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Washington State vs. Oregon Football Prediction and Preview

Travis Dye, Oregon Ducks Football

Travis Dye and the Ducks host the Cougars in a key Pac-12 North matchup on Saturday night

From 2015 through 2018, the most consistent thorn in Oregon's side was Washington State. The Cougars will try to derail the Ducks again Saturday in Autzen Stadium, this time with an opportunity to knock them out of the College Football Playoff conversation.

Oregon (8-1, 5-1 Pac-12) comes home for a potential trap game, one week removed from an emotional win over a bitter rival and a week ahead of a potential Pac-12 Championship Game preview with Utah.

Washington State (5-4, 4-2) is not to be overlooked, however. In fact, a Cougars win puts them, remarkably, in control of their fate for the Pac-12 North.

Washington State also is coming off a bye and, its last time out, played its best game of the season in a 34-21 rout of Arizona State that wasn't as close as the final score indicates.

Washington State at No. 3 Oregon

Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 13 at 10:30 p.m. ET
TV: ESPN
Spread: Oregon -14

When Washington State Has the Ball

The first game of Jake Dickert's tenure as interim head coach brought a style of football not seen at Washington State in quite some time. The Cougars officially rushed 42 times against 27 passes, an unheard-of disparity for most of the 2010s.

The combination of Deon McIntosh and Max Borghi at running back being used more to their potential could open passing lanes for quarterback Jayden de Laura.

One X-factor could be de Laura's mobility against the aggressive Oregon defensive front. Kayvon Thibodeaux was dominant the last time the Ducks faced a two-way threat in UCLA's Dorian Thompson-Robinson.

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Double-teams and chip blocks might impact his numbers but only do so much in limiting the effect he can have on the game. And if that means opening up other teammates to crash the backfield, that's how Oregon operates defensively.

When Oregon Has the Ball

Offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead mitigated the driving rain and wind at Washington last week with an almost exclusively ground-based game plan. It worked, with Travis Dye posting his best numbers of the season and looking every bit like the every-down back Oregon lost with CJ Verdell's injury.

Anthony Brown threw a badly timed interception early but recovered effectively enough and contributed well on the ground. With Washington State allowing 4.5 yards per carry, Brown's rushing ability could be an asset again this week.

The Cougars have been solid defending the pass. To that end, they'll need to turn the Ducks' offense into a passing-based one as much as possible, perhaps loading the box early to test Brown's touch.

Final Analysis

Oregon has shown flashes of the team that handled Ohio State early in the season, including for much of the second half last week vs. Washington. Sustaining such glimmers, which the Ducks failed to do at UCLA, is critical to keep this team on track for the College Football Playoff.

Washington State's looked great and beaten quality opponents its last couple of times out. The Cougars should test the Ducks early, but Oregon is a bad matchup for them ultimately.

Prediction: Oregon 31, Washington State 20

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— Written by Kyle Kensing, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a sportswriter in Southern California. Follow him on Twitter @kensing45 and subscribe to his newsletter, The Press Break.