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Kerry says: Defense will decide Dad's Weekend in the Palouse

There's a famous college coach who likes to say that every game is a Super Bowl.

Saturday's clash between Oregon State and Washington State at Pullman is something less than that. But it's important, nonetheless, to the parties involved.

The Beavers (4-1 overall, 2-0 in Pac-12 play) have a chance to win their fifth straight game and improve to 3-0 in conference. The Cougars (4-2, 2-1) can take another step toward respectability with a win before a sellout Martin Stadium crowd on Dad's Weekend.

The victor will also move within a victory of becoming bowl-eligible. For the Cougars, it would be a first bowl appearance since Bill Doba's 2003 club beat Texas in the Holiday Bowl.

The experts rate this a toss-up. Odds in Las Vegas range from "pick 'em" to Washington State as a 1 1/2-point favorite.

These are two of the top eight passing teams in the nation. Or, looking at it another way, two of the worst three rushing teams in all of the FBS.

The difference is, Washington State doesn't really care to run, except to make it easier to pass.

Oregon State wants to run. So far, the Beavers have simply been unable to do it.

Both offenses will have success throwing the ball Saturday. The team that plays the better defense will probably win.

Washington State's defense has played well in five of its six games. In the Cougars' 55-17 loss at Stanford, the Cardinal scored on five "explosive" plays -- passes covering 57, 33 and 45 yards and runs of 53 and 22 yards -- along with a pair of 30-yard interception returns. Other than that, the Cougars played a lot of good defense against the nation's fifth-ranked team.

Oregon State has played plenty of good defense in recent weeks, too. The Beavers will try to put some pressure on WSU quarterback Connor Halliday and force the 6-4, 195-pound junior -- who has thrown 10 interceptions in five games -- to make quick decisions. OSU ranks 14th nationally in opponents' third-down conversion percentage (18 of 63, .286), a trend the Beavers would like to continue.

With their offensive line healthier than it has been all season and tailback Storm Woods back in the lineup, the Beavers will attempt to run. But they have had so much success throwing the ball, they won't get away from that, either.

If it goes down to the wire, the game features two of the best place-kickers in the Pac-12. WSU senior Andrew Furney is 39 for 51 in field-goal attempts in his career, including 8 for 10 this year, with a long of 46 yards. OSU junior Trevor Romaine is 37 for 48 in his career, including 6 for 8 this year, with a long of 49 yards.

Oregon State is the better team. If the Beavers play well, they won't need a Romaine 3-pointer in the clutch to win. They'll send the Cougar dads home unhappy on a cold, late evening in the Palouse.

THE PICK: Oregon State 38, Washington State 28