Oregon State suddenly looks to be a much bigger factor in the Pac-12 North than expected heading into a clash with Washington on Saturday.
The Beavers (3-1, 1-0 Pac-12) won their conference opener for the first time since 2013 after dismantling USC 45-27 a week ago. It marked the first win over the Trojans in Los Angeles for the Beavers since 1960. Oregon State rushed for 322 yards and scored the most points it has ever scored against USC. The Beavers scored on five consecutive drives and did not allow a tackle for loss. The Trojans were the first team to fail to get a tackle for a loss against Oregon State since the Beavers faced Pacific in 1993.
Facing a potent offense has to be making the Huskies (2-2, 1-0) feel a little nervous. Washington edged California 31-24 in overtime last week, but still has not found sure footing on offense. Defense has been the saving grace for the Huskies to this point. Washington has held opponents to 35 points or fewer in 79 consecutive games – the longest such streak in the nation. The Huskies are allowing 17.8 points per game so far in 2021.
Washington leads the series 67-34-4. The Huskies have won nine straight games against Oregon State, with the Beavers' last win coming in 2011.
Washington at Oregon State
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 2 at 9 p.m. ET
TV: Pac-12 Networks
Spread: Oregon State -2.5
When Washington Has the Ball
Generating tons of yards has not been a problem for the Huskies. Freshman quarterback Dylan Morris leads the Pac-12 with 1,120 passing yards and 280.0 passing yards per game. Morris is struggling with his accuracy, however, completing just 58 percent of his passes through four games. It is translating to drives stalling more frequently for the Huskies. Washington has converted 50 percent or better on third down in just one game so far.
The Huskies need to get more production out of the running game to keep Oregon State's run-oriented offense from hogging possessions. Richard Newton is the only back with more than 100 rushing yards on the season for Washington, but he is averaging just 3.54 yards per carry. Newton sat out with an undisclosed injury against California. He is expected to return to the backfield against the Beavers. The sophomore seemed poised for a breakout season after a promising freshman campaign two years ago and the Huskies need a credible running threat to give the offense some much-needed firepower.
Taking care of the ball will be a concern for the Huskies. Morris has a penchant for throwing interceptions and Oregon State has a knack for creating them. The Beavers rank third among Pac-12 teams with nine takeaways and they are second with a plus-four turnover margin.
When Oregon State Has the Ball
The Beavers are at their best as an offense when they have a lead back who can pound the ball and move the chains with ruthless efficiency. B.J. Baylor fits that mold to perfection. Baylor is the top rusher in the Pac-12 through four games. He is the only player in the league averaging at least 100 rushing yards per game.
Baylor has racked up 421 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground this season while averaging a robust 6.9 yards per carry. He had his second 100-yard game of the season – and third of his career – against USC, finishing with 158 yards on 23 carries. It was the second time this season Baylor outgained an Oregon State opponent in total rushing yards. As a team, the Trojans totaled only 76 yards on 22 carries.
Chance Nolan has been accurate and efficient at quarterback, making Baylor's rushing prowess even tougher for opponents to handle. Nolan is completing 72.3 percent of his passes and averaging 10.2 yards per attempt through four games. He has thrown for 847 yards and nine touchdowns while tossing only two interceptions. Oregon State has won all three games where he's completed at least 70 percent of his passes this season. Nolan registered a career-best 221.54 QB rating against USC after completing 79 percent of his throws for 213 yards and four touchdowns.
Oregon State appears to have turned a corner as a program. The Beavers are beating quality opponents on the road and are no longer an automatic victory for other Pac-12 teams. Washington has not shown enough improvement on offense to show it will live up to preseason expectations of being Oregon's primary challenger in the Pac-12 North. Oregon State is a team hungry to prove itself. The Beavers beat the Ducks last season and USC this season. Knocking off the Huskies at home won't be any bigger surprise or any more difficult of a task to complete.
Prediction: Oregon State 31, Washington 24
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– Written by John Coon, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a sports journalist based in Utah. Follow him on Twitter @johncoonsports.