Kerry Says: OSU, Huskies ready for tug of war
Nostradamus didn't always get it right. Even Jimmy "The Greek" Snyder missed one once in a while.
My perfect record in picking Oregon State this year went by the wayside with the Beavers' 56-38 romp at Arizona last Saturday. I had the Wildcats' point total exactly, but I underestimated by three touchdowns how much the OSU offense could accomplish against an Arizona defense playing for the first time under interim coordinator Chuck Cecil.
Which brings us to a short week and Oregon State's 7:30 p.m. Friday matchup with Washington at Reser Stadium.
Mind you, if the Beavers (4-4 overall, 3-2 in Pac-12 play) beat the Huskies (5-4, 2-4), they'll have the better overall record and will all but assure themselves of finishing ahead of the Dawgs in the Pac-12 North race.
All the pundits who figured that would be the case before the season can fit together nicely into the bathroom of your local Boeing 737.
Competitive scores with common opponents are all over the place. Utah beat Washington 33-28 and Oregon State 52-7, but that doesn't mean there should be a 40-point spread on Friday night. OSU knocked off California 21-17 while the Bears slipped past Washington 20-19. Both OSU and UW throttled Arizona and lost close encounters with Stanford.
Washington has won seven in a row in its series against Oregon State, and the last six meetings haven't been close. Friday night's game at Reser should be. These Huskies aren't intimidating, though they still have plenty of talent.
Quarterback Jacob Eason, a 6-6, 225-pound junior, completed 29 of 52 passes for 316 yards and four touchdowns against Utah. There is talk that Eason may come out to the NFL next season. But against the Utes, he also served up two interceptions, including a pick-six that spelled doom in the second half. The Huskies had three turnovers in that game. The Beavers have two all season.
The teams' offensive statistics are similar thus far this year. Washington has averaged 34.9 points per game, Oregon State 33.6. OSU has averaged 431 yards total offense, UW 416.1. Washington is passing for 257.3 yards per game, Oregon State 254.3. The Beavers are rushing for 176.8 yards per game, the Huskies 158.8.
Washington has a decided advantage on the defensive side, allowing 22.8 points per game to 32.4 yielded by Oregon State. The Huskies also have an edge in total defense (375.3 to 439.3), pass defense (231.3 to 253.1) and run defense (144.0 to 186.1).
One major difference in the Beavers' favor: Oregon State has scored touchdowns on 25 of 30 trips to the red zone (83 percent). Washington is 21 for 37 (57 percent). Also, turnovers. The Huskies have 13 giveaways, the Beavers a national-best two.
Eason ranks third in the Pac-12 in passing yardage per game at 255.2; OSU's Jake Luton is fifth at 241.3. Eason has 20 touchdown passes and five interceptions; Luton leads the nation in TD/pick ratio at 19-1.
Washington's Salvon Ahmed is third in the conference in rushing yardage per game at 89.0. Oregon State's Artavis Pierce is fifth at 87.0, and he has help in Jermar Jefferson, who returned to active duty against Arizona with 105 yards and three TDs on the ground.
Oregon State has the premier receiver in the league, and perhaps the country, in Isaiah Hodgins, who has 63 receptions for 895 yards and 12 TDs. Washington has a pair of able targets in Aaron Fuller (43 for 582 and six) and tight end Hunter Bryant (36 for 557 and three).
OSU linebacker Hamilcar Rashed Jr. ranks first nationally in tackles-for-loss (17.5) and is tied for second in sacks (12). The 6-4, 235-pound junior has had three sacks in each of the last two games. He'll do what he can to spend some time in the UW backfield.
Penalties have plagued the Beavers of late — 25 in the last two games, with 13 against Cal and 12 against Arizona. That can't happen against Washington.
Jonathan Smith will be going against one of his mentors, Washington coach Chris Petersen, for whom Smith served as an assistant for six years at Washington and Boise State, the last four as offensive coordinator of the Huskies. Smith would like nothing better than to send his old boss back to Seattle unhappy.
Oregon State has 13 players on its roster who hail from the state of Washington, most notably Luton, who grew up 35 miles north of Seattle in Marysville. A win over the Huskies would be something special for all of them.
The Beavers have more than a fighting chance to beat the Huskies, which would move them within one game of bowl eligibility. Washington will be equally motivated to win after back-to-back close losses to Oregon (35-31) and Utah, the two best teams in the Pac-12.
After Washington, OSU's remaining schedule includes a home game against Arizona State (5-3, 2-3) and road tests at Washington State (4-4, 1-4) and Oregon (8-1, 6-0). The Beavers are likely to be underdogs the rest of the way. Two more wins mean bowl eligibility, but they'd better get them before their trip down the Willamette Valley to Eugene.
Oregon State struggled offensively against Utah and Cal, two of the better defenses in the Pac-12. Washington is a cut below, but still a very good defensive club. That could spell the difference Friday night at Reser.
The pick: Washington 35, Oregon State 28
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