Washington State and Oregon State enter Saturday night's Pac-12 clash with four wins each. This year's face-off looks to be much more explosive than last year's 19-6 Oregon State victory over Washington State.
Benefactors of a soft first-half schedule, Saturday offers one team the opportunity to establish itself as a rising power. The loser will still have work to accomplish in an increasingly powerful Pac-12 conference that can challenge the SEC for dominance.
Saturday's matchup features two of the top eight passing games in the FBS, according to ESPN. Neither Oregon State nor Washington State runs the ball very often or effectively, ranking 121st and 122nd in the nation respectively.
Last week's aerial battle between Washington State and California totaled over 1,000 yards, and Saturday's tilt could produce similar results.
For several years in a row, Oregon State has fielded a powerful offense and fields one again this season.
After several forgettable seasons, Washington State is in the second year of head coach Mike Leach's rebuilding process. In just his second year, Leach's implementation of the Air Raid is nearing completion. A win against Oregon State would place WSU in prime position to play its first bowl game since 2003.
WSU should put on a fireworks display against an Oregon State defense giving up 31.6 points and 400 yards per game. Even worse, the Beaver defense surrendered 49 points to FCS-school Eastern Washington.
Under the guidance of Leach, Washington State owns the eighth-ranked passing attack, averaging 359.7 yards each week. In order to win, quarterback Connor Halliday needs as big a game as last week. He cannot afford to make mistakes like he did during his rough performance last year in Corvallis.
"I think it had more to do with Connor," Leach said during Washington State's weekly Monday press conference. "Going into Oregon St., he never really started or played very much. So the fact that he's started and played whatever it is, I think six full games, it's definitely helped him and he's way ahead of where he was last year."
Oregon State quarterback Sean Mannion leads the second-ranked aerial assault, throwing for 2,000 yards, 21 touchdowns and just two interceptions. Despite being torched by Stanford for 55 points just two weeks ago, the Cougar defense has only allowed 20.8 points per game and hopes to challenge Mannion's early season success. But if WSU's defense fails, Saturday night will rapidly devolve into a shoot-out.
PREDICTION: Washington State 42, Oregon State 35