Oregon at Washington State
October 19, 2018
By Brian Edwards
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Matchup: No. 12 Oregon at No. 25 Washington State
Venue: Martin Stadium, Pullman, Washington
TV/Time: FOX, 7:30 p.m. ET
If the Pac-12 is going to be represented in the College Football Playoff, it will be the winner of Saturday night’s game in Pullman between Washington State and Oregon. Either team will have to win out and get some help in front of it, but the latter tends to happen in November.
The Westgate SuperBook in Las Vegas issued Washington State a team total of six (‘over’ -125, ‘under’ +105) this past summer. Expectations were low following the loss of Luke Falk, the school’s all-time leading passer with 14,481 career yards.
Not only that, but Falk’s heir apparent Tyler Hilinski, who helped the Cougars rally to an overtime win over Boise State last season, tragically passed away when he committed suicide shortly after the 2017 campaign ended.
Therefore, Mike Leach’s team only brought back a total of 10 starters (four on offense and six on defense) from a 9-4 team. However, Leach shrewdly landed East Carolina grad transfer QB Gardner Minshew, who has been nothing short of sensational. He’s led an offense that’s ranked No. 1 in the nation in passing yards, 14th in total yards and 15th in scoring with 41.8 points-per-game average.
Minshew has led Washington State to a 5-1 straight-up record and a 6-0 against-the-spread mark. Four of the team's five wins have come by margins of 19 points or more. The Cougars are 3-0 both SU and ATS at home.
Minshew has completed 68.7 percent of his passes for 2,422 yards with a 19/4 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Sophomore WR Tay Martin has been his favorite target, bringing down 40 receptions for 440 yards and six TDs. Easop Winston has 29 catches for 426 yards and five TDs, while Dezmon Patmon has 25 receptions for 370 yards and two TDs.
Junior RB James Williams has rushed for a team-best 260 yards and five TDs with a 4.1 yards-per-carry average. Williams is a serious threat in the passing game out of the backfield, too, as he has caught 32 balls for 283 yards and three TDs.
Leach’s team has home victories over San Jose State (31-0), Eastern Washington (59-24) and Utah (28-24). The Cougars won 41-19 at Wyoming and 56-37 at Oregon State, but they allowed a second-half lead to get away in a controversial 39-36 loss at Southern Cal as 4.5-point underdogs.
Washington State has had two weeks to prepare for the Ducks, who fall into a bit of a letdown scenario after capturing a huge overtime win at home over Washington last week. The Cougars took the cash by one-half point as 18.5-point road ‘chalk’ in their win at OSU two weeks ago.
The Beavers had two different leads, including a 30-28 advantage midway through the third quarter. But Minshew threw two of his five TD passes in the fourth quarter. He finished with 430 passing yards and five TDs without an interception in Corvaillis. Minshew connected on 30-of-40 throws, while Williams ran for 56 yards ono 10 carries and had four receptions for 78 yards and one TD.
Martin had eight catches for 119 yards and two TDs against the Beavers. Winston brought down seven balls for 99 yards.
Oregon (5-1 SU, 2-4 ATS) and WSU are both 2-1 in league play. After Stanford won 20-13 at ASU last night, the Ducks and Cougars are looking for a win to pull into a first-place tie in the Pac-12 North with both the Cardinal and UW, who are both 3-1 in conference action. However, both Stanford and Washington have two overall losses and barring 2007-like chaos at the top of the rankings, neither has a shot at the CFP.
Mario Cristobal’s team has bounced back nicely from an unfathomable home loss to Stanford back on Sept. 22. The Ducks had a 24-7 lead late in the third quarter and appeared to score a TD to extend their lead, but the score was reversed by replay officials. A couple of plays later, a fumble was scooped up by Stanford’s Joey Alfieri and turned into an 80-yard TD the other way.
Then Oregon fumbled with less than 90 seconds remaining while trying to ice the game with a seven-point lead. Stanford then forced overtime with a field goal on the final play of regulation and eventually won 38-31 in the extra session.
Since then, Oregon has won back-to-back games both SU and ATS, including a 42-24 win at California as a two-point road ‘chalk’ and last week’s 30-27 triumph over Washington as a 3.5-point home underdog. There were four ties in regulation and no team led by more than seven points.
Oregon forced UW to settle for a 22-yard field goal from Peyton Henry on the first possession of OT. Then RB C.J. Verdell found paydirt on a six-yard TD run to lift his team to victory. It was sweet vindication for Verdell, whose attempt to stretch the ball out to the first-down marker late in the fourth quarter against Stanford resulted in the fumble that gave the Cardinal new life.
QB Justin Herbert completed 18-of-32 passes for 202 yards and two TDs without an interception against the Huskies. Verdell rushed 29 times for 111 yards and two TDs, while Dillon Mitchell had eight catches for 119 yards and one TD.
Oregon played a cupcake non-conference slate, which certainly won’t help its cause if it gets into the CFP picture come late November. The Ducks beat up on Bowling Green (58-24), Portland State (62-14) and San Jose State (35-22) in non-covering home wins that preceded the defeat vs. Stanford.
Herbert has completed 63.1 percent of his throws for 1,613 yards with a 17/5 TD-INT ratio. He’s also run for 106 yards and one TD. Mitchell is his go-to guy, hauling in 35 receptions for 561 yards and three TDs.
Verdell has rushed for a team-best 531 yards and four TDs, averaging 5.5 YPC. He also has nine catches for 112 yards. Travis Dye has run for 320 yards and a pair of scores with a 5.2 YPC average, while Tony Brooks-James has 200 rushing yards, three TDs and a 4.8 YPC average.
The ‘over’ is 5-1 overall for the Cougars, 2-1 in their home games. They’ve watched their games average combined scores of 65.7 PPG. This is the highest total WSU has seen all season.
Totals have been an overall wash for the Ducks (3-3), and the ‘over’ hit in their lone road assignments in Berkeley when the 66 combined points jumped above the 58-point number. They've seen their games average combined scores of 67.8 PPG.
Oregon won seven in a row in this rivalry from 2008-2014, but Washington State has won three in a row over the Ducks. In fact, the Cougars have covered the spread in eight consecutive head-to-head meetings with Oregon. The ‘over’ is on a 7-3 run in this rivalry.
Washington State went to Autzen Stadium last year and collected a 33-10 win as a 1.5-point road favorite. The 43 combined points dropped ‘under’ the 60.5-point total. Herbert was injured and didn’t play, while Falk there's for 282 yards and three TDs without an interception. Williams rushed for 48 yards on 11 carries.
In its last visit to Martin Stadium in Pullman, Oregon lost 51-33 as a 2.5-point road ‘chalk’ and the 84 combined points soared ‘over’ the 74.5-point tally. Williams rushed for 91 yards and two TDs on 11 carries, while Martin had five receptions for 45 yards.
Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Eastern on FOX proper.
**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**
-- 5Dimes.eu updated its lines for upcoming Games of the Year. Some of those include Texas -3 vs. West Virginia, Michigan -7 vs. Penn State, Penn State -6 vs. Wisconsin, Memphis -3 vs. Houston, Oklahoma -4 at WVU, Ohio State -6.5 vs. Michigan and Notre Dame -4.5 at Southern Cal.
-- I backed the ‘under’ (closed at 57.5) on Thursday for an easy winner in Stanford’s 20-13 win at Arizona State as a two-point road favorite. ASU was threatening to score a game-trying TD in the final seconds, but a second-down play came up short of the first-down marker just inside the red zone and time ran out on the Sun Devils. With the game knotted at 6-6 midway through the third quarter, Stanford sophomore QB K.J. Costello found J.J. Arcega-Whiteside for a 28-yard scoring strike to put the Cardinal ahead for good. Cameron Scarlett’s one-yard TD run with 3:05 left in the third extended the lead to 20-6. ASU got a 10-yard TD run from Manny Wilkins with 7:50 remaining to make it interesting, but the Sun Devils came up short nonetheless. Costello threw for 231 yards and one TD without an interception, while Arcega-Whiteside finished with seven receptions for 91 yards and one TD. Bryce Love returned from a one-game absence due to an ankle injury, but he gained merely 21 rushing yards on 11 attempts.
-- Arkansas State captured a 51-35 win over Georgia State as a 13-point home favorite last night in Jonesboro. The 86 combined points easily jumped ‘over’ the 56.5-point total with more than a minute remaining in the third quarter. Senior QB Justice Hansen stole the show for the Red Wolves, throwing for 257 yards and three TDs without an interception. Hansen also ran for 76 yards and two TDs on 11 carries.
-- Temple RB Ryquell Armstead (ankle) has been upgraded to ‘probable for Saturday’s key AAC showdown vs. Cincinnati at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia. Armstead has rushed for 626 yards and six TDs. The unbeaten Bearcats have had two weeks to prepare for the Owls, who are 4-1 SU and 5-0 ATS since starting the season with home losses to Villanova and Buffalo.
-- UCLA will be without a pair of former 5-star recruits – RB Soso Jamabo and LB Jaelan Phillips -- for the rest of the season due to concussion issues.
-- East Carolina has named true freshman QB Holton Ahlers as its starter for Satureday’s home game vs. undefeated UCF. Speaking of the Knights, they got a Herculean effort from their defense that held Memphis scoreless in the second half of last week’s 31-30 come-from-behind win at the Liberty Bowl.
-- Two of the nation’s premier defensive players are done for the season: USC’s Porter Gustin (ankle) and Ohio State’s Nick Bosa (core). Bosa is actually leaving school and starting to prepare for the NFL Draft despite Ohio State’s unbeaten status.
Follow Brian Edwards' sports gambling opinions on Twitter at @vegasbedwards.
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