Washington (5-4, 2-4) at Oregon State (4-4, 3-2)
7:30 p.m. Friday, Reser Stadium, Corvallis, Ore.
TV: FS1. Radio: KOMO-AM 1000/FM-97.7
Latest line: Huskies by 10 points.
UW key players
QB Jacob Eason: 65.3% completions, 2,297 passing yards, 20 touchdowns, 5 interceptions
RB Salvon Ahmed: 712 rushing yards, 5.6 yards per carry, 7 TD
DL Levi Onwuzurike: 36 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, 1 blocked punt, 0.5 sacks
S Myles Bryant: 55 tackles, 4.5 TFL, 2 INT, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble
Oregon State key players
QB Jake Luton: 60.8% completions, 1,930 passing yards, 19 TD, 1 INT, 1 rush TD
WR Isaiah Hodgins: 63 catches, 895 receiving yards, 14.2 yards per catch, 12 TD
ILB Avery Roberts: 50 tackles, 5 TFL, 2 sacks, 2 QB hits
OLB Hamilcar Rashed Jr.: 47 tackles, 17.5 TFL, 12 sacks, 2 FF, 1 fumble recovery
Improving on offense
Despite what the record might suggest, UW’s offense appears to be getting better. Junior quarterback Jacob Eason has thrown for 848 yards with nine touchdowns and two interceptions in his last three games. Tight end Hunter Bryant is finally reaching his significant potential. Previously underutilized wide receivers Terrell Bynum, Jordan Chin and Marquis Spiker have begun to emerge. “People are really looking at the (Utah) loss, but I think we’re really building and getting better on offense, for sure,” Bynum said this week. “We were shooting ourselves in the foot late in the game. But other than that, I feel like if we were building off how we were playing in the first half we could be dangerous.” Like Bynum said, UW’s offense failed to finish in the second half against both Utah and Oregon. Will that change on Friday night? It would help if the Huskies could reestablish junior running back Salvon Ahmed against an undeniably mediocre Oregon State defense.
Holding down Hodgins
Statistically, Oregon State junior Isaiah Hodgins is the Pac-12’s premier wide receiver. Through eight games, the 6-foot-4, 209-pound wideout leads the conference in receptions (63), receiving yards (895), receiving touchdowns (12), catches per game (7.9) and receiving yards per game (111.9). Most recently, he caught seven passes for 150 yards and two touchdowns in last weekend’s 56-38 rout of Arizona. Quarterback Jake Luton’s favorite target will provide a formidable challenge for UW cornerbacks Keith Taylor and Trent McDuffie on Friday night. Entering the game, defensive coordinator Jimmy Lake’s secondary ranks fourth in the Pac-12 in passing defense (231.3 yards per game), opponent pass efficiency rating (125.64), yards per attempt (6.9) and completion percentage (60.8%). If the Huskies can keep Hodgins out of the end zone, they’ll limit the Beavers’ most explosive offensive threat.
Get this: in eight games this season, Oregon State’s offense has committed a grand total of two turnovers. That number leads the nation. The Beavers have thrown two interceptions (and just one by their starting quarterback, Luton) and have yet to lose a fumble. Simply put, the Beavs don’t hurt themselves. And on the other side, UW’s 15 turnovers gained ranks 24th nationally. UW has forced 13 turnovers in its five wins and two in its four losses. Generally speaking, Washington’s defense needs to force turnovers to win games … and Oregon State gives the ball away less than any team in the nation. If UW can create consistent pressure on Luton, perhaps the Huskies can force the redshirt senior quarterback into some uncharacteristic mistakes. And if recent history is any guide, they’ll need to snag an interception or force a fumble (or two, or three) to walk away with a win.
UW’s offense has averaged 36.7 points in its last three games, and it should excel against Oregon State. The Huskies will control the game on the ground with Salvon Ahmed, and Eason will make his fair share of explosive plays as well. Junior tight end and walking mismatch Hunter Bryant will make a considerable impact one again. On the other side, the Beavers’ surprising rushing attack — which averages 176.75 yards per game and 5.01 yards per carry — will wear Washington down as well. Luton will challenge UW’s embattled secondary. Despite Oregon State’s recent aversion to turnovers, the Huskies will force at least one of them on Friday. UW has won seven consecutive games against Oregon State, and that streak will be extended on the road at Reser Stadium.
Final score: Huskies 41, Beavers 30