GAME NOTES: The seventh-ranked Oregon State Beavers continue their quest for a Pac-12 title, as they travel to Seattle this weekend for a conference showdown with the Washington Huskies at CenturyLink Field.
Mike Riley's Beavers have exceeded expectations this season, but are certainly not content with their successful start. Oregon State comes into this contest 6-0 on the year and is one of just 11 unbeaten teams left in the FBS. The perfect mark includes a 3-0 record in conference play, after disposing of the Utah Utes in Corvallis last weekend for Homecoming, 21-7. Just becoming bowl eligible isn't enough for Riley and the Beavers.
"It is just a start and we will see how good of a bowl game we can go to as the season goes on," said Riley following the Utah win. "I just can't say enough about the fans, our team and our coaches' effort."
Steve Sarkisian's Huskies have had their ups and downs thus far and their 3-4 overall record is certainly indicative of that. Washington has really struggled in league play at 1-3 and comes into this contest with a three-game losing streak in tow, including last weekend's 52-17 drubbing at the hands of Arizona.
It was a game that got away from the Huskies defensively.
"It was obviously a real disappointing game in a lot of areas. We didn't finish very many plays, and gave up some runs and some passes either because of eye discipline or not making tackles," defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox said.
Washington holds a 58-34-4 record in the all-time series with Oregon State, and has won 16 of the last 24 meetings. This is the second-longest active series for the Huskies, as the teams first met in 1897.
The Beavers aren't one of the more dominant offensive teams in the conference at 26.2 ppg, but the team excels at throwing the football, averaging 310.7 yards per game.
Sophomore Sean Mannion was lost to injury a couple of weeks ago, but that hasn't slowed the passing game down, as junior Cody Vaz has made the most of his opportunity. He has played in two games and has completed 62.1 percent of his passes, for 586 yards, with three touchdowns and zero interceptions. Mannion is expected to return this weekend and could pick up right where he left off.
Markus Wheaton doesn't get the media attention that other Pac-12 receivers get, but he has been outstanding this year, pacing the Beavers in receptions (48), for 654 yards and six TDs. Brandin Cooks has also been a playmaker, hauling in 35 catches, for 667 yards and two scores.
The ground game is putting up modest numbers in Corvallis this season at 108.3 yards per game, but tailback Storm Woods is certainly a serviceable back, rushing for 450 yards and six TDs this season.
The Oregon State defense has played extremely well this year, including a dominant performance against Utah last week, forcing four turnovers by the Utes. On the season, OSU is limiting foes to just 16.5 ppg and has been extremely stingy against the run (80.8 ypg).
Sophomore defensive end Scott Crichton has been a force up front, pacing the Beavers in both TFLs (12.5) and sacks (8.0), ranking second nationally in the latter. Senior cornerback Jordan Poyer (22 tackles) has been a ballhawk, recording five interceptions already to rank second nationally in that category.
The Huskies' inconsistency on the offensive side of the ball have been problematic this season. The team is averaging just 20.7 ppg, and doing so without a potent ground (130.0 ypg) or passing game (196.4 ypg).
Quarterback Keith Price has completed 60.1 percent of his passes, for 1,336 yards, but his touchdown passes (8) match his interceptions to date. Kasen Williams (41 receptions, 442 yards, four TDs) and Seferian Jenkins (37 receptions, 447 yards, three TDs) are the top two targets down the field.
Despite the modest gains on the ground overall, tailback Bishop Sankey (574 yards, 4.7 ypc, seven TDs) has proved to be a valuable asset in the backfield.
Compounding the problem for Washington has been a porous rush defense that is allowing almost 200 yards per game (196.0). A lack of big plays has also plagued the squad with just nine sacks and 13 forced turnovers.
Junior safety Sean Parker leads the team in stops with 42 tackles. Redshirt freshman linebacker Travis Feeney is a close second with 41 total tackles, with 3.0 TFLs, 2.0 sacks, one interception and one forced fumble.
The Beavers are cruising right now and should be able to once again play stingy defense and rely on their passing attack to earn a road win here, especially with Mannion back at the helm.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Oregon State 31, Washington 17