Gabey Lucas (6-3 Straight Up, 5-4 Against The Spread)
Yeah, this is the first one I’ve gone “Whelp this is probably a loss.” Oregon isn’t an impossible task of course, but I simply can’t see Washington’s leaky defensive back end holding up for 60 minutes. I will say that this should be an extremely entertaining game for people who have no dog in the fight with both the offenses being certifiably fun.
If Washington can pull off the upset it will be thanks to the defensive line — and don’t get me wrong, if it were just up to them I 100% think a win would be not just possible, but likely. But it’s not, and I have minimal faith in the secondary to keep up even if the defensive front could put the pressure on Bo Nix to bring back Bad Bo, who’s been mostly absent this season after three Jekyll and Hyde years at Auburn.
Normally my prediction would be a lot longer, but I think this week is pretty simple: Oregon will probably win because of Washington’s secondary, but it’ll be a pretty fun game if you just emotionally detach yourself now.
Washington- 34, Oregon- 41
Andrew Berg (5-4 SU, 6-3 ATS)
While the last two decades of this rivalry lean heavily in favor of the Ducks, I’m not sure that history matters much with two brand new coaching staffs. Dan Lanning and Kalen Deboer bring offensive powerhouses to Eugene, each with a defense that can’t keep up with the point-scoring fireworks. There’s little reason to believe that those narratives will shift this week.
One thing that differentiates the squads is Oregon’s willingness and ability to run the ball. Washington hasn’t been hopeless in the run game, but Oregon has been one of the best in the country. Bucky Irving and Noah Whittington have been a deadly 1-2 punch with Sean Dollars as the change-of-pace. The deadly run game has taken the pressure off of Bo Nix to carry the offense by himself. Nix has responded with the best season of his career by a wide margin- his completion percentage and yards per attempt have skyrocketed after staying steady through his time at Auburn. Washington held Cal and Oregon State to 21 points each, but those results took some good fortune and weather. Perhaps the coaches will pick their poison and load the box like they did late against the Beavers to force Bo Nix to throw more. If Nix makes mistakes, it could be enough to swing the game. The probability is low, but letting the Ducks run for 200 yards is a sure path to defeat.
The Dawgs are more likely to hang around with an aggressive offensive attack that can prey on Oregon’s own defensive shortcomings. The Ducks have forced turnovers at a solid clip this season (14 and counting against 7 surrendered), so keeping the pocket clean for Michael Penix will be crucial. The Dawgs have started slowly on offense for the last two games. That trend cannot continue if they want to keep up with Oregon. The combination of the run game and the short passing game have to be enough of a threat to keep the defense from playing so soft that UW can’t make big plays. But the lifeblood of the game plan has to be Penix working the intermediate parts of the field to Odunze, McMillan, and Polk. If that approach clicks for four quarters, the Dawgs have a shot.
For me, the likelier outcome is that the Ducks just have too much offensive firepower. UW’s defense has been more respectable in Husky Stadium. Playing in Autzen puts them at a disadvantage. As good as the passing offense is, asking them to play a flawless four quarters in a hostile environment is a tall task.
Washington- 31, Oregon- 45
Max Vrooman (8-1 SU, 4-5 ATS)
Oh boy. That date we circle on our calendar every single year finally arrives tomorrow. The game which just fills your gut with a burning cauldron of anxiety. The game that affects my emotions more dramatically than anything that doesn’t directly affect my own personal well-being or that of my family should.
When you consider the roller coaster the Huskies have been on since Oregon week last year it should make you feel a little better. Last year was when Jimmy Lake said “academically prowess” in the pre-game press conference. It’s when he contacted a player. It’s when he got suspended. It was the beginning of the end despite that brief bit of hope when Carson Bruener intercepted a pass and returned it to the edge of the red zone. Now the Huskies have a legitimately fun offense with a quarterback that leads the country in passing yards.
Of course Oregon also has a new head coach with a new quarterback that is under Heisman consideration. Nix was known at Auburn for being notoriously up and down but he has pretty much only up ever since the Ducks flew back from Atlanta. He’s a legitimate threat with his legs which has given the Husky defense fits. There’s also the little matter of the offensive line who has only given up 2 sacks this season despite having played Georgia. If they neutralize Washington’s edge rushers, the strength of the defense, then it’s hard to imagine the Huskies ever getting a stop since they haven’t forced a turnover in 5 games now (I’m excluding the final desperation lateral play against Oregon State).
The Ducks have played 4 common opponents with the Huskies so far and have scored an average of 8 more points per game. Last season the analytics all screamed that Oregon was overrated before they got curb stomped twice by Utah. This year they say that while this maybe isn’t a top-5 team, a spot around 10th is fully warranted.
Washington’s offense should be able to have success against Oregon’s defense. Christian Gonzalez is a stud at corner but there are holes and hitting the 30-point plateau is eminently doable with weather conditions unlikely to be a factor.
When Oregon played UCLA, the Ducks knew it would come down to whoever could score the most touchdowns and so they went for it on 4th and short in their own territory, tried a surprise onside kick, and eschewed field goals in the red zone. That’s the mentality that DeBoer has to coach with on Saturday. Washington will not win kicking field goals. That doesn’t mean going for it on 4th and 22 from the 25. But once the Huskies cross midfield they have to be insanely aggressive. Stealing an extra possession or two without relying on forcing a turnover is the only way to keep pace against this offense in Autzen.
Even by doing that, it very well might not be enough. Do I actually think the Huskies are going to be on the receiving end of poetic justice with my score prediction? Maybe not. But my mental health is going to be a whole lot better at 8p on Saturday night having expected this coming in than if I thought there was real hope.
Washington- 35, Oregon- 70