Posted by Chip Patterson
OREGON WILL WIN IF: They maintain their speed and pace on both sides of the ball. Washington State is at a disadvantage in most aspects of this matchup, and nothing exposes them more than keeping them on their heels. The Ducks were able to pound Colorado with backup quarterback Brian Bennett in place of Darron Thomas and without LaMichael James. I expect that even if James and Thomas sit again there will be a similar result. After starting 3-1, the Cougars are reeling right now on a three-game losing streak. If the Ducks start fast and jump out to an early lead I don't expect Paul Wulff's squad to be the type to mount a big comeback in Autzen Stadium.
WASHINGTON STATE WILL WIN IF: Washington State might be down a quarterback as well Jeff Tuel's availability for Saturday depends on the status of his left shoulder. Tuel needs to be 100 percent (he also is suffering from a sore calf) for the Cougars to run their offense, and their defense has to spend this week in practice getting ready to play at Oregon's speed. By my calculations, the best chance Washington State has of beating Oregon on Saturday is if Darron Thomas, LaMichael James, Kenjon Barner, De'Anthony Thomas, Brian Bennett, Tre Carson, David Paulson, and the Ducks' entire first-string defense decide to sit out. Seriously.
X-FACTOR: This is final warm-up before the Ducks face the toughest challenges on their Pac-12 schedule. After what I expect to be a multi-touchdown victory in Autzen, Oregon goes on the road to face Washington, Stanford, and then hosts USC in consecutive weeks. It will be interesting to see if head coach Chip Kelly decides to use Darron Thomas and/or LaMichael James against the Cougars, and if so in what capacity. The Ducks should be able to win handily without them, but Kelly could use the softer competition to get them back to game speed before hitting the road next week.
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