WHY OSU WINS: OSU Defense. While not overly lauded, OSU’s defense has come up big against the last three up-tempo offenses they have played. While it is true they gave up rushing yards to Stanford, USC and ASU, they were able to shut down ASU’s Kelly and Stanford’s Hogan to well below their season averages. In fact, they held ASU to over 100 yards less than their average in Sun Devil stadium. With the QB Cyler Miles getting his first start and with this being a late road game, OSU’s defense might just have enough to come up big in a must win game.
WHY OSU WINS: Dylan Wynn. As said before, the OSU defense has done a good job in the last four weeks (save the USC game) and a big reason for that is Wynn. His disciplined yet ferocious brand of football has him stopping opposing offensive lines from doing what they want and has freed up other linemen like Mana Rosa and Scott Crichton to clean up the rest. The UW offensive line is improved but not on par with Stanford’s or USC’s so look for Wynn and the defensive line to be able to get penetration and disrupt UW’s plans.
WHY OSU WINS: Brandin Cooks. OSU has possibly the best weapon in the conference in Cooks. Whether it is running, screens or out in routes, Brandin Cooks is the playmaker on this team. If OSU struggles early to do what they want on offense, look for them to just start finding ways to feed Cooks the ball. The coaches just have to want to do it, which should be a simple premise. Fly sweeps, WR screens, bubble screens and crossing routes are all weapons OSU needs to use.
WHY OSU WINS: Reser Stadium. In the last four years, OSU has pulled it out at home. And by pulled it out, I mean beat the stink out of UW. While ever year is different, OSU has seemed to find a way to get to UW in the comfortable confines of Corvallis, OR. Road games against the Huskies have been close and home games have been blow outs. I don’t expect a blow out, but I do expect OSU to get a great boost from the home crowd and since they are used to late games, it will be a good chance to come out and try and start fast and keep the crowd engaged.
WHY OSU WINS: The last three weeks. I am not a huge fan of the term must win games. If your goals are high, they are all must wins and none of the losses are acceptable. Mike Riley will be back next year regardless of the outcome of this game, but that should be irrelevant. This is the game where OSU decides who they are. Are they the team that gives up the ball and hands games to their opponents or are they the team that plays four quarters and brings their best snap to whistle. They should be motivated after experiencing hear break against Stanford and ASU. They are all must win games, and this one is no different. But OSU has been able to play far less than their best and stay close to the top teams of the conference. It is now time for them to bring their A game.
Three Things to Watch For:
Sean Mannion: Sean is putting together the best season in OSU history. That is a fact. This is the game where he avoids the inevitable “but…” after that. Sean has thrown for twice as many interceptions the last two weeks than he had the previous eight. He also has taken a ton of hits. The second half of last week against ASU was more like the Sean we saw weeks 1-8. A guy that is confident and accurate. That Sean needs to come back and make an appearance. I am betting this game has been circled on his calendar since last year’s close loss in CLink, so I look for Sean to bounce back this week and re-establish himself as the nation’s leading passer.
Mike Riley: Mike is a premium coach. Regardless of the issues that Beaver fans may be upset about, Mike is respected because he knows how to call plays to achieve his current goal and to set up future goals. Mike Riley has coached OSU to close games, even when his team is not sharp and making mistakes. OSU lost to Stanford by 8 in a game where they gave up 8 sacks, countless hurries and fumbled on the second half kickoff. What Mike needs to do is get the team to look past their mistakes and take care of their assignments. In the last decade, Mike has rarely had an even field in terms of talent and depth, yet he continues to win more than he loses. The same cannot be said in Washington. This is Mike’s time to shine, to take the mistakes of the last few weeks and hone in on this game.
The Trenches: OSU has played very talented defensive teams the last few weeks. The jump in talent during the Stanford game seemed to fluster the unit that was giving up a measly 1 sack per 45 throws heading into the game. Against USC they saw some of the same issues against a defensive front riddle with four and five star players coming out of high school. But it was getting better. Against ASU, they allowed one sack and a few QB hurries against a very stout and aggressive defensive front that brought pressure almost every down. This week, OSU takes on Washington who has talent up front, but not more than Stanford or ASU. If the line continues to improve and give Sean time, this could be the chance for OSU to show that their offense is not just a patsy killer, but a legit threat against good teams. It all starts up front, and this line, tight end group and running back squad is talented enough to deliver.