No. 23 Washington at No. 2 Oregon
Saturday, 10:30 PM, ESPN
Line: Oregon -24.5
Both of these teams currently give up 19.8 points per game. The major difference, and the reason for the over three touchdown line, is that Washington is scoring 23.3 points per game. Oregon is scoring 52.4 points per game. The Huskies are coming off of an upset of Stanford last Thursday, defeating the Cardinal at (their temporary) home in Seattle, 17-13. The Ducks come off of a victory over the Huskies hated rivals, Washington State, 51-26.
For Washington to win: Defense, defense, defense. Sticking to assignment and not getting caught up in the misdirection. Oregon is most dangerous when you make a mistake, allowing a small gain to become a big play. With Oregon, you know you are going to face a solid running game, especially at the edge off of the zone read, and the intermediate passing game based off of play action. Chip Kelly wants his playmakers to get the ball in space, and let their abilities take over from there.
It will be important for the Huskies to pay attention to the keys on each play and be disciplined in their apporoach to coverage and tackling. The Ducks top seven rushers this season are all averaging over four yards a carry (lead by Kenjon Barner, who has 605 yards and nine touchdowns), and as a team are averaging 303 yards per game on the ground. Washington has allowed 147.25 yards per game on the ground, although they held the run heavy Cardinal to 70 yards on 28 carries last week.
For Oregon to win: Get off to a better start. The Ducks have struggled early in their last two games before pulling away in the second half against Arizona and Washington State. The Ducks have also started slow in their last two games against Washington before running away in the second half of those games. Washington has not demonstrated a lot of offense this season, currently ranking 107 in the country in total offense (313.25 yards per game).
Given the Ducks breakneck pacing eventually wears opponents down, a slow start might not be that big a deal. But continually getting off to slow starts is eventually going to bite them at some point. If an opponent has little offense and your offense can score in less than 60 seconds, a couple of early scores could be enough to make this an easy victory.
Key Player, Washington: Bishop Sankee, RB. Yes, defense will help the Huskies win, but they will still need to score some points. Sankee played well in the upset of Stanford, going for 144 yards on 20 carries. If the Huskies are going to pull off an upset for the second week in a row, the offense should run through the sophomore running back from Spokane.
Key Player, Oregon: Marcus Mariota, QB. Kenjon Barner and DeAnthony Thomas are the nitrous canisters for the Ducks spread and shred attack, but Mariota needs to be the solid engine at the core. His numbers have looked pretty pedestrian the last two weeks in conference play, which seems strange when his teams have scored 100 points in those two games. But Mariota needs to become a bigger part of the offense and more of a dual threat or the box will become a bit more loaded for Thomas and Barner.
Key Stat: 17.5 to 8. That is the average score at halftime for the last two Washington versus Oregon games. Both times, the Ducks pulled away in the second half. Is the third time a charm for the Huskies? Tune in Saturday night to find out.