The Pac-12 segment of the 2014 WSU football season is ready to kickoff on Saturday as the Cougs will be hosting No. 2 Oregon at Martin Stadium. The game is scheduled to start at 7:30 pm and is sold out with a few hundred standing room only tickets that went on sale last week. Saturday will mark the first time Oregon has visited Pullman since 2010 when they upended the Cougars 43-23.
One week after a 59-21 thrashing of Division I-AA Portland State, the lightest team on its schedule, WSU is faced with a daunting task against a team some believe might be the best in the nation. The Ducks potent offense is led by quarterback Marcus Mariota, a solid contender for this year's Heisman Trophy.
The Cougars' 1-2 record reflects losses to Rutgers and Nevada, two teams they were projected to beat prior to the season. For the first time since the 2013 Apple Cup, WSU will be playing in a game that they are not projected to win. Las Vegas has WSU tabbed as a heavy underdog in the contest at -23.5.
Despite the fact that the Cougs enter the game as heavy underdogs, Saturday's game could have an enormous upside. A surprise victory would make national headlines and restore most, if not all, of the confidence lost by both players and fans in the Rutgers and Nevada losses Huge upsets can go a long way in helping programs that are building and rebuilding make a statement. WSU enters the game in a position where they have everything to gain and little to lose given the low expectancy that they win.
A win would set the Cougs at 2-2, which would put them back on pace to become bowl eligible. A win would also snap an active seven game losing streak WSU holds to Oregon, the longest of any other Pac-12 team. The Cougs haven't beat the Ducks since October 21, 2006.
Unlike the first three games of the season, the Cougars need to have an emphasis on perfection. Oregon is hard enough to be on their own without WSU giving them any help. Wrapping up on tackles, catching passes, avoiding costly penalties and turnovers, and not making special teams mistakes are all vital if WSU has a chance at winning the game. The level of talent the Ducks have simply doesn't leave the Cougs much margin for error. Mike Leach has emphasized the need for the team to execute on ‘individuals plays' over the past week or so. That's going to be huge this week against an opponent that can break things wide open off one or two missed plays.
Based on what has been seen over the first three weeks of the season, there is little to suggest that WSU has much of a shot against Oregon. Still, Cougar fans can get excited if they approach it with the proper perspective. Instead of bracing themselves for a ‘beatdown,' fans need to slowly repeat to themselves three words before sitting down to watch the game: upside, upside, upside.
More Oregon vs. WSU
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A spin around some of the news outlets that cover the Cougars to see what they're saying about this game.
Former Oregon assistant Nick Aliotti and WSU coach Mike Leach make up | Bud Withers | The Seattle TimesFormer Oregon assistant Nick Aliotti and WSU coach Mike Leach make up | Bud Withers | The Seattle Times