(Photo credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports)
The Pac-12 as we know it is near death.
But the conference has never been so alive in the College Football Playoff picture as Washington tries to stay perfect Saturday in Corvallis, Ore.
Saturday's marquee matchup offers No. 5 Washington the chance to solidify its shot at a College Football Playoff spot and No. 11 Oregon State an opportunity to force its way into the New Year's Six bowl conversation before getting a chance to make another statement against Oregon next week.
The Huskies have been a little short of impressive over the past few weeks as the Beavers have compiled a very strong resume.
We have stats, news, quotes and betting predictions for our college football (betting) game of the week.
--Kickoff: 7:30 p.m., ET
--Location: Reser Stadium, Corvallis, Ore.
--Point Spread, Total: Oregon State -2.5; Total 63.5 (BetMGM)
Since quirky Arizona State held the Huskies to 15 points a month ago, Washington's opponents have studied the Huskies, applied varied defensive concepts and still have allowed 42, 52 and 35 points the past three weeks.
Oregon State put up 62 last Saturday at home against Stanford, and its rushing attack has found a higher gear.
This has the makings of a shootout.
Oregon State' quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei, a transfer from Clemson, is a big, strong game manager.
His counterpart, Washington's Michael Penix Jr, has been among leading Heisman Trophy contenders all season and now faces a huge test.
Penix Jr. will need help from the running game, and from the vulnerable Huskies run defense (140 yards per game allowed).
Uiagalelei has major support from his lead rusher, Damien Martinez (more than 1,000 yards at 6.6 yards per carry), so the Beavers' home-crowd momentum could add to Washington's problems.
After five consecutive seasons of Washington victories as a double-digit favorite (as high as -37 in 2016), the past two seasons have seen Oregon State win at home 27-24 as a 2.5-point favorite and Washington win 27-21 in Seattle as a 4.5-point favorite.
The Huskies are 2-2 on the road against the spread this season and only 5-9 the past three seasons.
In those three seasons, Oregon State is 13-1 as a home favorite. That's not insignificant.
The pick: Oregon State 34, Washington 30
The bet: Parlay at -110 (DraftKings), teasing Oregon State to 3.5 with a teased over 58.5.
This matchup is likely the final duel for these Pacific Northwest schools for quite some time. The rivalry has become extremely competitive.
Washington comes into Corvallis off a 35-28 win over then-No. 16 Utah, but the Huskies have not looked the part of a dominant team recently.
"We've found ways to finish games and there are always areas where we could make it a little easier on ourselves probably," Washington coach Kalen DeBoer said.
"But I think every moment is a learning moment and a growth moment, we talk about those and I can see the corrections being made."
Both teams know they must have this game to stay alive for a shot at a big postseason payday, and even the conference champ isn't guaranteed a playoff spot, simply because there are four others ahead of Washington - and they're from the Big Ten (Ohio State, Michigan), SEC (Georgia) and ACC (Florida State).
Washington ranks fifth nationally in scoring offense at 41.0 points per game and sixth in total offense at 503.9 yards per contest.
Penix Jr. has passed for 3,533 yards, 28 touchdowns and seven interceptions while running back Dillon Johnson (790 yards, 11 touchdowns on the ground) is thriving after back-to-back efforts of 256 yards against Southern California and 104 in the win over Utah.
Oregon State is coming off a 62-17 annihilation of visiting Stanford. Martinez tied the school record of four rushing touchdowns in the first half before calling it a day. He has rushed for 1,024 yards while Uiagalelei has thrown for 2,254 yards, 20 touchdowns and four interceptions.
The Beavers also have developed a rabid atmosphere at remodeled Reser Stadium. Oregon State is 16-1 at home since the start of the 2021 season.
THEY SAID IT
"Kind of where the records are, that makes it big. That's a good program (Washington). They win a lot of games. We're playing late, Game 11. You want to play in the biggest games at the end of the year. This is a big one." --Oregon State coach Jonathan Smith
--Field Level Media