Cougars Vs. Beavers - Who Has The Edge? - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Cougars Vs. Beavers - Who Has The Edge?

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PULLMAN, Wash. -

The countdown is on in Pullman, Washington, as the Cougars will host their first Pac-12 game at Martin Stadium. WSU welcomes in 4-1 Oregon State on Saturday for a battle that could have major bowl implications down the road.

Here's a breakdown of the top comparisons for Saturday's game:

 

Connor Halliday vs. Sean Mannion

 

Oregon State quarterback Sean Mannion is only a junior, but why does it feel like he's a 6th year senior? The numbers are probably part of the reason. He's caught fire in his first five games of the season, throwing for a Pac-12 leading 403.6 yards per game and a remarkable 21 touchdown passes. The junior is completing two-thirds of his passes, and in a total of 238 attempts he's only thrown two interceptions.

Washington State's Connor Halliday may lead the league in toughness, but his numbers don't quite stack up to Mannion. Halliday is 65% of his throws for an average of 332.2 yards per game. The junior even has 13 touchdown passes already, but the biggest difference is turnovers.

Halliday is at the top of the Pac-12 for interceptions, throwing ten picks in six games. Connor can throw with the best of them, but an ill-advised throw has become too common when watching the Cougars. A decision like that versus the Beavers could make the difference. It certainly did last year, when OSU picked off Halliday three times, leading to a Jeff Tuel appearance, and an eventual WSU loss.

- Quarterback Edge goes to Mannion -

 

OSU Receivers vs. WSU Receivers

 

It's hard to look past Oregon State here mostly because of Brandin Cooks. The junior leads the Pac-12 in receiving touchdowns with nine, receptions per game with 10.4, and receiving yards per game with 161.4. Compare that to the top Cougar wide receiver Gabe Marks. The sophomore averages 6.8 receptions and 79.7 yards per game. Cooks nearly doubles that.

Even Cooks' teammate Richard Mullaney is in the top 11 for Pac-12 receivers, averaging five receptions for nearly 80 yards per game. Unquestionably, the Beavers sport one of the top wide receivers pairs in the league. In terms of a unit though, the Cougars might have the advantage.

WSU sports 11 different players with ten or more receptions so far this season, compared to OSU's seven. That list for the Cougars includes six different receivers who have 180 yards or more this season. Oregon State only sports three receivers with 180 yards.

The Beavers might have the top two, but anyone on the receiving end of a Connor Halliday pass can be a threat. A prime example is WSU's Vince Mayle. The freshman only has 11 receptions this season, but four of those have gone for touchdowns, including a 72 yard touchdown pass last Saturday against Cal.

- Receiving Edge goes to WSU -

 

Beaver D vs. Cougar D

 

The biggest thing when you compares these numbers is that OSU has only played in five games, while WSU has played in six. The Cougars lead the Pac-12 in interceptions with nine on the year. The Cougar defense has also forced five fumbles, 11 sacks, and 40 tackles for loss.

In a game less, Oregon State ranks second in the Pac-12 with eight interceptions, along with a fumble, 12 sacks, and 36 tackles for loss.

More or less, the numbers are identical.

In terms of leaders, safety Deone Bucannon anchors the Cougar defense, while the Beavers also have a safety leading their charge with junior Tyrequek Zimmerman. Both players lead their team in tackles, with Bucannon tied atop the Pac-12 with four interceptions.

Outside of OSU's Zimmerman though, his teammate Steven Nelson has also picked off four balls in just five games and lineman Scott Krichton averages about two tackles for loss per game.

Bucannon might be the best on the field, but the Beavers might have more weapons, especially ones who can pressure quarterback Connor Halliday.

- Defensive Edge goes slightly to Oregon State -

 

X-FACTOR: Special Teams

 

On paper this game looks like it will be a high-scoring affair with little things making the difference. Special teams could be that difference with a return for a touchdown or field goals.

The punting edge might go to OSU with Keith Kostol already booming six punts of over 50 yards this season. WSU's Mike Bowlin has struggled at times this year, especially versus Stanford. Neither team can afford to give the other offense good field position.

In terms of kickers, it's WSU's Andrew Furney versus OSU's Trevor Romain. Furney has made 8-10 for FG's, including 5-6 from 40 yards plus. While for the Beavers, Romain is 6-8 for FG's, going just 1-3 from kicks 40 yards or longer. Furney also struck a perfect 23-23 on PAT's, compared to Romain's 22-23.

Throw in the fact that Furney is a senior compared to the junior Romain, and the edge might go slightly to the Cougars.

For returns, neither team has a return for a touchdown this season, but as a team WSU holds a slight yards advantage in kickoff returns and punt returns.

One other factor to think about is blocked kicks. Both teams have one this year, including Washington State's Toni Pole who came up with a pivotal blocked kick in the Cougar win against USC

- Edge goes slightly to WSU, mostly because of Furney -


Overall


You have to factor in the home field at Martin Stadium, and as of Thursday Washington State was favored by a point over Oregon State. Overall, I think the edge goes slightly to the Beavers though, mostly because of Mannion. Expect a big specials teams play from WSU, possibly coming from Ricky Galvin on a kick return. All and all, turnovers will make the difference come Saturday.

- Beavers win 45-41-

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    The Washington State football team will begin the season with a No. 24 ranking in the 2017 Associated Press preseason poll, released Monday. The Cougars' are one of four Pac-12 teams ranked in the Top 25 and it marks the third time in the history of the Associated Press poll.

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    Falk, a redshirt-senior, was also finalist for the Johnny Unitas Award and a semifinalist for the Davey O'Brien Award and Maxwell Award last season after throwing for the third-most yards in the country (4,468) and tying his own school-record with 38 touchdown passes.

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