The No. 11 Ducks (1-0, 1-0) are the best hope for the Pac-12 securing a spot in the College Football Playoff. Oregon looked the part of a playoff team in its season-opening 35-14 victory over Stanford. For four quarters, the Ducks dominated on both sides of the ball. Oregon racked up 496 total yards on 7.5 yards per play. The Cardinal struggled to finish drives against the Ducks, going 4-of-13 on third down.
The Cougars (1-0, 1-0) opened their season with a 38-28 road victory over Oregon State. A balanced attack propelled Washington State against the Beavers. The Cougars passed 33 times and ran 30 times in their first game with a run-and-shoot offense. They totaled 456 yards and averaged 7.2 yards per play against Oregon State.
Oregon leads the series 50-40-7. The Ducks snapped a four-game losing streak to Washington State after edging the Cougars 37-35 last season on the strength of a last-second field goal from Camden Lewis.
No. 11 Oregon at Washington State
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 14 at 7 p.m. ET
Spread: Oregon –10
When Oregon Has the Ball
The transition from Justin Herbert went smoothly in Game One. Oregon's offense hardly skipped a beat behind new starting quarterback Tyler Shough.
Shough threw for 227 yards and a touchdown in his first career start. He also tossed an interception but completed 65.4 percent of his pass attempts. The sophomore attempted only 15 passes a year ago and did not seem rattled by taking on a greater role in the offense. Shough finished with the second-best passer rating (143.73) among Pac-12 quarterbacks through one game. He spread the ball around with six receivers catching at least one pass. DJ Johnson had a team-high five catches for 55 yards and a touchdown.
A strong running game will go a long way toward making things continue to run smoothly for Sough this fall. Washington State struggled to contain the run against Oregon State, and Oregon has a skilled enough backfield to exploit that weakness. CJ Verdell opened his junior season by racking up 105 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries against Stanford. Verdell remains an explosive runner who can punish defenses. Travis Dye is also an electrifying runner. The junior ripped off 78 yards and scored a touchdown on just six carries against the Cardinal.
When Washington State Has the Ball
Strong quarterback play has been a consistent feature of the Cougar offense over the past few seasons. It appears Washington State won't take a step back with true freshman Jayden de Laura at the controls.
After winning the starting job in fall camp, de Laura turned in a solid performance in his first career start. He earned Pac-12 Freshman of the Week honors by throwing for 227 yards and a pair of touchdowns and adding 43 yards and another touchdown on the ground. There are some lingering concerns about his accuracy going up against a much stronger Oregon defense. Against Oregon State, de Laura completed only 54.5 percent of his passes and threw an interception. Fortunately, he has plenty of experienced and talented receivers to get the ball to downfield. Travell Harris led the way against the Beavers, totaling a career-high 107 yards and two touchdowns on just seven catches.
If Max Borghi is ready to play on Saturday, that will give the Cougar offense a huge boost. Borghi was named to watch lists for both the Doak Walker Award and Biletnikoff Award before the season. He was listed atop the depth chart at running back this week after missing the opener with an undisclosed injury against Oregon State. Deon McIntosh filled in nicely in the backfield during Borghi's absence with 147 rushing yards and a touchdown on 18 carries.
Oregon has beaten unranked Washington State teams seven straight times when it is ranked in the AP Top 25. Odds are favorable for the Ducks to extend that streak. Oregon isn't just relentlessly explosive on offense. The Ducks are also one of the better defensive teams in the Pac-12. It's worth noting that the Cougars have a recent history of success against Oregon, so a potential upset isn't as far fetched as it sounds. Still, the Ducks are, on paper, the most talented team in the Pac-12 this season and should be able to play to their strengths in all three phases to stay a step ahead of Washington State.
Prediction: Oregon 35, Washington State 24
Podcast: Week 11 Preview and Predictions
— Written by John Coon, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Coon has more than a decade of experience covering sports for different publications and outlets, including The Associated Press, Salt Lake Tribune, ESPN, Deseret News, MaxPreps, Yahoo! Sports, and many others. Follow him on Twitter @johncoonsports.