PULLMAN - The third-ranked Oregon Ducks lead the nation in scoring, offense and baloney.
After Oregon smoked Stanford, 52-31, to remain undefeated and climb to third in the national rankings, Ducks cornerback Cliff Harris told reporters that Saturday’s game with the Washington State Cougars “will be a bigger game than this game. We will take them just as seriously.”
Too bad no one can take Harris seriously. After all, Stanford was undefeated, ranked No. 9 and one of four teams tied with Oregon for first place in the Pacific-10 Conference. The Cougars are 1-4, tied with Arizona State for last, and haven’t won a Pac-10 game in two years.
Saturday’s game pits the nation’s leading offense (560 yards per game) against a defense ranked 118th out of 120 teams (510 ypg). Oregon scores 57 points per game (first); WSU gives up 43 (118th). Oregon averages 331 rushing yards (second); WSU yields 255 (117th).
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Oregon sophomore LaMichael James is second in the nation with 178 rushing yards per game. He’s coming off a career-best 257-yard rushing effort against a Stanford defense that is regarded as vastly superior to the Cougars’ defense.
Oregon’s offense is so prolific that it’s easy to overlook the fact that the Ducks (5-0 overall, 2-0 Pac-10) rank 15th in scoring defense (15 points per game) and fourth in pass efficiency defense (95.13 rating). Harris is tied for first with four interceptions, and he leads all punt returners with a whopping 28.1-yard average.
Oregon is favored by 341/2 points. The Ducks have defeated WSU three straight years by an average score of 56-9. Last week, Oregon scored 52 points against a Stanford team that had shut out UCLA, and the Bruins scored 42 against the Cougars last week.
Game time is 2 p.m. The Cougars said they could not work out an arrangement for live TV at a suitable time that did not conflict with other Pac-10 television obligations.
To deal with Oregon’s explosive spread option offense, WSU freshmen C.J. Mizell and Sekope Kaufusi have replaced junior starter Mike Ledgerwood and senior backup Hallston Higgins as the Cougars’ top two middle linebackers. WSU true freshman Marquess Wilson leads the Pac-10 with 458 receiving yards. He’s on pace to become the fifth WSU receiver with more than 1,100 receiving yards in a season. Only three of the 120 Football Bowl Subdivision teams have allowed more sacks than WSU (18). Oregon is tied for first with just one sack allowed. Senior tackle Micah Hannam is set to break Mike Utley’s WSU record for offensive linemen when he makes his 43rd straight start Saturday. Versus will televise WSU’s Oct. 30 home game with Arizona.