WASHINGTON HUSKIES (6-4, 3-4 in Pac-12) at OREGON STATE BEAVERS (6-4, 4-3)
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Reser Stadium
The line: None
Radio: 950 AM
It’s not really possible to overstate the significance of this game for the Washington Huskies.
In the eyes of many fans, last week’s defeat at UCLA eliminated any chance of this being a next-step kind of season for UW. But there are still a few on board with that idea — coach Steve Sarkisian and at least the players we spoke with this week are among that group — and so we have Saturday night’s game in Corvallis, the super-duper, for-real-this-time last chance for the Huskies to put a positive spin on a season that hasn’t gone the way they expected.
This is the most recent must-win situation in a season full of them. A loss means a 7-win regular season is the ceiling. And it would put the possibility of a 6-6 season at the forefront of a lot of folks’ minds when Washington State visits for the Apple Cup next weekend.
So there is considerable pressure on the Huskies to record their first Pac-12 road victory since beating Colorado on Nov. 17 last year.
They might be without Keith Price, too. Sarkisian said Thursday that he would likely make his decision today as to who will start at quarterback. Price, who injured his shoulder last week against UCLA, rested for most of the week before throwing on Thursday. Sarkisian seemed to like what he saw, but said he needed to see how Price responds today before deciding if he can play. No word from UW yet on that matter.
Whether it’s Price or backup Cyler Miles, you have to think the Huskies will rely on Bishop Sankey to carry the load in this one. OSU’s rushing defense isn’t all that great — the Beavers allow nearly 4.4 yards per carry — and with a banged-up Price or a green Miles, it would make sense to hand him the ball.
Conversely, this will be the biggest test of the year for Washington’s pass defense, which ranks first in the conference in passing yards allowed per game. Sean Mannion and Brandin Cooks are the best pass-catch combo in the Pac-12, and if the Huskies don’t apply necessary pressure on Mannion in the pocket, he’s going to pick them apart. UW’s secondary has played well for much of this year, but they need help from the defensive front to contain Mannion.
When it comes to predicting the outcome, this feels a little like last week. Washington can win. It is certainly talented enough. But this is another house of horrors for the Huskies — they haven’t won in Reser Stadium since 2003 — and OSU is just as desperate as UW for something to feel good about.
Again, just can’t quite justify going against history here. The pick: Oregon State 34, Washington 27.
Christian Caple can be reached at email@example.com. Twitter: @ChristianCaple