Husky fans are experiencing some cognitive dissonance. After 11 years of not-close losses to the hated Ducks, it feels weird seeing the Huskies favored - not just in the Vegas lines, but every advanced metric out there, from Sagarin to ESPN to S&P to FEI. And in most of those cases, it's not close. And yet many fans are having a hard time buying it. They're doing their best Missouri impression: "Show me".
Well Dawg fans, this appears to be the year the boys in purple show you. Oregon is stumbling in the wake of Marcus Mariota's graduation - none of the replacements at QB have impressed, and while their offense is nothing to sneeze at, they are lacking the explosiveness of years past and appear much more one-dimensional than they've been in a long time. Better yet, their defense - despite a bevy of 4-star talent across the depth chart - has really taken a dive, and so far have played like one of the worst such units in the conference.
I expect Oregon to come out playing with a lot of fire and energy. I expect Vernon Adams to start, and that may give the Ducks a lift. What's unknown though is just how healthy he is and how much his index finger injury on his throwing hand is still bothering him. And while the Ducks may start off fired-up, how's their confidence level? If they face some adversity, are they ready to crumble given how far off the rails their season already is?
Even with MLB Azeem Victor suspended for the first half, I think the Husky defense plays the Ducks tough, lays some big hits on Adams, fires gaps and doesn't let Royce Freeman roll all over them while the secondary clamps down on the Oregon passing game. I think the offense finds a rhythm against a shaky Duck D as the run game gets nice chunks and Jake Browning hits some big passes. Washington 30, Oregon 21
This one is the toughest call for me in a long time because logic should suggest that with the Huskies beating USC on the road last week and the Ducks losing at home to Washington State, that the Huskies should win, but almost everything else to me points to the Ducks matchup wise, especially if Vernon Adams plays.
I think the Ducks pound the ball with Royce Freeman from the get go after seeing what USC was able to do on the ground and without Azeem Victor and have success to the tune of a couple of early scores that give the Ducks the early lead. The Huskies try to exploit Oregon's awful pass defense, but aren't able to quite as much as other teams have with Browning facing pressure and a limited receiver group in the rain. The Huskies find some holes in the second half and get some scores and their defense tightens up against the run to make it a neck-and-neck game to the wire, but an explosive play or two from Oregon's playmakers at receiver gets past the Husky D and clock control with Freeman getting 30-35 carries is the difference. This one is going to hurt. Oregon 28 Washington 24
I recall the last night game with against Oregon in 2011 when the Ducks shut down the old Husky Stadium with a win over the Dawgs making it 8 wins in a row. I recall young Duck fans running around after the game laughing and chanting "8 more years!" Well, that win streak over our beloved UW has swelled to 11. With a UW win over USC last Thursday, there is hope that the ghost of Kenny Wheaton can be dead and buried an issue in a new streak. Husky Stadium will be rocking as Jake Browning finds some of those receivers he missed last week against the porous Oregon secondary. The Dawg D will be stout against the run and stymie a very good Duck rushing attack. Is this "homer" analysis? Of course it is, its Duck Week. I'll see you on the field after the game. Washington 38 Oregon 27
Tomorrow, the Huskies face their best chance yet of breaking their 11-game losing streak to the Ducks, as most Vegas sports books now have them as three-point favorites. Washington last won a game in this series when I wasn't old enough to buy a lottery ticket; next month, I turn 29. I don't know how I can summarize the misery of this streak any better than that. Fortunately, the Huskies are now coached by a man to whom The Streak couldn't be less of a concern.
"We weren't here [when those losses happened]. It's really about the here and now," Petersen said at his Thursday press conference. "Even if the streak was reversed, it's all about this game. That's really where our focus is. Are we going to play as good as we can play? If we do, that's what we can control."
That attitude, and whether or not the Huskies have truly bought into it, is the linchpin on which this game will swing.
From an advanced statistical perspective, the Huskies shouldn't just beat the Ducks, they should roll them. As Kalon Jelen wrote at our sister site Addicted to Quack in a wonderful preview of tomorrow's game, the Oregon offense's best hope is to perform well on standard (read: non-passing) downs and to stay out of third-and-long situation, as S&P+ ranks the Ducks 91st in the country in such situations. And on defense, Oregon has been positively dreadful, ranking 90th and 68th on standard and passing downs, respectively. It seems crazy to say, but the defending national-champion runner-up is going to field the softest defense the Huskies will have faced this year in an FBS team, and it comes at a time when Washington's rushing attack just produced its best effort of the year in upsetting the Trojans as a 17-point underdog. Finally, it's difficult to quantify the fact that UW has all the wind in its sails while Oregon looks its most vulnerable in nearly a decade, but that doesn't make that fact any less true, or any less important.
What that adds up to is an edge favoring the Huskies in every meaningful realm. I expect to Dawgs to win, and to win big. Washington 37, Oregon 18.
A long time ago, I promised myself I'd never predict a Husky victory over the Ducks until it actually happened. I'm going to throw that out the window right now. I also could have never imagined the defense playing the way it has all season. I expected the defense to still be pretty good, but to be decidedly better than last year's unit only 5 games into the season? No way. If the Huskies are to win, it will be with a similar scoreline to the USC game. If Oregon scores 30+, we don't win, because I don't believe our offense can keep up, even against Oregon's statistically bad defense. Royce Freeman will run for 70+ yards and a TD in the first half, before having a pretty pedestrian 2nd half. Myles Gaskin puts together his 2nd straight 100+ yard game and scores a 3rd quarter TD to put the Huskies ahead. With Azeem back in 2nd half, Oregon's run game can't get going, and they force bad throws, one of which finds its way into Budda Baker's hands. Huskies win it, 20-13.