The Beavers (5-5, 4-3 Pac-12) edged Arizona State 35-34 over the weekend to position themselves to claim a bowl berth for the first time since 2013. Coincidentally, that's the last time that Oregon State has recorded at least four league wins in a season. The Beavers stopped a late two-point conversion attempt by the Sun Devils to move to .500 overall. Oregon State generated 393 yards and 26 first downs to secure its third win in four games.
The Cougars (5-5, 2-5) dispatched Stanford 49-22 for just their second win in seven games. Washington State got back on track with a solid all-around performance after its defense struggled so many times in earlier games to slow down even decidedly mediocre offenses. The Cougars held the Cardinal to six rushing yards – the 10th-fewest yards allowed on the ground in team history. On the other side, they generated 624 total yards on offense.
Washington State has won five straight games against Oregon State and holds a 53-47-3 series lead between the two teams. The Beavers haven't beaten the Cougars on the road since 2013.
Oregon State at Washington State
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 23 at 9 p.m. ET
TV: Pac-12 Networks
Spread: Washington State –12.0
When Oregon State Has the Ball
Facing a porous run defense will play right into Oregon State's hands. Washington State is allowing 174.9 rushing yards per game. The Beavers like to run more than 30 times per game. With the Cougars' knack for striking quickly on offense, an effective run game will give Oregon State a chance to give its defense some rest at critical times.
Artavis Pierce became the 11th player to accumulate at least 2,000 career rushing yards for the Beavers with 63 yards against Arizona State. With 2,045 yards, he needs only 40 more yards to move into the top 10 on the school's career rushing list. Pierce has been steady in the backfield all season. Injuries slowed Jermar Jefferson after a strong start, but Washington State needs no reminder how dangerous the sophomore can be at full strength. Jefferson ran for 138 yards and four touchdowns against the Cougars a season ago.
Oregon State might be even more dangerous through the air. Jake Luton has proven to be one of the most efficient and consistent quarterbacks in the Pac-12 this season. Luton is good at taking care of the ball with 23 touchdown passes and only two interceptions. His top target, Isaiah Hodgins, has been on the receiving end of 13 of those touchdowns – and Hodgins leads the Pac-12 in that category. With 1,021 yards, Hodgins is one of only two receivers in the league to have at least 1,000 receiving yards at this point in the season.
When Washington State Has the Ball
Moving the chains hasn't been much of a problem for Washington State this season – outside of the Cougars' loss to Utah in late September. The Cougars have the good fortune of facing an Oregon State defense that isn't so formidable.
Anthony Gordon is rounding into peak form again. Gordon threw for 520 yards and five touchdowns against Stanford. He has piled up 4,314 yards and 39 touchdowns through the air so far this season. Those 39 touchdown passes are the highest amount during a single season for any Washington State player. Brandon Arconado has emerged as Gordon's most consistent downfield target. Arconado recorded his fourth consecutive 100-yard game after finishing with 148 yards and a TD on nine passes. He has a Pac-12-best six 100-yard receiving games this season.
Max Borghi will have a chance to shine against Oregon State's mediocre run defense. Borghi rushed for 111 yards on 15 carries against Stanford. It was his fourth 100-yard game of the season. He only needs 304 yards to reach 1,000 rushing yards – a mark that's within reach if the Cougars can qualify for a bowl game. Borghi also is a pass-catching threat out of the backfield.
Both teams find themselves in must-win territory if they hope to reach a December bowl game. Oregon State and Washington State are in a similar boat with regular-season finales against archrivals that have dominated those rivalries in recent seasons. Offensive fireworks will not be in short supply in this contest. Ultimately, it comes down to which defense is better at getting stops at critical junctures. The Beavers seem to have an edge in that department this time around.
Prediction: Oregon State 34, Washington State 31
— 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.