No. 7 Oregon (7-1) at Washington (4-4)
4:30 p.m. Saturday, Husky Stadium.
TV: ABC. Radio: SportsRadio 950 KJR.
Latest line: Ducks by 6.5.
UW key players
QB Dylan Morris: 60.9% completions, 1,809 passing yards, 11 passing TD, 8 INT, 2 rush TD
WR Jalen McMillan: 27 catches, 392 receiving yards, 14.5 yards per reception, 3 TD
OLB Zion Tupuola-Fetui: 2 tackles, 1 sack (three games)
ILB Carson Bruener: 31 tackles, 2 forced fumbles, 1 sack, 1 tackle for loss
Oregon key players
QB Anthony Brown: 64.7% completions, 1,797 passing yards, 10 pass TD, 3 INT, 365 rush yards, 4.6 yards per carry, 6 rush TD
RB Travis Dye: 609 rushing yards, 5.7 YPC, 10 rush TD, 24 catches, 264 receiving yards, 1 receiving TD
LB Noah Sewell: 69 tackles, 6.5 TFL, 3 sacks, 2 pass breakups, 1 forced fumble
CB Mykael Wright: 49 tackles, 4 PBU, 3 TFL, 1 INT, 1 FF
Stuffing the run
UW may feel like its run defense turned the corner in Saturday’s win over Stanford, as the Huskies held the Cardinal to just 67 rushing yards and 2.4 yards per carry. But the fact remains that UW has still allowed four opponents — Michigan, Oregon State, UCLA and Arizona — to gain more than 200 yards on the ground. Entering Saturday’s game, UW ranks 10th in the Pac-12 in both rushing defense (179.63 yards allowed per game) and opponent yards per carry (4.68). On the other side, Oregon touts one of the Pac-12’s premier ground games, ranking second in rushing offense (204.9 yards per game) and third in yards per carry (5.34). In a 52-29 thumping of Colorado last weekend, Travis Dye gained 122 total yards and scored three touchdowns, while true freshman Byron Cardwell added 127 yards and a score on a whopping 18.1 yards per carry. Will Washington’s defense be up to the task? Time will tell.
The turnover battle
When asked last week for one specific thing he’d like to improve on offense, UW head coach Jimmy Lake said: “It still goes back to protecting the football. That’s the No. 1 thing. We took a step last week (against Arizona), of not turning the ball over. And if we can continue to do that, we will be in position to win football games.” The Huskies didn’t turn the ball over against Stanford, and they won the football game. In fact, the Huskies are 4-1 this season when they come out even or ahead in the turnover battle, and 0-3 when they don’t. Oregon, meanwhile, leads the Pac-12 and ranks ninth in the nation in turnover margin (1.0) — forcing 16 turnovers in eight games, while committing just eight. UW needs to protect the football on Saturday evening. It also needs to provide a pass rush, make quarterback Anthony Brown uncomfortable and take the ball away. And if it can do that, the statistics say UW will have an opportunity to upset its foremost rival.
Both of these teams are plenty accustomed to close games. UW is 3-3 in one-score games this season, and each of its five conference games have been decided by seven points or less. Oregon is also 4-1 in one-score games. The last two games in this rivalry have also come down to crunch time, as Oregon came from behind for a 30-27 overtime win in 2018 and a 35-31 victory inside Husky Stadium the following season. So, regardless of record, there’s a pretty good chance this game is going to be close. Lake said prior to the Arizona game that “you guys see the results of all the different Pac-12 games going on this year, and really around the country. Every game has been close. And so, we would love to make it easy on the fans and ourselves by coasting to an easy victory by multiple touchdowns, but we’ve also got to prepare ourselves that we’re going to be in some battles. We’re going to be in some dogfights.” How will the Huskies handle that situation on Saturday? Will they make plays when it matters most?
The Stanford win was inarguably UW’s best of the season. The Huskies carry a two-game winning streak into their rivalry game against Oregon, with a premier opportunity to knock the Ducks out of contention for the College Football Playoff. The problem? These Ducks run the ball, they stop the run and they take the ball away. And for UW, that’s a pretty tough formula to top. To pull the upset, the Huskies will likely need the best game of quarterback Dylan Morris’ career, as well as some semblance of a running game, a pass rush and a capable run defense. They’ll also likely require a convenient turnover or two. Against a defense that has pulled in a conference-best 11 interceptions, Morris must distribute the football to playmakers like tight end Cade Otton and wide receivers Terrell Bynum, Jalen McMillan and Rome Odunze. As they have in their last two meetings, the Huskies will put up a fight on Saturday, but Oregon will ultimately outlast their northern rivals. In winning time, the Ducks will wear the Huskies down.
Final score: Ducks 27, Huskies 20