University of Washington

No. 12 Oregon vs. No. 25 Washington: What to watch for

NO. 12 OREGON (5-1, 3-0 Pac-12) VS. NO. 25 WASHINGTON (5-2, 2-2 Pac-12)

When: 12:30 p.m. PT, Saturday

Where: Husky Stadium

TV: ABC

Radio: KOMO-AM 1000/FM-97.7

Outlook: Washington is coming off a 51-27 victory over Arizona. After going into halftime trailing 17-14, the Huskies’ offense exploded for five touchdowns in the second half. Oregon defeated Colorado 45-3 last week. With a win, the Ducks will have a clear path to the Pac-12 North title, while UW needs a victory to stay in the mix.

The Ducks have the top defense in the Pac-12 and one of the top defenses in the country. They’ve allowed three touchdowns all year, and just one since the season-opening loss to Auburn.

Oregon allows just 8.7 points per game, which ranks first in the Pac-12 and third in the country. They’re also eighth nationally in yards allowed per game, averaging 267.7. Since the 27-21 loss to Auburn, the Ducks haven’t given up more than seven points in a game. Their 12 interceptions are tied for second nationally.

The defense is particularly stout in the red zone. Opponents have reached the red zone just 14 times this season, and Oregon has given up just two touchdowns. That leads the country.

Offensively, the Ducks are just as dangerous. Led by quarterback Justin Herbert, they have the No. 2 scoring offense in the Pac-12. They’re averaging 36 points and 461 yards per game.

The Huskies’ offense seemed to take a step forward in the second half against Arizona. UW finished with 450 total yards and scored on all but one possession int the second half. Quarterback Jacob Eason completed 15-of-22 passes for 243 yards and two touchdowns.

Defensively, the Huskies forced four turnovers on three fumble recoveries — one for a touchdown — and an interception.

UW could be without a key piece of its offensive line. Senior center Nick Harris missed the game against Arizona with an injury. After the game, head coach Chris Petersen said he thought Harris would return to play against the Ducks. Asked about Harris on Thursday, Petersen said he was week-to-week.

UW players to watch: Puka Nacua. The freshman wide receiver had his best performance of the season against Arizona. He was the Huskies’ leading receiver, finishing with three receptions for 97 yards. Nacua made the kind of explosive plays UW’s offense needed, and he could prove to be a key factor against the Ducks.

Oregon player to watch: Herbert makes Oregon’s offense go. He has completed 134-of-194 passes for 1,602 yards, 17 touchdowns and just one interception this season. He will be without tight end Jason Breeland, the Ducks’ top receiver who suffered a season-ending injury last week.

Keep an eye on: The run game. When Petersen and offensive coordinator Bush Hamdan talk about playing to the offense’s strengths, this is what they’re talking about. While the Huskies will likely still be without injured redshirt freshman Richard Newton, Salvon Ahmed and Sean McGrew combined for 201 yards on 36 carries against Arizona. If the offense is going to have any success against Oregon’s defense, it’s going to start on the ground.

Lauren Kirschman is the UW Huskies beat writer for The News Tribune. She previously covered the Pittsburgh Steelers for PennLive.com. A Pennsylvania native and a University of Pittsburgh graduate, she also covered college athletics for the Beaver County Times from 2012-2016.
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