup..By the way, if you started to follow your own advice, you d be a rich man who did not have to deal with teenagers all day...

The Nuss said...

It definitely wasn't as comfortable as I would have hoped. You can take the Huskies in the Apple Cup ... and I'll take your money!