The Washington State Cougars were off to a disappointing 2-2 start in 2015 when they traveled to Eugene to face the Ducks. The Cougs won that game, and that catapulted them towards a surprisingly successful season. The Ducks were off to a similarly disappointing start after falling to WSU, but Oregon went on to have its own fairly successful year. Saturday's match-up between the Cougs and Ducks comes under similar circumstances, with both teams looking for a win to turn around a disappointing start to the campaign.
Who needs the win more? Well, Duck fans think maybe they'll be better off losing. They may be right, considering how last year went after a loss to the Cougs.
We at CougCenter firmly agree with that assessment. It will be much better for everyone if WSU wins this game. How might a Cougar victory look? Jeff Nusser writes that WSU might be served well by duplicating its atypically run-focused attack that powered through Idaho:
Could this be another game where we see WSU run it on something like 40 percent of the snaps? Last season, the WSU running backs gashed the Ducks to the tune of 176 yards on just 18 carries, and I think the Cougs now have a greater ability to run the ball than they ever have under Leach, thanks to the addition of Williams and the continued improvement of the line. Because of that, I think how much success they have running it against Oregon will depend mostly on whether they’re committed to running when the favorable matchup presents itself, even if success doesn’t present itself early.
But do the Cougs need to run to score points? The Oregon defense is pretty much bad at everything, including the passing game, as Brian Anderson points out:
The Duck defense ranks 121st in Success Rate (allowing teams to march), 95th in IsoPPP (stopping explosive plays and scoring), 119th in Line yards per carry (stopping rushing success), and 114th in Sack Rate on passing downs. They don’t do anything well on passing downs and most of what they attempt isn’t successful at defending anything.
Of course, the WSU defense has to stop Oregon at some point too. The Coug D has performed admirably the last couple weeks after getting shredded by Eastern Washington. Oregon running back Royce Freeman had an easy time with the Cougs last year (except when needing a first down to ice the game in the 4th) and he returns to the lineup for the Ducks in Pullman.
The game should be close. It should be high-scoring. It should be fun, especially since WSU has cool new helmets. Check below how to find it on your Tvs or your computers or intelligent phones.
Game time: 6:30 p.m. PT
TV channel: Pac-12 Networks
Video stream: Pac-12.com/live (requires log-in)
Radio stream: Washington State IMG Sports Network