It’s a Pac-12 double-dip this week as Oregon and Washington represent the National Game of the Week.
The Ducks dominated this series from 2004-2015, winning all 12 games by an average of 23.75 points. The Huskies bounced back with big wins in 2016 (70-21) and 2017 (38-3). Last year, these two teams played an overtime thriller, with Oregon prevailing, 30-27.
The Ducks opened the season with a last-minute loss to Auburn, 27-21, but have rattled off five straight victories to enter this game 5-1. In the five wins, Oregon has outscored opponents 195-25 and scored 27 touchdowns compared to just one touchdown allowed.
The high-octane Ducks offense is led by senior quarterback Justin Herbert, who has thrown a touchdown in 34 consecutive games. Herbert’s top target, senior tight end Jacob Breeland, is now out for the year with an injury, but the Ducks have plenty of other targets. Junior receivers Jaylon Redd and Johnny Johnson III have combined for seven touchdowns this season. Additionally, dynamic freshman receiver Mycah Pittman has returned from a foot injury and could pick up the slack from Breeland being out. On the ground, sophomores CJ Verdell and Travis Dye lead the team in rushes and yards, while sophomore Cyrus Habibi-Likio has dominated goal line carries.
Defensively, there isn’t another team playing better than Oregon. The Ducks have allowed just one touchdown in their last five games. The defense is led by do-everything senior linebacker Troy Dye, who leads the team in tackles, is second in tackles for loss and has an interception. In the secondary, sophomore safety Jevon Holland leads the team with three interceptions, while freshman cornerback Verone McKinley III has two interceptions, both of which were last week in the win over Colorado.
Washington enters the game at 5-2, with both losses coming against Pac-12 North opponents – Cal and Stanford. In a bounce back game last week, the Huskies defeated Arizona, 51-27, to give the Wildcats their first conference loss this season.
The Washington offense has a very similar look to that of years past, though the faces and names have changed. A trio of running backs, juniors Salvon Ahmed and Sean McGrew, along with freshman Richard Newton, lead a run-first offense. They’ve combined for more than 1,100 yards and 13 touchdowns this season. Junior quarterback Jacob Eason has taken over at quarterback and played efficiently. The big-armed transfer from Georgia has thrown for 13 touchdowns and just three interceptions in seven games. Senior receiver Aaron Fuller and junior tight end Hunter Bryant lead the Washington receiving corps.
On defense, the Huskies have been very opportunistic. Washington ranks second in the Pac-12 with 13 turnovers forced this season, which the Huskies have turned into 11 scores, eight touchdowns and three field goals. Washington has also limited the big play this year by allowing just one play of 40 or more yards and only 11 plays of 30 or more yards. Senior defensive back Myles Bryant is the only returner in the secondary from a year ago and is playing like the leader of the defense. Bryant leads the team with 44 tackles and 4.5 tackles for loss. He also has two interceptions, which is second on the team behind freshman defensive back Cameron Williams, who has three picks this season.
In this century, these two Northwest rivals have had just three games where the outcome was within 10 points. One of those three was last season, and I’d expect a similar outcome this year.