Strictly by the numbers, Oregon would be the easy choice for the toughest opposing offense the Dawgs will face. They ranked 17th in the country last year in offensive SP+ and project at 8th going into 2021. The skill positions are loaded with terrifying players- CJ Verdell and Travis Dye at RB plus Mycah Pittman, Jaylon Redd, and Johnny Johnson at WR. It’s a group that combines potential with production. The only question is whether the QB play will be up to standard. Anthony Brown got playing time late in 2020 as Tyler Shough faded after a hot start. Freshman Ty Thompson was a top 50 national recruit, though there are always questions with a true freshman. Many Husky fans lament that the Ducks hired the more successful former Penn St coordinator in Joe Moorhead last summer while we got Jon Donovan. Moorhead’s early returns were very positive. If he can gameplan for whichever QB wins the job, the Ducks could have the best offense in the conference.
Like Oregon, UCLA has a strong statistical argument to be a top Pac-12 offense in 2021. The Bruins finished last year 23rd in the country and project as a Pac-12 best 7th for this year. The record didn’t get to where Chip Kelly would want last year, but there was significant progress, including 35.4 points per game. Most of the key contributors are back from that team. Sean Rhyan leads an offensive line that has developed into a significant strength. Greg Dulcich will rival Cade Otton as the best pass-catching TEs in the conference, and Kyle Phillips is a highly-productive possession receiver. Demetric Felton lead the team in rushing last year and has departed, but the offense still has a wealth of talented runners, headlined by Michigan transfer Zach Charbonnet and Brittain Brown. If Dorian Thompson-Robinson refines his sometimes erratic passing, the offense could catapult the team into Pac-12 South contention.
The Wolverines have struggled to sustain offensive efficiency under Jim Harbaugh. Nonetheless, this roster is full of high-end talent and the Huskies have not historically performed well against the type of big, powerful game plans that Harbaugh uses and passed on to David Shaw. Joe Milton got the lion’s share of snaps at QB last year and struggled mightily. Cade McNamara played more toward the end of the season and showed promise to match a strong recruiting pedigree. Texas Tech transfer Alan Bowman gives the Wolverines a worthy stopgap if the starter stumbles. Current Husky Giles Jackson is the only notable receiver to move on. The offensive line is very good and should open up lanes for senior RB Hassan Haskins, who will take a more featured role after sharing time with Charbonnet last year. Last year’s team struggled at QB and played very poor defense. If the offense can get adequate QB play, it should be a strength. The Dawgs’ good fortune might be to catch this team before some newer pieces have as much time to gel.
Stanford is mostly on this list for PTSD-related reasons. Davis Mills and Simi Fehoko have moved on. Either Jack West or top-50 recruit Tanner McKee will take over at QB. Yet again, the Cardinal will have three wide receivers at least 6’2” and 205 lbs (up to 235!) in their starting lineup. The top TE on the depth chart weighs 278 pounds. Even as a sophomore, LT Walter Rouse looks like one of the best offensive lineman in the conference. This year’s Husky defensive depth chart looks like it might have more bulk, including pretty big OLB and safeties, depending on who wins the jobs. Still, that’s a lot of power and it has burned our defensive scheme plenty of times before. Forgive me for some healthy skepticism.
I’m most concerned with Oregon’s offense. I don’t think their collective QB situation will be one of the best in the conference, but I think Moorhead can scheme to make the job easier for whoever wins it. Last year, they loved to use their receivers to stretch the field horizontally and open up the inside part of the field for their running backs. That’s the sort of high-percentage, low-mistake QB mold that doesn’t require a superstar. Plus, there are so many playmaking talents at WR and RB that it’s going to take a disciplined, consistent scheme and execution to hold them in check.
Which 2021 UW opponent offense concerns you most?
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