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October 17, 2013The Oregon Ducks (6-0, 3-0) return to Autzen Stadium for the first time in a month this Saturday to take on the Washington State Cougars (4-3, 2-2) in an important Pac-12 conference game for both teams.
Oregon, ranked No. 2 in the polls, were supposed to face their first real test of the 2032 season last weekend in Seattle. On many levels, they did just that and passed with flying colors. For the first time in 2013, Marcus Mariota took a fourth quarter snap.
What was once a close seven point contest ended in another blowout win with the Ducks taking the 45-24 decision over the Huskies
The Cougars, meanwhile, are licking their wounds after a tough 52-24 loss to Pac-12 North contender Oregon State. The Cougars had their chances leading the Beavers heading into the fourth quarter before a 35 point fourth quarter onslaught buried the Cougars.
A porous pass defense and a slew of turnovers in that fourth quarter spelled doom for a Washington State team that was favored and looking to get their fifth win of the season.
Despite an injury on the opening kick of the Cal game to running back De'Anthony Thomas, the Ducks have been able to weather the storm of three consecutive games without his presence in the game plan.
In his stead, Byron Marshall has reeled off three consecutive 100 yard performances including 106 yards against the Huskies last Saturday.
This week, we continue our Inside Edge series to cover both sides of the ball in one article. We show the starting lineups for both teams and discuss our thoughts as to which team has the edge at each match-up.
Both teams will bring an explosive offense to Autzen Statdium for this tough match-up. The Cougars, who have lost six consecutive games to Northwest rival Oregon look to be improved on defense, though, having held opponents to a Pac-12 conference best 141.7 rushing yards per game this season.
What the Cougars have done is grown in their understanding of Mike Leach's Air Raid offense to the tune of 347 passing yards per game.
What do the match-ups look like for this game? Take a look at the latest edition of DSA Inside Edge.
WHEN OREGON HAS THE BALLDSA EDGE:
WHEN WASHINGTON STATE HAS THE BALL
WHAT TO EXPECT:
This is a different Washington State team than last season; they are full of confidence and understand their offense better. Against the only other North division team without a conference loss this season, the Cougars looked to be playing very well through three quarters last week; and then they fell apart.
The Cougars will pick up yards early in the game and they will have some success. This team understands how to pass the ball quickly and run a continuous hurry up offense. The problem is that this will play into the hands of the Oregon offense which is one of the most dynamic offenses in the nation and averages well over 56 points per game. The Ducks could have easily had 52 or 59 points a week ago against an opponent vastly superior to the Cougars. Washington State has done a good job getting plenty of offense through the first seven games of this season. Their four early wins are a testament to the direction of the program, but their inconsistency at quarterback has plagued them against the better teams and will continue to do so against the Ducks.
Expect Oregon to come out and get the linemen going sideline to sideline early looking to break them down quickly. While the Cougars may have some success stringing some of the running plays out for short gains, the middle of the field will open up quickly as the Cougar defensive line gets tired. The Ducks will then move on to dissect the Cougar defense methodically using play action passes and quick strike plays to their talented wide receiver corps.
The Ducks have the 3rd best pass efficiency defense in the nation and a lot of depth in the defensive back field. With the Cougars not concerned with establishing the run, look for Oregon to mimic some of last weeks success by dropping seven and eight players into coverage at time and allowing their exceptional defensive backfield to create pressure with coverage. When Halliday gets pressed and flushed, he makes mistakes. Also look for a big game from Ekpre-Olomu as he will be salivating at a chance to make a play on one of the quick out passes.
The Cougars have not proven that they can stop a good offense let alone one of the elite offenses in the nation. That will not change this weekend. The Cougars, while gaining plenty of yards passing offense still average just a shade under 30 points per game. On defense, the Cougars allow 25.3 points per game.
The biggest expectation? Do not expect to see Mariota playing in the fourth quarter this weekend.
DSA Predicted Score: Oregon 56- Washington State 20