Coming off a 44-22 dispatching of Cal, the Washington State Cougars (4-2, 2-1) are riding high and look to be in good position to make their first bowl appearance since 2003. However, those aspirations will not be achieved if WSU doesn’t focus on the task at hand — Oregon State (4-1, 2-0). Saturday’s matchup will pit two of the nation’s best passing offenses against one another.
In fact, behind QB Sean Mannion the Beavers have the second-ranked passing offense in the FBS in 2013, throwing for 420.6 yards-per-game. It’s probably safe to say, the ball will be in the air at Martin Stadium, Saturday night. Mannion has thrown for 2,018 yards and 21 TDs with a 67 percent completion percentage.
The Cougars like to throw the ball themselves under head coach Mike Leach’s offense. Last weekend, the Cougars’ Air Raid offense was commanded brilliantly by junior quarterback Connor Halliday. Halliday passed for 521 yards and three touchdowns on 42-of-67 passing against the Bears defense. However, the Beavers present a more stern test for the Cougars’ eighth-ranked passing game.
Last year, Oregon St. held WSU to 207 yards passing, intercepted four passes and won 19-6. The Beavers forced Halliday to the bench after he went 9-for-20 passing for 81 yards and three picks. Both teams have changed, of course, so it remains to be seen how much can be gathered from last year’s contest.
Key matchup when OSU has the ball:
The favorite target of Mannion is junior wide receiver Brandin Cooks. Cooks enters this weekend’s contest already with 52 catches for 807 yards and nine TDs. Remember, the Beavers have only played five games. Those are eye-popping numbers and the Cougars will have to pay close attention to Cooks if it hopes to win this game. That task could fall on the shoulders of WSU cornerback Damante Horton who leads the Cougars with three interceptions.
Key matchup when WSU has the ball:
Wide receiver Vince Mayle is coming off a big game against Cal and this one figures to be another high-throwing affair. Junior cornerback Steven Nelson already has four interceptions for the Beavers and could be trailing Mayle most of the game.
Based on the quality of competition both teams have faced thus far, it’s really hard to tell just how elite each offense is and bad each defense really is. That said, Oregon St. features the more experienced quarterback and seems more accustomed to these types of games. Will WSU be able to fix the holes in its secondary in preparation for Mannion?
Oregon St. 45, Washington St. 41
– Anthony Dion, 1090 The Fan
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