Coming off of what according to Vegas was an upset win in week one, the Washington State Cougars will look to continue their momentum heading into their home opener this weekend against the #11 Oregon Ducks. Surprisingly, Oregon only leads this series 50-42 all-time. This week, Oregon is a pretty heavy 10-point favorite coming in, but do not be surprised to see Washington State put up a fight.
Previewing the Washington State Home Opener
Washington State has won the last two meetings in Pullman. The Cougars also have a new-look offense and defense that could do them a world of good, as was illustrated in their first game of the year against Oregon State. The game will kick off at 4 PM PT and will be on Fox.
When Washington State Has the Ball
Watch what Jayden de Laura can do in his first really big game. The true freshman out of Hawaii looked great in his debut last week, but this week he will have to square off with a much tougher opponent. De Laura did a great job of keeping his composure and making some really big plays against the Beavers. He also had an incredible pump fake, which sounds like an odd thing to compliment, but it is incredibly fun to watch. Although there were some ball security issues. De Laura threw one interception and when scrambling, he often got caught carrying the ball low, which can be an issue if Oregon is able to muck up his pocket.
However, de Laura will have plenty of weapons around him come Saturday. Max Borghi is once again expected to miss Saturday, but in his place will be Deon McIntosh. McIntosh put together a really solid effort in his senior debut with a 147-yard and one touchdown performance. In addition, Travell Harris had himself a big receiving day as well. Harris had seven catches for over 100 yards. He also found the end zone at the end of de Laura passes twice.
The new-look offense could be lethal for the Cougars. Moving away from an air-raid and into a run and shoot offense could take Washington State to the next level as a football team. The team was clearly struggling for the last couple of years under the air raid offense that was in place. The new offense is more balanced but has just as much, if not more big-play potential.
When Oregon Has the Ball
Oregon quarterback Tyler Shough is coming off a middle of the road performance against Stanford. The Ducks won 35-14, but Shough just looked good. Not world-beating, but also not bad. The redshirt sophomore completed 17 of 26 attempts for one touchdown and one interception. The ground game is what really hurt the Cardinal last week. Four Ducks were able to find the end zone on the ground. CJ Verdell, Travis Dye, Cyrus Habibi-Likio, and Shough all find the end zone once each on the ground.
This could play into the hands of Washington State pretty well. The Cougars allowed Jermar Jefferson to run for 120 yards and three touchdowns, but Jefferson is a top-level running back in the Pac-12. Outside of Jefferson, the Beavers were held to just two rushing yards. If the Cougars can take away the team rushing attack, that puts Washington State in a better spot to pull off the upset.
Overall, it will be decided by which offense is able to make their plays. The offense is certainly the better unit on both teams and will be required to shoulder much of the workload this weekend. However, if either defense can come up with one or two huge plays to take some of that burden off of their offense, that could be huge towards trying to win the game.