Can Cougars handle No. 7 Oregon, on the road?
Even with two key starters out, the Ducks are a scoring machine.
WSU @ Oregon, noon, ROOT
PULLMAN — The Pac-12 Conference has two of the nation's top football teams. And they couldn't be more different.
There's fourth-ranked Stanford, the pound-it-out, power football team with a reputation for smash-mouth play. The Cardinal rolled over Washington State two weeks ago in Pullman, pulling away in the second half for a 44-14 victory.
And there's Oregon, WSU's opponent this week. The Ducks, 6-1 overall, 4-0 in Pac-12 play and ranked seventh nationally, would rather run away from their opponent than over them.
"They are polar opposites in the running game," said Washington State coach Paul Wulff of the two. "Stanford is going to be extremely physical and pack everything into the box. ... Oregon is going to spread you out. They're just trying to put bodies on bodies and let their speed take advantage of the wider lanes."
Not surprisingly, Oregon and Stanford are 1-2 in the conference in four major statistical categories: scoring offense, rushing offense, total offense and scoring defense. And they split the top spots evenly, with the Ducks the better rushing and total offensive team.
Though the Cougars (3-4, 1-3) held the Cardinal under its season average in scoring, rushing and total offense, Oregon presents a different challenge, especially on offense. The only teams that have stopped the Ducks the past couple years have been Southeastern Conference powers Auburn and LSU.
"You look at the teams that have defended Oregon well and had the most success," Wulff said, "they just were better physically. They were aggressive and physical in the front and they got after them."
That's mainly what the Cougars tried to do last year in a game they led 14-8 at one point but lost 43-23, giving up 556 yards. The Ducks' speed proved to be too much.
"If there is a position that doesn't have speed, I don't know it," said linebacker Alex Hoffman-Ellis of the Ducks' offense. "We can combat that by being sound in our assignments and lots of film study so that we can play fast on the field, be confident in what we have to do."
The Ducks may not be as fast as usual this Saturday, as quarterback Darron Thomas and Heisman Trophy candidate running back LaMicheal James have been sidelined with injuries. But backups Bryan Bennett and Kenjon Barner were just fine last week against Colorado.
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