Here’s how No. 17 Oregon and No. 7 Washington stack up against each other:
The Oregon offense is, once again, one of the best in the Pac-12. It has been smooth most of the season, sputtering at times when the running game isn’t working. The offense’s most potent weapon is quarterback Justin Herbert. He leads the conference in efficiency rating and is second in touchdown passes. The biggest development is Herbert’s chemistry with wide receiver Dillon Mitchell. He’s become Herbert’s go-to guy, catching 21 of his total 27 receptions over the last two games. But for Oregon to succeed against Washington, it will need to run the ball well. Last game, against Cal, the running game failed to move the ball early. Freshmen running backs CJ Verdell and Travis Dye carried the load and eventually broke free. They’ll need to produce against a stout Washington defense.
The Huskies’ defense is and will be the best the Ducks face all season. It leads the Pac-12 in fewest yards allowed per game and is led by a talented secondary. Taylor Rapp is a safety, yet he ranks tied for third in the Pac-12 in sacks with four. The secondary is only allowing 174 passing yards per game, but they do not intercept quarterbacks often. The two interceptions rank in the in bottom of the Pac-12. The defense doesn’t sack the quarterback often either, ranking 10th in the conference. They’ll need to get to Herbert to slow him down, something defenses haven’t done yet. Despite the odd numbers, the Washington defense is filled with talent, and opponents have struggled to make big plays.
This matchup will come down to whether Oregon’s wide receivers can separate from Washington’s secondary. If that can happen, then the Oregon offense will succeed. Overall, we haven’t seen Oregon play a defense at this level this year.
Quarterback Jake Browning is a four-year starter and Washington’s career leader in passing yards and touchdowns. He has big game experience and experience pummeling the Ducks in Autzen Stadium. While his numbers are good again — 251 yards per game, 67 percent completion percentage — his touchdown to interception ratio is his worst since freshman year. He has nine touchdown passes to five interceptions; Browning has been sloppy with the ball at times this year. Senior running back and four-year starter Myles Gaskin is the opposite. He has yet to fumble the ball, but his production is the lowest in four years. The Huskies’ offense ranks eighth in the Pac-12 in rushing, and Gaskin is averaging 4.5 yards per carry, the lowest of his career.
Oregon’s defense has fluctuated between dominance and mediocrity all season. Against Stanford, it looked like they could stop anything in the first half, but Stanford passed the ball at will in the second half. Against Cal, the Golden Bears could move the ball on the ground, but the Ducks caused turnovers on crucial drives. Oregon could be able to take advantage of Washington in the turnover department. The Ducks’ defense leads the Pac-12 in interceptions and is top three in sacks. Oregon’s defense has been good against the run all season. Overall, it ranks first in the Pac-12. But in conference play only, those numbers drop to fifth. Oregon’s passing defense is one of the worst in the conference, only ahead of UCLA and Oregon State. The interceptions are the saving grace. The secondary can be in the right place at the right time.
The Washington offense is the most balanced attack Oregon has faced yet. If the Ducks’ defense can give Browning the turnover bug, then Oregon can hold Washington down. If they allow Washington to throw it around Autzen Stadium, then that can open up the run game, causing all kinds of problems.
Follow Jack Butler on Twitter @Butler917