Keys for Cougars in game at No. 14 Oregon State will be to protect quarterback, stop balanced Beavers offense.
Washington State (2-3, 0-2); Oregon State (3-0, 2-0)
Time: 3 p.m. at Reser Stadium
TV: Pac-12 Networks. Radio: 710 ESPN. The line: OSU by 15.
The setup: Washington State tries to break through for its first conference victory of 2012, while Oregon State, the Pac-12’s biggest surprise of the season, attempts to stay perfect and improve on its No. 14 ranking.
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What to expect: Lots of balls in the air. WSU QB Connor Halliday has thrown 60 times in each of the past two games, and his OSU counterpart, Sean Mannion, has 812 yards passing the past two games.
Key matchup: WSU OTs Gunnar Eklund and Jake Rodgers vs. OSU DEs Dylan Wynn and Scott Crichton. Eklund and Rodgers are first-year starters who must keep sophomores Wynn and Crichton — who leads OSU with five tackles for loss, including three sacks — off Halliday.
Notes: Last visit here by WSU, a three-touchdown underdog, resulted in stunning 31-14 upset of the Beavers in 2010, probably the best win of Paul Wulff’s four-year tenure. OSU returned the favor, upsetting Cougars last year at CenturyLink Field. … Cougars lead the series 48-45-3. … WR Marquess Wilson moved to the top of WSU’s career-receiving yards total last week against Oregon, at 2,893. … Each team’s leading tackler plays in the secondary — WSU safety Deone Bucannon (36) and OSU cornerback Rashaad Reynolds (25). … Beavers have 13 Washingtonians on roster, including TE Connor Hamlett, who caught winning TD last week at Arizona. … Beavers haven’t allowed a point in the first quarter, and WSU has only seven in third quarters.
Upset brewing? It might just be a spot for an OSU letdown, but Cougars will have to protect the quarterback and find a way to stop a balanced OSU attack.
Injuries: WSU — OL Wade Jacobsen (neck-shoulder), questionable. OSU — RB Storm Woods (knee), WR Markus Wheaton (leg), probable; DE Rudolf Fifita (concussion), questionable.
Prediction: Oregon State, 41-32.