Washington State knows exactly what the ninth-ranked Oregon Ducks have in store for them Saturday. Offense, offense, and more offense.
Cougars coach Bill Doba ticked off Oregon's strengths: Quarterback Dennis Dixon, running backs Jonathan Stewart and Jeremiah Johnson, receivers Jaison Williams and Cameron Colvin, and even the offensive line.
The fact that Oregon (4-1, 1-1 Pacific-10) runs a fast spread-option makes it an even bigger challenge.
"If you're going one-on-one on Dixon, and he shakes somebody and you're locked up in man coverage, you know it's going to be a big play," Doba said. "You have to pressure some, in passing situations, but the added threat of the option makes it more difficult."
The driving force of the option offense is Dixon, ranked fourth nationally in passing efficiency (169.0). He's adept at either passing or running himself, racking up about 309 yards in total offense a game. The only QB in the Pac-10 with more is Washington State's Alex Brink, averaging about 316 yards.
Oregon is ranked sixth nationally in total offense, averaging nearly 529 yards. The rushing offense ranks fourth with an average of 278 yards.
The Ducks have had extra time to get healthy and prepare for Washington State. Oregon was coming off a bye after a hard-fought 31-24 loss to California at Autzen Stadium.
"It seems like we're starting all over, like we're starting from day one. Everyone is real loose (in practice), everyone is going all-out, the effort is great," Dixon said.
Thanks to several upsets Saturday, Oregon moved up in the rankings from No. 14 even though they were off. Among the upsets was USC's 24-23 loss to Stanford. Cal, which also had a bye, jumped from No. — to No. 2.
The Cougars (2-4, 0-3) could be without one of their top offensive players, receiver Brandon Gibson, when they visit Eugene.
Gibson leads the Pac-10 with 6.5 catches and 94.5 yards per game. He suffered a heel bruise in Washington State's 23-20 loss to Arizona State last weekend.
The Cougars nearly upset the then-No. 18 Sun Devils before a late field goal gave ASU the victory. It was the third straight loss for the Cougars, but they held Arizona State to just 296 total yards.
"You're never happy with a loss, and people can say they're never happy," Doba said. "But, I'm going to tell you, at least you came off the field and you felt respectable. I know that's not the proper thing to say for a coach."
The game will be a homecoming for Brink, who grew up in Eugene and led Sheldon High to a state championship. It will be his first on-field appearance at Autzen Stadium with the Cougars.
Brink has completed 160 of 247 passes for 1,828 yards, with 17 touchdowns and 5 interceptions in six games this season. He already holds the school career records for pass attempts and pass completions. Last week he set the record for passing yards, with 8,923.
He is only four touchdowns short of passing Jason Gesser's career record of 70.
"He's just an all-around playmaker. It starts with him on offense. Their team revolves around him," Oregon cornerback Jairus rd said. "We gotta be ready for a great game because they're a team that's never out of it. He's just a great quarterback."
While Brink has a chance to make a statement against Oregon, which didn't recruit him heavily out of high school, he's more concerned this week about putting the Cougars back on track.
Washington State is at the bottom of the Pac-10 rankings and must win five of the remaining six games to hope of making a bowl game.
The Cougars haven't been to a bowl for the past three seasons.
"We need to win a football game bad," Brink said. "That's first and foremost."
The Cougars upset then-No. 16 Oregon 34-23 last year in Pullman. The last time they visited Autzen Stadium, in 2003, they won 55-16.
Cougars know what the Ducks can do