When the Oregon State Beavers head to Pullman this weekend to face the Washington State Cougars, you can expect to see a competitive game between two Pac 12 North foes trying to jockey for position in the top-heavy division. Oregon State seems to have rebounded from their season-opening loss to FCS Eastern Washington, winning four straight games, including a pair against Pac 12 opponents. Washington State, meanwhile, is just two wins away from being bowl eligible and making it back to a bowl game for the first time since 2003. Both teams are going to be motivated to get the win and both teams will be throwing the football to try and score.
Sean Mannion has been the biggest reason Oregon State has won any games so far this season. He leads the nation in passing, averaging 403.6 yards per game with 21 touchdowns (most in college football) and just two interceptions. He’s the only passer to already surpass the 2,000 yard mark (in just five games) and is on pace for a ridiculously prolific season. His big arm has pretty much single-handedly propelled the Beavers to their 4-1 mark.
Not far behind him is Connor Halliday who ranks No. 8 in the country in passing with an average of 332.2 yards per game. He hasn’t been nearly as efficient as Mannion has with the ball, however, with 13 touchdown passes and a glaring 10 interceptions through six games. Halliday has thrown more passes than anybody in the Pac 12 (by a wide margin over No. 2 Mannion) as he is forced to compensate for the Cougars complete lack of a running game.
Both quarterbacks will be going up against struggling pass defenses, which should only help their production. WSU started the season very strong in coverage, giving up less than 175 yards in each of their first four games and didn’t allow a single touchdown pass. In the last two, however, the Cougs’ secondary has been torched, giving up 828 yards and five touchdown passes. They have made up for some of their lapses in coverage, however, with turnovers, averaging 1.5 interceptions per game.
Oregon State, meanwhile, ranks No. 94 in the country against the pass. They’ve been improving, however, since surrendering 448 yards and four touchdowns to EWU in the opener. In their four wins, they’ve allowed just 211 yards passing per game and given up seven touchdown passes while generating eight turnovers via interception. They’re coming off their best performance of the season two weeks ago against the Colorado Buffaloes in Corvallis where they held a resurgent Buffs’ passing attack to just 146 yards and a 41.2 completion percentage.
Both secondaries will have their hands full in this one as each time tries to break the game open with big plays over the top. Whichever group can withstand the aerial assault and create turnovers will have a huge advantage in deciding who ultimately wins this game. For fans at home, however, it should be an exciting display to watch.