The game was big enough to get ESPN's "College GameDay" to Pullman. The winner will control its fate in the Pac-12 North.
PULLMAN — The hype has been frenetic, and soon — finally — comes the main event.
Although ESPN’s “College GameDay” coming to Pullman has been the big story most of this week, it wouldn’t be coming if there wasn’t a big game at hand.
No. 25 Washington State hosts No. 12 Oregon in a battle of Northwest rivals that could go a long way in determining the winner of the very competitive Pac-12 North, with four teams having just one conference loss, including the Cougars and the Ducks.
GameDay comes to Pullman 🏈
If the Cougars win, they control their own fate: Win out and they will be the North champ.
Good luck figuring out who should win. Even Las Vegas is having trouble. Oregon opened as a 1-point favorite, and now Washington State is a 3-point favorite, with money wagered on the Cougars sending the line in the other direction.
Washington State might seem to have the edge coming off the bye week, but the Cougars are 1-3 in their past four games coming off byes. The one victory was a 51-33 home win over Oregon in 2016.
The Cougars seem to match up well against Oregon, winning the past three meetings, including 33-10 last year in Eugene. But the Ducks’ touted quarterback, Justin Herbert, missed last year’s game with an injury and in 2016 he had yet to become a starter as a true freshman, only playing when the game was out of hand.
“They’re a good, solid team,” said Washington State coach Mike Leach of Oregon, not really answering the question of whether the Ducks were a good matchup for the Cougars. “The biggest thing is, they run well so you’ve got to attack the whole field.”
The Ducks have a new head coach in Mario Cristobal, but Jim Leavitt is in his second season as the Ducks’ defensive coordinator.
“They’ll give you some different looks in the secondary, but they’re quite similar (to last year),” Leach said. “Jim Leavitt’s done this for years and he’s going to stick with what he does. Like all of us, if he found something he liked better, he’d do it.”
This will be the first time that WSU has had to game plan against Herbert, and Leach is impressed with what he sees from the Ducks QB.
“He does a good job of running the unit, and he can run a little bit, but he’s more effective throwing it,” Leach said. “But they are kind of a running team, I think. They are one that has that balance that appeals to people. They are 50-50 (actually 61 percent run, 39 percent pass).”
But the time for analysis is almost over.
“We’re always excited to play Oregon,” Leach said.
Where is the ‘WSU Popcorn Guy’?
With “College GameDay” coming to Pullman, will the “WSU Popcorn Guy” make an appearance?
In 2013, during Washington State’s 55-17 loss at home to Stanford, much of the crowd left early in the ESPN-televised game. Cameras caught “The Popcorn Guy” dumping a bag of popcorn into his mouth, with a good portion missing its target. He became the star of the final minutes of the game, and in highlights afterward.
Even coach Mike Leach noticed the guy in the stands and was happy someone was having fun.
But what happened to the WSU Popcorn Guy? He has not been seen since.
The Pullman Police Department put out an “Attempt to Locate” bulletin on its Facebook page, saying, “Aside from stealing the show, this subject has not committed any crime. This ATL is issued for College GameDay and entertainment purposes only.”