I know a lot of people are picking the Huskies over the Ducks, and it's not just UW fans, but members of the media. Do I think that the Huskies have a chance to pull off the upset? Yes. I think they have the best chance they've had since 2003 - the last time they beat Oregon.
That being said, I'm just not seeing it happening this game.
Talent-wise, Washington is closer to Oregon than they have ever been. But the minuscule difference can often lead to monstrous plays. Take for example at outside linebacker. Yes, UW is fast and athletic. But they are also freshmen, and they are going to find themselves in space having to make a 1-on-1 tackle on LaMichael James, Kenjon Barder or De'Anthony Thomas several times throughout the game. Are they good enough to make that play every time? Not yet.
The talent gap may be slight, but Oregon's offense only needs a slight gap, step or miscue to go from 6 yards to 60. Had Washington been playing more sound defensively in the past few weeks, I might think differently. But nothing I've seen from the Husky defense tells me that they will be able to slow down the Oregon attack. I'm not bashing the defense. There have been far better defenses that have been boat-raced by the Ducks offense than Washington.
You know you won't shut down the Ducks, unless you are LSU. Washington doesn't have LSU level defenders.
Offensively, Washington will score. Oregon's defense isn't as bad as some people think, but it's not good enough to stop Washington completely. The Huskies have too many weapons and too much balance to be stymied.
But can they keep up with the Ducks?
I don't know. Basically, if UW gets inside of the 35 they need to come away with at least three and if they get inside the 20, they need to get 7. It's that simple. As good as the Washington offense is, I don't think it can do that.
OREGON (7-1, 5-0 PACIFIC-12 CONFERENCE) AT WASHINGTON (6-2, 4-1)
7:30 p.m., Husky Stadium
TV: Root Sports. Radio: 950-AM, 850-AM.
The series: The Huskies lead the all-time series at 58-40-5. However, over the last 16 games, Oregon has won 12. The last time Washington beat Oregon was in 2003, when Shelton Sampson and Kenny James each rushed for more than 100 yards in a 42-10 win. Since then, Oregon has dominated. A year ago, the Ducks rolled to a 53-16 win as Washington had to start then-freshman Keith Price with Jake Locker out with a rib injury.
What to watch: It’s the final game at the old Husky Stadium, and who better to have send it out than the rival Ducks. In 48 hours, the first parts of the grand old stadium will be torn down as Washington begins the two-year process to rebuild its home field. There will be plenty of pomp and circumstance. The 1991 national championship team will be honored before the game and the Dawgfather, Don James, will handle the pregame coin toss. But will any of that matter come kickoff? The emotion and energy will likely die in the first quarter. And then it will come down to one key question: Can the oft-maligned Washington defense slow down the high-power Oregon attack? The Ducks lead the Pacific-12 Conference in rushing, averaging 309 yards a game. UW’s defense ranks 10th in the conference – fourth in rush defense, yielding 130 yards a game. But that number is a little skewed having played pass-happy Eastern Washington and Hawaii. Against Stanford – a run-first team – the Huskies gave up more than 400 yards rushing. The Huskies are going to give up yards and points. But their red zone defense will be key. If Washington can hold Oregon to field goals instead of touchdowns, the Huskies should be able to keep pace. The Huskies will score points, and they have enough weapons to take advantage of the Oregon defense. The Ducks’ defense has been good at times, average at others. Washington State was able to move the ball against them. But the Ducks have managed to hold teams to field goals in the red zone.
What’s at stake: The Ducks still have BCS title hopes and are a legitimate BCS bowl contender. They can’t afford to slip up with a loss to Washington before next week’s showdown with Stanford. A win for the Huskies would signal a return to the Pac-12 elite. And to do so on such a memorable night would be another chapter in the program’s storied history.
The pick: Oregon 52, Washington 35
With roster number, name, height/weight, year and position in parentheses:
5 Darron Thomas (QB), 6-3/215, JuniorHe wasn’t 100 percent last week, and it showed with erratic play.
6 De’Anthony Thomas (WR/RB), 5-9/173, FreshmanOn a team filled with playmakers, he might be the most electric of them all.
20 John Boyett (FS), 5-10/202, JuniorA ballhawk in pass coverage and a hard hitter, Boyett has been the Ducks’ best player.
56 Josh Kaddu (OLB), 6-3/235, SeniorIf a play is made behind the line of scrimmage, he is usually involved in it.
77 Carson York (OG), 6-5/292, JuniorThe big guard has put together a solid season blocking for the option-based attack.
1 Chris Polk (RB), 5-11/222, JuniorIf the Huskies are to have any chance, they will need one of “those” nights from him.
2 Kasen Williams (WR), 6-2/212, FreshmanWith James Johnson out, the talented freshman could see more snaps than ever.
10 John Timu (OLB), 6-1/220, FreshmanHe and his fellow young outside linebackers will be tested like never before by Oregon’s speed.
13 Will Shamburger (S), 6-0/192, SophomoreHe will be the last line of defense if an Oregon runner breaks free.
22 Josh Shirley (DE), 6-3/229, FreshmanHis speed will work well in this game, but he has to stay disciplined on his option responsibilities.