Saturday night's Oregon State-Washington game is a tough one to pick because of the uncertain status of Husky quarterback Keith Price.
We'll find out Thursday if Price's sore throwing shoulder is good enough to play. After hearing UW coach Steve Sarkisian's comments after Wednesday's practice sessions, I'm kind of thinking Price will be available, with redshirt freshman Cyler Miles waiting in the wings in case the starter gets knocked out again.
Oregon State's defense played well in the 30-17 loss at Arizona State last Saturday, holding the Sun Devils to 339 yards total offense and three offensive points in the second half. Six of OSU's last seven opponents have been under 400 yards total offense.
Washington, meanwhile, is second in the Pac-12 in total offense (507.5 yards per game) and third in rushing offense (216.3). Bishop Sankey, a 5-11, 205-pound junior tailback, ranks fourth nationally in rushing with 1,396 yards and 14 touchdowns and is on pace to break Corey Dillon's school single-season record. I consider Sankey the best at his position in the conference.
So Oregon State's run defense will be a key. Another: How the Huskies' pass defense, No. 1 in the Pac-12 at 207.1 yards per game, fares against OSU's pass offense, No. 1 in the Pac-12 and No. 2 nationally at 396.3.
Oregon State's pass protection, good most of the season, must hold up against a UW pass rush led by 6-3, 250-pound junior end Hau'oli Kikaha (seven sacks) and 6-1, 215-pound senior linebacker Princeton Fuimaono (a team-high 71 tackles).
Washington, like Arizona State, will focus on stopping OSU's Brandin Cooks, who needs 90 receiving yards to advance from eighth to second place on the Pac-12 single-season list and break Mike Hass' school record.
The desire factor should be off the charts for both teams. Oregon State, in a three-game losing streak, desperately wants to clinch a winning season and put itself in position for a better bowl. Washington, loser of four of its last six overall and its last three games on the road, is in similar straits.
"I'm tired of being right there," says Sarkisian, whose Huskies haven't always been "right there" in losses, losing 45-24 to Oregon, 53-24 to ASU and 41-31 to UCLA. "I want to win those games. We have to knock that door down. (The Beavers) are as hungry as we are. Both teams have been backed into a corner."
Washington beat Oregon State 20-17 in Seattle last year, but the Beavers have won seven of the last nine match-ups in the series. With or without Price playing, I see it becoming eight out of 10.
THE PICK: Oregon State 30, Washington 24