No. 5 Washington (5-0, 2-0 in Pac-12) at Oregon (2-3, 0-2 in Pac-12)
4:30 p.m. Saturday, Autzen Stadium, Eugene, Ore.
The line: UW by 9.5
Radio: 1000 AM / 97.7 FM
The end feels near.
Oregon isn’t going to roll over and hand the Huskies a victory on Saturday at Autzen Stadium. The Ducks have more pride than that. And they’re better than that, too, regardless of their current three-game losing streak and the general sense of turmoil presently surrounding their program.
But as the headline kind of gives away ... yes, I do think this is the year Washington finally beats Oregon again in a football game, something the Huskies haven’t done since 2003 but are favored to do on Saturday.
I think they’ll win because, simply, they are the better team, the first time that’s been true since The Streak began. The Huskies are better at quarterback. Better on the offensive line. Better defensively. Way better defensively. They block better, they tackle better, they’re healthier, they’re deeper, you name it -- all of the things that might have been said about Oregon for so long in this series can now be said about the Huskies.
That said, don’t expect this to be a blowout like last week’s 44-6 beating of No. 7 Stanford. Oregon’s offense presents a bigger challenge than Stanford’s, even if true freshman Justin Herbert does end up starting at quarterback. Washington still has to deal with Royce Freeman, one of the nation’s top running backs, and a group of receivers led by Darren Carrington that is better than any the Huskies have seen so far this season.
Where Stanford lacked the ability to strike quickly in response to a couple UW touchdowns, Oregon still has the kind of offense that can erase a one or two-score deficit in a hurry -- the Ducks lead the league and rank No. 8 nationally in yards per play, they average 40 points per game and they’ve rushed for 19 touchdowns -- which puts more pressure on the Huskies’ offense to continue executing at the efficient level it did last week, and has for most of this season (UW averages 7.04 yards per play, three spots behind Oregon at 11th in the country).
The difference, of course, is that Jake Browning and UW’s offense will face an Oregon defense that allowed 651 yards last week at Washington State, yields 5.92 yards per play and ranks 109th nationally in points per game allowed (36.2). The Ducks have also allowed 24 plays from scrimmage of 20 or more yards and 12 plays of 30 or more yards in five games, and a season-ending injury last week to linebacker Johnny Ragin, the team’s leading tackler, has only further depleted that group.
Oregon, meanwhile, has to contend with a UW defense that has allowed ony 64 points in five games, fewest in the Pac-12 and fewer than all but seven teams in the country; is tied for the national lead in sacks with 21; ranks ninth nationally in yards per play allowed; and allows only 3.04 yards per rush. Talented as Herbert might be, that’s a tough crew to make your starting debut against. It seems Dakota Prukop would give the Ducks a better chance.
Oregon is playing at home, playing against Washington and should also play with the kind of urgency inspired by three consecutive losses. The Ducks won’t go quietly. But I still think UW will leave Autzen with The Streak in the rearview.
The pick: Washington 38, Oregon 24.