Coming off another heartbreaking loss on the road, this time to the UCLA Bruins, the Huskies once again head to the road as they travel to Corvallis, Oregon to take on the No. 23-ranked Oregon State Beavers.
Going into the UCLA game, it appeared to set up well for the Huskies to get their first road victory of the year.
UCLA was a team that was struggling, having gone 0-5 in the Pac-10 prior to the game with Washington, but the result was a close loss and a Husky team still searching for answers away from the friendly confines of Husky Stadium.
This game against Oregon State doesn’t resemble that build-up at all, as the Huskies are going to take on a nationally ranked team with a 6-3 record on a two-game winning streak.
The Beavers feature a strong running game with outstanding running back Jacquizz Rodgers powering them to 131 yards per game. That ranks sixth in the conference, which might not sound all that impressive, but when you add that to the fact they are the top passing team in the conference at 279 yards per game, you have the fourth-ranked offense in the conference.
The very balanced Beavers attack looks to cause problems for the Washington defense, which struggles to contain both the pass and run. The Huskies look to get a steady dose of brothers James and Jacquizz Rodgers, who are one and two for the Beavers in both rushing and receiving, and will have to rely on their defense to once again stiffen up in the red zone and hold OSU to field goals instead of touchdowns.
While the Beavers are the top passing team in the conference, the Huskies are not all that far behind them at 244 yards per game. That will be the part of the OSU defense that Washington wants to attack, as they are much weaker against the pass than against the run. OSU has one of the toughest rushing defenses in the conference.
Still, the Huskies have faced some tough run defenses this year and been able to be productive on the ground. Chris Polk will need to once again lead the charge, establish a threat on the ground, and build on last week’s excellent 132-yard rushing effort.
Another factor to consider with Washington’s rushing attack is QB Jake Locker. He has been far more restrained this year in taking off from the pocket, a product of both coaching and injuries. This would be an excellent game for him to show flashes of that amazing running ability he has.
Don’t look for him to take off circa 2007, but do expect Locker to take off at least enough to frustrate the OSU defense and make them focus on him and stopping the running game overall.
If the Huskies are able to get the Beavers to respect their run game, it will really open up the powerful passing attack. Jermaine Kearse is the Huskies' leading receiver and is coming off an huge game against the Bruins where he put up 114 yards and two TDs. Kearse and Locker look to continue that connection and try to exploit the Beavers' struggling pass defense.
Going into this weekend, it is a battle of two teams that looked to be headed in opposite directions this season. While OSU has suffered three losses, two of which are to teams the Huskies have defeated, they are a solid team that tends to play their best ball towards the end of the year.
A bowl is assured for the Beavers, but tied for third in the conference with two losses, the Beavers can’t afford another loss to fall completely out of contention for the Pac-10 title.
The Huskies, meanwhile, are desperate for a road win and need to win the last three games to become bowl eligible. After last week’s near miss, it will tell a lot about the mentality of the team how they come out and attack Oregon State. Are they still fighting for that bowl berth, or are they looking forward to next season?
All signs point to the Huskies still being focused and ready to battle until the final whistle. I just don’t know if Oregon State is where they can pull off the upset and get their first road win.
On paper it looks to be two powerful passing attacks going at it, but the real key to the game is likely to be who can contain the other's running game. If Oregon State can maintain a balanced offense, it could be a very long day for the Huskies. Still, it has the makings of a close game, as Washington has been able to hang with all but two teams on the schedule this year.
OSU 28, UW 24