The winner between Oregon State and Washington State on Saturday will become eligible to continue playing into the postseason, and one Cougar is guaranteeing it will be his team.
Running back Max Borghi made the prediction after Washington State’s win last weekend over Stanford.
“We just gotta carry it into next week and have a great week of practice and prepare for Oregon State because we’re going bowling, guaranteeing that, because we’re gonna win next week,” said Borghi, who leads the Pac-12 with 6.9 yards per carry and has 60 receptions to lead all running backs nationally.
Cougars coach Mike Leach said he wasn’t much for predictions.
“We need to focus on our job,” Leach said. “If he does a good job of focusing on his job our chances are better.”
Oregon State coach Jonathan Smith said he didn’t take Borghi’s comment that seriously.
“We don’t need any extra motivation for this game,” Smith said. “It feels better to be end of the year playing for something.”
The Cougars (5-5, 2-5 Pac-12) have a five-game winning streak over Oregon State but the Beavers are the hotter team.
Oregon State (5-5, 4-3) is coming off a 35-34 win over Arizona State at home and has won three of its past four games. The Beavers are having their best season since 2014 under second-year coach Smith.
Washington State, meanwhile, had lost five of its previous six before routing Stanford.
Both teams feature quarterbacks having outstanding seasons.
Washington State’s Anthony Gordon leads the nation in passing yards (4,314), passing yards per game (431) and touchdown passes (39). The senior, in his only year as a starter, has thrown for 400 or more yards in eight games. His 39 touchdown passes broke the team season record of 38 set by Luke Falk and Gardner Minshew.
Gordon also has seven receivers with at least 30 catches this season.
“It’s been a challenge to get to their quarterback,” Smith said. “They’re not giving up a lot of sacks. And you’ve still got to account for the ground game.”
Oregon State quarterback Jake Luton has thrown for 2,306 yards, with 23 touchdowns against only two interceptions. His favorite target is Isaiah Hodgins, who has 73 receptions for 1,021 yards and a league-leading 13 touchdowns.
“Big, strong arm. Fires the ball,” Leach said in describing Luton. “He’s key in elevating their offense.”
Leach is third in Washington State history with 54 wins. He trails O.E. Hollingberry, who had 93 between 1926 and 1942, and Mike Price, who had 83 between 1989 and 2002. Leach is the first coach to lead the Cougars to four consecutive bowl games. The first 10,000 fans at Saturday’s game will receive a talking Mike Leach head.
Saturday is Senior Day at Washington State, which closes the regular season next week at archrival Washington, but don’t expect Leach to get sentimental. “You’ll have journalists and well-wishers get choked up over the deal,” Leach said. “Our head’s focused on going out there and playing a game ... so you guys have fun with your Senior Day and we’ll try to get a first down.”
Oregon State averages 34 rushing attempts per game, while Washington State allows 174 rushing yards per game. Oregon State is last in the Pac-12 by allowing 180 rushing yards per game.
Oregon State is one of five teams in the nation to start the season 0-2 and enter this week with at least five wins. The others are Miami, Tennessee, Florida International and Liberty.
Oregon State linebacker Hamilcar Rashed Jr. has 14 sacks this season and leads the nation with 22.5 tackles for loss.