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Given that Mike Leach took over as Washington State coach, bringing his passing game with him and renewed hope, I envisioned the Cougars giving Oregon some fits in their 2012 matchup at CenturyLink Field in Seattle (7:30 p.m. Saturday, ESPN 2).

Oh, boy. Not now. It could get ugly.

The Cougars blew a big lead on their real home field, Martin Stadium, and lost to the purportedly worst team in the Pac-12, Colorado, 35-34. And, Leach broke into quite a diatribe after the loss, pointing the finger at players. "We're a mentally weak team," he said. "We're afraid to be successful. When we get ahead, we want to relax and enjoy it, which is crazy.

"Physically, we're not that bad. Mentally ... we're afraid to win. We have to change the mental approach around here."

Point made. Now, can the Cougars regroup and compete with the No. 2 Ducks and find some way to win? Compete in spurts, especially with its passing game, yes. Win, no.

I can't see any way the Ducks do not figure out how to win Saturday. Beyond personnel superiority, the Ducks, even with their hiccups and issues in the first four games, find ways to beat teams like Washington State. The only thing I see is the dangerous WSU passing game, with either Connor Halliday (the likely starting QB) and/or Jeff Tuel throwing to Marquess Wilson and his receiver mates 50 or 60 times.

And, of course, a key injury could slow the Ducks.

With Marcus Mariota making passes, Kenjon Barner steadily running, De'Anthony Thomas bursting for big plays and Colt Lyerla possibly contributing more with his hands and feet, the Ducks could score 60 points against the Cougars.

The sophomore Halliday took first-team snaps, at least early this week. He would seem to be the guy, and he says "this team is desperate for leaders ... I've stepped up in the past couple weeks, and it'll continue to grow. This offense is dying for somebody to lead them."

But, he also knows what he'll be facing Saturday. "I have an idea of what they're going to do (defensively)," he says, "but having an idea of what they're going to do is a lot different than being on the field and dealing with that speed."

Leach's message of being mentally tough and emotionally playing to win might be getting through, or might not be. Proof will come Saturday. Linebacker Travis Long says the Cougars better be ready to shock the world or "you're going to get crushed.In the meantime, the Ducks could put the game away by halftime.

THE PICK: Oregon 52, Washington State 24

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