JIM MOORE

Oregon is finally beatable, but Cougars have issues of their own

Sep 30, 2016, 1:10 PM | Updated: 1:10 pm
WSU is a slight favorite over Oregon, which the Cougs beat in double-overtime last season. (AP)...
WSU is a slight favorite over Oregon, which the Cougs beat in double-overtime last season. (AP)
(AP)

We know that a sellout crowd is expected at Martin Stadium Saturday night. But as far as what will happen in the game between Oregon and Washington State, good luck with trying to figure that out.

From a Cougs perspective, you can make a good case for a second consecutive victory over the Ducks. Last year, WSU beat Oregon 45-38 in double overtime at Autzen Stadium. As great as the win was, you could put an asterisk on it because Oregon’s Vernon Adams was hurt, and the Cougars took advantage of the Ducks playing with their second- and third-string quarterbacks.

WSU hosts Oregon in matchup of underperformers

But even at that, it was one of the first signs that Oregon was not the Oregon we’ve grown sick of in the past 10 years. Last year’s version was still good, not great. And this year’s version might be downgraded to fair at best if the Ducks lose to the Cougars.

In what would have been an inexplicable development for Oregon in the recent past, the Ducks have a shot at losing four games in a row. Nebraska beat them 35-32 two weeks ago, and Colorado beat them 41-38 last week. If the Cougars win this week, there’s a good chance the Ducks might actually lose to the Huskies next week in Eugene.

It’s almost a toss-up game in Pullman with Oregon favored by 1.5 points, and I’m guessing Dawg fans will be rooting for us because they dislike the Cougs but really hate the Ducks. Thanks for your unwanted support. We’ll pay you back by rooting for Oregon next week.

I have no idea what to make of the Cougs. Will it be like last year when we lost the season opener to Portland State but rallied to a 9-4 season, capped by a win over Miami in the Sun Bowl? Or is it a different team, one that isn’t quite as good or even close to as good as last year’s?

And the Ducks? Are they finally just an average team? Or are we reading too much into consecutive three-point losses that could just as easily have been Oregon wins?

Against Colorado, the Ducks’ defense was particularly bad, allowing nearly 600 yards to an offense directed by backup quarterback Steven Montez. Oregon opponents are averaging 32.5 points a game.

The Ducks lost wide receiver Devon Allen and left tackle Tyrell Crosby to season-ending injuries in the Nebraska game, but there’s good news for Oregon this week. Royce Freeman, who is 98 yards from becoming the second-leading rusher in school history, is expected to return from a knee injury hesuffered against Nebraska.

Even without Freeman in the Colorado game, Oregon leads the Pac-12 with an average of 276 rushing yards a game. Freeman ran for 246 yards and three touchdowns in the loss to WSU last year.

I’d set the over-under on rushing yards against the Cougars for Freeman at 150 and hope he goes under. If it’s over, Oregon will no doubt win and cover the 1.5-point spread.

The Cougs counter with Luke Falk and the Air Raid, but they can also be potent on the ground, especially with freshman James Williams.

I’ll say that the first team to 50 points wins and predict that it will be Oregon thanks to its rushing attack and a WSU defense that I have doubts about.

Line: Oregon by 1.5

Prediction: Ducks 52, Cougars 41

The Go 2 Guy also writes for SeattlePI.com and KitsapSun.com. You can reach Jim at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @cougsgo.

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