Off to its first 5-0 start since 2001, No. 11 Washington State heads out on the road for the first time this season to face an injury-plagued Oregon squad on Saturday. The Ducks are averaging 49.6 points per game but could be hard-pressed to keep pace with the Cougars’ Air Raid offense without quarterback Justin Herbert, who will miss the next several weeks due to a fractured collarbone.
With Herbert out, the Ducks will turn to either senior Taylor Alie or true freshman Braxton Burmeister against Washington State, which ranks 11th nationally and second in the Pac-12 in total defense (275 yards allowed per game). The Ducks bounced back from a loss to Arizona State with last Saturday’s 45-24 win over California but are dealing with injuries to key players such as Herbert and linebacker Kaulana Apelu, who fractured his ankle against the Bears and has been ruled out for the season. “We’re not going to feel sorry for ourselves,” Oregon coach Willie Taggart told reporters. “Washington State or anyone else is not going to feel sorry for us. Next guy up and got to go practice and make sure we’re ready to play.” The Ducks are looking to snap a two-game skid against Washington State, which remained unbeaten as Erik Powell kicked a 32-yard field goal with 1:40 left for a 30-27 win over USC last week.
TV: 8 p.m. ET, FOX. LINE: Oregon -2.5
ABOUT WASHINGTON STATE (5-0, 2-0 Pac-12): Senior quarterback Luke Falk connected with nine different receivers and became the all-time Pac-12 leader in completions in the win over USC, finishing with 340 passing yards, two touchdowns and one interception. The backfield trio of Jamal Morrow, Gerard Wicks and James Williams has been a perfect complement to Falk, who ranks fifth in the country with 1,718 passing yards and just two picks. Linebacker Jahad Woods was named Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week after making a game-high nine tackles against USC and helping the Cougars hold the Trojans to a season-low 327 yards of total offense.
ABOUT OREGON (4-1, 1-1): Royce Freeman, who has rushed for 592 yards and 10 touchdowns, exited the win over Cal with an arm injury but practiced Wednesday and is expected to play against the Cougars. Fellow running backs Kani Benoit and Tony Brooks-James combined for 214 yards and three TDs against the Bears, and the Ducks figure to rely on their ground game again on Saturday with Herbert on the shelf. Henry Mondeaux recorded two sacks last week to lead the defense, which allowed just eight yards rushing and totaled seven sacks against the Bears.
1. Oregon leads the all-time series 47-40-7, but the Cougars have captured the last two meetings - including a 51-33 victory in Pullman last season.
2. The Ducks are 43-8 at Autzen Stadium since 2010.
3. Washington State is 17-3 when forcing multiple turnovers under defensive coordinator Alex Grinch.
PREDICTION: Washington State 44, Oregon 38