Oregon State Football Opponent Preview: Washington State
With the 2019 season on the horizon, BeaversEdge.com is introducing all 12 of Oregon State's 2019 opponents in July.
Today, we dive into Oregon State's penultimate game of the season, a road matchup with Mike Leach and the Washington State Cougars.
Date: Saturday, November 23rd
Location: Pullman, WA
Betting Line: N/A
Oddshark Prediction: N/A
Oregon State 2018 record: 2-10 (1-8 Pac-12)
Washington State 2018 record: 11-2 (7-2 Pac-12)
Washington State 2018 Recap
In a year where the Cougars were picked to finish fifth in the Pac-12 North, they shocked the Pac-12 and the college football world and had the best season Mike Leach has had in Pullman.
Despite having two inopportune conference losses and a weak non conference schedule, the upstart Cougars, led by grad-transfer quarterback Gardner Minshew II were on the cusp of reaching the first conference title game appearance in school history while also starting the potential college football playoff chatter.
With Wyoming, San Jose State, and Eastern Washington right out the gate, the Cougars started the season 3-0 before dropping their conference home opener against USC in a game that's still highly controversial.
After the USC loss, WSU rattled off seven straight wins and reached as high as seventh in the AP Poll as Minshew was putting up video game like numbers and was entering Heisman discussion.
However, with a berth to the Pac-12 Championship game on the line against Washington in Pullman to round out the year, the snow, Myles Gaskin and Chris Petersen got the better of Leach and Co. as the Cougars were denied the capstone to what was a dream year. WSU defeated Iowa State in the Alamo Bowl to finish 11-2 on the season, but the Cougs were just one win away from reaching a New Years Six bowl and that's not something that happens often on the Palouse.
Best win: October 27th - @ Stanford - 41-38
Worst loss: November 28th - vs Washington 28-15
If Pac-12 Media Day was any indication, Leach loves being the underdog each and every season.
When talking about expectations and improvement for the upcoming season, Leach addressed the speculation that the team would take a step back this season by stating that every year everyone expects the Cougs to get their teeth kicked in, but all they do is surprise everyone.
While it's nearly impossible to top the standard that Minshew and the 2018 squad set for Cougar football under Leach, WSU has a lot of pieces returning and could have themselves in contention for the Pac-12 North if things break right.
After striking lighting in a bottle with a transfer QB in Minshew, Leach and Co. dipped into the transfer pool again and landed Eastern Washington quarterback Gage Gubrud. The McMinnville, Ore. native was one the most decorated quarterbacks the Eagles have ever had, accounting for over 11, 000 yards of total offense and 101 touchdowns during his tenure in Cheney.
While Gubrud isn't a lock to win the job as the Cougs boast a pair of capable multi-year Leach grown QB's in Anthony Gordon and Trey Tinsley, neither have the credentials and experience that Gubrud possesses. However, Gubrud is coming off a pair of injuries in the last season and it'll be interesting to see how the fall camp QB race shakes out now that he's healthy.
Whomever the Cougs go with at QB will have weapons as the receiving corps is loaded with playmakers in Tay Martin (685 yards, 2 TD's), Dezmon Patmon (861 yards), Easop Winston Jr., and Jamire Calvin, while Max Borghi (12 TD's in 2018) will anchor the ground attack.
Defensively, keep an eye on how the Cougars look in year two of the Tracy Claeys system. The former Minnesota head coach took over for the departed Alex Grinch prior to the start of the 2018 season and the Cougars' steady defense was largely solid in his first year at the controls. With six of the top nine tacklers returning from a season ago, WSU figures to be solid again this season.
This game has cold, cold, cold written all over it.
Late season trips to Pullman are always an adventure, and this season figures to be no different. Oregon State hasn't had the pleasure of playing Washington State on the road in November since 2009 and given that the Cougs played Washington in blizzard-like conditions on the same date in 2018, the Beavs and Cougs could be in for some weather.
While it's not a given that the weather will be factor, I think that if it does come into play, the team with the stronger run game will dominate a la Washington with Gaskin in 2018.
Given that the Beavers boast a more established rushing attack than the Cougars do, I like their odds in a game that's filled with weather as Leach passing attack would be grounded. However, you can't make predictions based on weather and with that in mind, I like Washington State to win this contest on their senior day.
The Cougars' passing attack has given the Beavers fits in seasons past, and while I expect the Beavers to be much better defending against the pass this season, leaving Pullman with a win in their home finale is a tough ask.
A lot can happen between now and the second to last game of the season, but at this point I give the Cougars a slight edge based on experience, established talent, and a unique home field advantage.
Washington State 34, Oregon State 27