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How Will the Cougars Open Conference Play?

The Cougars look to make it two in a row over Oregon?

Dom Williams making a catch in the Cougs’ win at Autzen last year

Saturday Night at Martin Stadium the Washington State Cougars will be opening up Pac-12 Conference play against the Oregon Ducks. The Cougars come into this matchup with a 1-2 record, but they are playing an Oregon team that is coming off two consecutive losses to come into this one with a 2-2 record. In last years game between these two the Cougars were able to pull out a 45-38 win in overtime at Autzen Stadium, so you would think the team would come into the game Saturday Night feeling like they are more than capable of pulling out a win and getting conference play started on the right note after a shaky non-conference slate.

Players to watch for Oregon: Running back Royce Freeman is expected to be back for the Ducks after missing last weeks loss against Colorado. This is not good news for the Cougars defense, considering Freeman ran for 246 yards in last years game and that was with Jeff Lockie playing quarterback. Dakota Prukop for the Ducks is no Vernon Adams or Marcus Mariota, but he’s certainly better than what the Cougars faced last year at quarterback for the Ducks in Eugene. Wide Receiver Darren Carrington should be a concern for a secondary that has been pretty shaky. Carrington is one of the better receivers in the conference and he is capable of stretching the field for the Ducks and creating big plays.

Keys for the Cougars: In this game it should be pretty obvious. Oregon is not very good on defense and the Cougars will likely move the ball, but when they get to the redzone they will need to score touchdowns instead of settling for field goals if they want to give themselves a good chance at winning this game. They should be able to move the ball both on the ground and in the air against a pretty vulnerable defense. Defensively, they will obviously have to try and bottle up Royce Freeman much better than they did in last years matchup, because with better quarterback play for the Ducks, if Freeman puts up close to those numbers it’ll be hard for the Cougs’ to overcome. They also need to try and limit Dakota Prukop’s opportunities at running the ball. He has proven early this season that he is a legitimate threat on the ground and if they allow him to get going on the ground it’ll make it much tougher for them to slow down the Oregon passing attack. They need to make a receiver besides Darren Carrington beat them in the passing game. The Ducks have a good receiving core, but it needs to be a guy like Dwayne Stanford or Pharaoh Brown and not the Ducks best target.

Other Info:

The game kicks off at 6:30 PM PT on the Pac-12 Network. The Ducks are 1.5 point favorites and the over/under is set at 75.5.