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Mailbag: The Fourth Element Edition

Answering your questions coming off a win over Oregon and somehow yet another 4th down stop by the Husky defense this morning

NCAA Football: Oregon at Washington Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

Can you give us a quantitative evaluation of the OL performance and how the Oregon DL compares to DL of the current top four teams? -RockDawg

Well I’ll give it a try. The following pressure stats are from Pro Football Focus. Here’s the percentage of dropbacks that resulted in a pressure attributed to the offensive line in each game Washington has played so far. (This isn’t the same as all pressures because after a certain amount of time it’s attributed to the QB for holding onto the ball rather than the OL).

Boise State- 4.7%, Tulsa- 4.8%, Michigan State- 24.3%, California- 15.4%, Arizona- 8.7%, Oregon- 17.9%

The game against the Ducks was the second highest rate only behind Michigan State. However, Penix’s average time to throw against Oregon was almost a half second quicker than against the Spartans. Penix also had twice as many throwaways versus the Ducks and an average depth of target that was 3 yards shorter. All of that suggests the eye test was correct that Penix was bothered by Oregon’s pass rush much more than in any other game so far this season.

As far as comparing Oregon’s DL to the rest of the top teams in the country (plus Washington). Here’s some averages for key stats again using PFF for the top-4 players in terms of total snaps listed as either DL or EDGE guys.

Oregon- 8.6% pressure rate (4th), 1.8 sacks (t-2nd), 3.8% stop rate (4th), 73.4 PFF Grade (3rd)

Florida St- 9.3% pressure rate (3rd), 1.8 sacks (t-2nd), 4.1% stop rate (2nd), 68.4 PFF Grade (5th)

Georgia- 6.5% pressure rate (6th), 0.8 sacks (t-5th), 2.9% stop rate (5th), 71.0 PFF Grade (5th)

Michigan- 12.0% pressure rate (1st), 2.3 sacks (1st), 5.8% stop rate (1st), 79.9 PFF Grade (1st)

Ohio St- 9.5% pressure rate (2nd), 1.8 sacks (t-2nd), 4.0% stop rate (3rd), 77.6 PFF Grade (2nd)

Washington- 6.6% pressure rate (5th), 0.8 sacks (t-5th), 2.5% stop rate (6th), 70.8 PFF Grade (6th)

Oregon ranks pretty squarely in the middle of the pack compared to the other schools. Michigan is very clearly at #1. It’s worth remembering that these totals aren’t opponent adjusted so the strength of schedule definitely helps the Wolverines. Still, everyone knew coming into the year that Michigan had a terrifying front filled with future NFL draft picks and there’s nothing we’ve seen so far that makes that seem far fetched. Ohio State is behind them as the next best front while Florida State is pretty close to Oregon.

Perhaps most surprising from this exercise was that Georgia hasn’t exactly reloaded after losing their just about their entire championship defenses over the last couple of years. They’re only averaging 2.0 sacks per game and two of their three players with multiple sacks are their middle linebackers. The Huskies are in a similar level as the Bulldogs right now. FYI, UW’s top-4 in snaps using this methodology was Trice, SAA, ZTF, and Ale.


If you are Coach DeBoer, after such an emotional win, what do you do to keep the players focused and motivated for Arizona State this weekend? -Denver Dawg

Remind them that Washington’s last loss was to this Arizona State team (even if the team itself looks very different). You really shouldn’t need anything other than that to keep them focused and motivated.


Why isn’t Rome Odunze in the Heisman conversation? It seems like he’s every bit as good as Devonta Smith was. I mean I’m not saying he should win it, but at least he should get some respect, especially if the Huskies keep on winning and he continues to be a big part of that. -Gou Wei

I’ve seen Rome included in some top-ten Heisman lists but he isn’t very close to the top at the moment as you noted. I went back and looked at the 2020 receiving stats and they’re of course a little slanted because not every team played the same number of games. But DeVonta Smith finished with over 650 more receiving yards than the second place person in the country. That is over 50% more than the next best. If Odunze were to get serious consideration he’d have to not just lead the country in receiving yards but also do it by a substantial margin. Right now Rome is 3rd in the country in total receiving yards although he has played one fewer game than the pair ahead of him. Plus Odunze has a rushing score and a punt return TD.

I don’t see a realistic way for Rome to make it onto the podium as part of the final three alongside Michael Penix Jr. though even if the Huskies are the only undefeated team in the country (which I also don’t think is likely to happen). But if you want him to end up as at least part of the discussion then he probably needs to finish the season with 1,500+ yards and 15+ touchdowns. That means slightly upping his pace while playing a much tougher slate of opponents. Doable but not likely.


Can we talk about how Washington had the opportunity to go up three scores? Oregon was never in a spot to go up more than two and never led by more than one. -Not Spaghetti Sauce

You just talked about it. And now I’m talking about it. Therefore, yes we can talk about it. We figured it out.

When Washington got the ball deep in their own territory up 29-18, I definitely started having fantasies about what would happen should the Huskies march right down and score. I was very much looking forward to tweeting out that UW was now doubling up Oregon 36-18. Of course, that’s not what happened.

Personally, I don’t think it really matters much the order of the scores when the game never gets out of hand. The teams traded scores for a while. Then Washington went on a 15-3 run. Oregon answered with 15-0 run. The Huskies got the last touchdown to seal it. Would you want to talk about it if Oregon had gone on that 15-0 run before the Huskies made their final push to come out on top?


What, if anything, can our defense adjust to stop teams from running the ball down our throat? Or is Bucky Irving just that good? -bowensm3

It would probably help if Washington were able to keep their best defensive linemen on the field more often. Ulumoo Ale and Tuli Letuligasenoa are averaging approximately 30 snaps per game on defense. The Huskies rotate through their DL quite frequently to keep them fresh but between nagging injuries and long drives they aren’t able to stay on the field as much. When you’re constantly getting 3 and outs you can keep your #1 guys on the field longer. When it’s a 10 play drive they may play at most 5 of the snaps.

As far as this game goes though it might just be more about Oregon. The Ducks have one of the two best offensive lines in the conference and Irving is 2nd in the conference in missed tackles forced per carry. Irving is also 4th in yards after contact per carry. Among anyone that is in the same stratosphere as Irving in terms of breaking tackles, the Huskies only still have to play USC’s Marshawn Lloyd.

I pointed out the Ducks are in the top-two offensive lines in the conference because I believe Oregon State is right there if not better. They also have Damien Martinez who isn’t as good at forcing missed tackles but is much more of a bell cow in the OSU offense. They should be the next biggest test for the Husky defense when it comes to defending the run. Although only Arizona State and Washington State don’t have at least one primary back averaging 5.5+ yards per carry among remaining opponents.

NCAA Football: Oregon State at Washington Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

What is the scariest game left on the schedule? Arizona schools are always odd, but thankfully this game is in Seattle, Palo Alto is a place that has been difficult for the Huskies in the place, although traveling to USC is worry some but USC has not looked as dominant as previously predicted, Utah is a wildcard with the Rising situation at least offensively, Oregon St is a solid team particularly at home, and WSU will be extra motivated given the potential for this to be the last Apple Cup for awhile. -LockerStalker96

Do I need to add any analysis? You seem like you’ve got it covered after that essay. Obviously coming into the season we thought that game at USC would be the most difficult of the season. But the Trojans haven’t looked impressive in over a month at this point. You could argue that the first half against Colorado was impressive but it feels like they don’t get credit for that given the near second half collapse. I don’t know that Washington has the defensive line that can really give Caleb Williams fits like Notre Dame did but I think that game is a pick’em at this point.

I alluded to it just above this but I’m most worried about that trip to Corvallis. Oregon State is built very similarly to Oregon on the offensive side of the ball but with a little bit less of a riverboat gambler in charge of the show. Of course I say that but then again OSU lost last year in Seattle only because they also were stopped twice on 4th down in the red zone (but to be fair it was in a giant windstorm making kicks very unreliable).

The Beaver defense doesn’t seem likely to be able to stop the Huskies as well as the Ducks but that will be an insane environment and they still do have some nice pieces in their secondary.

As you said, Utah is the wild card. If everyone were to get healthy and be back for that game then it becomes a real test. Their defensive front is right alongside UCLA for best in the conference. But there’s no way that Bryson Barnes is outscoring Michael Penix Jr. across four quarters in Husky Stadium.


What are chances of UW facing the Ducks in the Pac-12 championship game? -Mountain Man

There will come a time when I’ll put in the work necessary to come up with percentages. We’re not there yet. Too many variables using my old excel methods rather than something with simulation capabilities. But it certainly seems like that’s the most likely scenario even if I’d be surprised if the percent chance of that exact matchup is any higher than 30% with 6 games left in conference play.

Oregon and Washington each still have to play Washington State, Oregon State, USC, and Utah. Each plays the Cougs at home while the other three are flipped for each team. Given their recent history against the Utes, I’d put the highest leverage game for deciding whether a rematch happens as Oregon’s game in Salt Lake City. But the Utes also have road games against USC, UW, and Arizona left as well. And then of course there’s that road game at Oregon State.

The point being that it’s still too early to start worrying about such things. We’ll have a much clearer picture in 2 weeks if Washington takes care of business as a heavy favorite in consecutive games while waiting to see the outcome of Utah/USC, Utah/Oregon, and Oregon State/Arizona.


To gain a spot in the CFP, are we reliant on other’s performance due to strength of schedule being factored in various Polls etc? Is Scoreboard watching (Boise, Tulsa, MSU, Cal, AZ, UO) my future? -Oregondawg

This is the last question I’m going to allow for this edition of the mailbag that’s forward looking to a conference title game or CFP berth. The short answer is that I don’t think you have to worry about scoreboard watching much. Now that USC is done losing to Notre Dame (thanks a lot Trojans) we have a complete non-conference schedule among relevant Pac-12 contenders. That has resulted in 5 ranked teams with Washington State and Arizona looking as squads that could also sneak in (or back in) at some point.

Washington still has to play 3 of those 5 teams, plus the Cougars, with Utah, USC, and Oregon State. There’s of course a chance that the conference cannibalizes itself to an insane degree but I feel confident a 1-loss conference champion Washington team would get in unless Michigan, Georgia, Florida State, and Oklahoma all go undefeated. The Huskies in this case would have 4 wins against Oregon, USC, Utah, and Oregon State with at least one on the road and one on a neutral. That’s a tougher slate than Michigan, Georgia, or Oklahoma play no matter how the rest of the year shakes out. Win 5 of the next 6 and then the CCG in Vegas and the Dawgs will be in. But that’s still a very tough ask.

Beat Arizona State.