After previewing Oregon’s offense, defense and special teams, and speaking with Addicted to Quack’s Matt Takimoto, our writers are ready to predict the outcome of tomorrow’s big Border War matchup with the Ducks, who carry a 12-game winning streak over the Huskies. Be sure to chime in the comments below with your own prediction.
Last summer, I appeared on ESPN 1080 The Fan in Portland to preview the Huskies, and said that as much as I’d like to, I couldn’t realistically predict that the Huskies were going to beat the Ducks and break Oregon’s 12-game winning streak. After all, the Ducks were a mere 13 games removed from having a Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback lead them to the national championship game, and despite the defense’s struggles in 2015, Oregon remained a program seemingly capable of accomplishing impressive feats.
Five games into 2016, Oregon is going through its worst losing streak in nearly a decade, FCS transfer quarterback Dakota Prukop has apparently lost his starting job, and some fans have taken it upon themselves to raise the $11 million needed to buy out head coach Mark Helfrich’s contract.
Ain’t college football grand?
Statistically, the Huskies look to match up very well against the Ducks. Oregon continues to field one of the nation’s most potent offensive attacks (their 7.21 yards per play ranks seventh in the country), but those numbers will likely take a hit tomorrow when matched against a Husky defense that yields just 4.23 yards per play, which ranks ninth nationally and first in the Pac-12. The game’s biggest disparity will come when Jake Browning takes the field: Washington’s offense gains 7.04 yards per play and 45.4 points per game (11th and sixth nationally), while the Ducks have given up 5.92 yards per play and 36.2 points per game (89th and 109th nationally).
In other words, Oregon will likely have to fight for every yard and point, while the Huskies should be well positioned to move the ball and score virtually at will. It’s easy to see, then, why betting lines favor the Huskies by as many as 10 points.
Despite the drama caused by factors such as The Streak, Washington’s need to avoid the cliché “come-down” game after a big win over Stanford, and the soap opera-quality intrigue surrounding Mark Helfrich’s job security, I pretty much expect tomorrow’s game to come down to these simple matchups: a good-to-great Oregon offense versus a great Washington defense, and a great Washington offense versus a putrid Oregon defense. If Chris Petersen can keep his players focused on playing to their potential — and nothing in his career suggests that he’s not up to the task — then I think that the Huskies will breathe a sigh of relief tomorrow evening knowing that the last legacy of Tyrone Willingham’s reign of terror has finally been put to rest. Washington 52, Oregon 31.
In my Gekko Files previews last summer, I projected UW going 1-2 in what we all agreed was the most difficult stretch of the season. That stretch culminated with a trip to Autzen and, in my mind, a loss to the Ducks.
Things have changed. On paper, there really is no good reason for UW to lose this game. They have an enormous advantage with their defensive line - one of the best in the nation - against an Oregon front that features four redshirt freshman. Oregon is playing hurt with several starters (including two wide receivers) out of this game. There is a QB controversy in Eugene. And then, of course, you have that thing that they call a defense going against one of the top 10 most efficient offenses in the nation.
So, yeah, on paper things look good for UW.
But this game isn't played on paper. It's played on a field where UW has lost 12 in a row. It is played against real players who have talent and are enabled with significant resources. They are playing wounded and embarrassed. It is played in front of a live crowd who knows that the only thing left to play for this season is a victory over the Huskies.
UW is clearly the better team. But the better team doesn't always win. I do not like the conditions of this game. Something crazy is going to happen and it is going to cost us. I'm sticking with my preseason pick. UW 31, Oregon 33.
Just like last week, I'm scarred from the years of trauma inflicted upon us Washingtonians by the opponent. Unlike last week, I see an opponent that is in almost every category weaker than its UW counterpart -- whether we're looking at coaching and development, playcalling, or individual position groups. The one exception to this that I can think of off the top of my head is Oregon's field goal unit, which is where they are shining while Washington has had inexcusable missed field goals and even a missed extra point against Stanford.
Although there is near unanimity that Stanford is a better team than Oregon, I think UW's defense is better suited to defend a Stanford-type offense than an Oregon-type. This was well-demonstrated in the Arizona game, even though their offense never was able to consistently sustain drives and the Wildcats being able to stay in that game for so long was the result of a select few big plays from a breakdown of UW's defense. I have full confidence in Washington defending against Oregon's shifty spread -- and I think the Arizona scare gave them an important reminder on the importance of staying disciplined -- but I expect Oregon to give the Huskies more trouble than Stanford did. On the other hand I do think the Ducks' QB will have a lot of difficulty against the pass rush whether they play Prukop or Herbert; Herbert, because of his youth against one of the best defenses in the country (that doesn't bode well) and Prukop because I've noticed that in spite of his mobility he tends to stand flat-footed in the pocket without much anticipatory movement. Because of that, if he doesn't get the ball out he'll often just take off and run instead of adjusting himself, moving within the pocket, and looking for other reads. Hence there's a decent amount of wasted opportunity there to get the ball out to the receivers -- arguably Oregon's biggest strength, and the group that has the best opportunity to do damage against the Huskies' defense.
As far as the Dawgs' offense against the Ducks' defense, well, I'm feeling fine.
Final: Washington 49 - 27 Oregon.
Okay, admittedly it is a very small sample size, but the Huskies have struggled on the road this season. It's not so much that this week's game is on the road, but it shares another similarity to the Pac-12 opener against Arizona: UW is going to be jacked up for this game.
It's the opposite of a letdown that I am slightly afraid of. I worry about guys being so ready to get it on that they do too much. Elijah Qualls said that in Tucson, the Husky defense actually got so much push that they created running lanes for Wildcat runners. This cannot happen this week. As the cliche goes, UW must treat this like any other game and execute their gameplan, stick to their assignments, and if things don't go their way right off the bat, remain composed.
It's tough to get a read on Oregon's mental state going into this game. Are they fragile? Are they desperate? Will they be inspired by any level of success they are able to attain against what everyone is calling a superior UW team? Oregon has speed. Oregon has playmakers, and unlike Stanford who has one particularly outstanding offensive weapon, the Ducks have many.
Oregon should roll up some yardage and score points, but their defense will have a hard time keeping UW out of the endzone.
UW 44, Oregon 29.
Unwrap the ducks and allow them to sit at room temperature for 20 minutes. With a fork, prick the skin without piercing the meat. This will allow the fat to drain off while the ducks cook.
Meanwhile, in a very large stock pot which can hold both ducks, heat the chicken broth with 1 tablespoon of kosher salt until it boils. Add the ducks very carefully and bring the stock back to a boil. If there isn't enough stock to cover the ducks, add the hottest tap water to cover. If the ducks float to the top, place a plate on top to keep them immersed. When the stock comes back to a boil, lower the heat and simmer the ducks in the stock for 45 minutes.
When the ducks are finished simmering, skim off enough duck fat from the top of the stock to pour a film on the bottom of a 14 by 18 by 3-inch roasting pan. This will keep the ducks from sticking when they roast. Carefully take the ducks out of the stock, holding them over the pot to drain. Place them in the roasting pan, pat the skin dry with paper towels, and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of salt and the pepper. If you have time, allow the ducks to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes to allow the skin to dry.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. (Be sure your oven is very clean or it will smoke!) Roast the ducks for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow them to rest, covered with aluminum foil, for 20 minutes. Serve warm.
Dawgs win, 41-24.