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Andrew Berg (11-1 SU, 5-6-1 ATS)
There’s so much emotion and excitement for Dawgs-Ducks II that it’s hard to be objective in analyzing the matchup. This much we know: both teams are great offensively. Both offenses rate in the top five nationally in success rate, SP+, and EPA. Where they differ is in their recent performance. Since UW beat Oregon at Husky Stadium, the Ducks have gone 6-0 with an average margin of victory of 26 points. The Dawgs have gone 6-0 with an average MOV of 6. Oregon is red hot; the Dawgs are tough, gritty, clutch, and maybe just a bit lucky.
The last time we saw these teams play, it came down to game management. The Husky defensive line could not shut down Bucky Irving and Jordan James, who ran for almost 200 yards. Bo Nix mixed in just enough throws that stretched the defense with his usual array of quick-hitting, lateral passes. It worked great, until it didn’t. Everyone remembers that Dan Lanning’s 0/3 fourth down success was the largest deciding factor in the game. For the Huskies to hold the Ducks to the same 33 points or fewer, it will mean either replicating those fourth down stops (or forcing turnovers in those situations), or finding a way to slow down the rushing attack. Washington defended the run better against Washington State, but Oregon’s offensive line is a different animal.
So if the Huskies don’t have the defense on paper to stop Oregon, can they win in a shootout? The offense has been much less sharp since winning a shootout over USC to the point that we’re wondering if Michael Penix is secretly injured. The Dawgs have done enough to limp by much worse defenses in OSU and WSU. Scoring in the 20s will not get it done this week, and they’ll have to do that against a much more stout defense. Penix must be at his absolute best. Polk must bust out of his slump. McMillan and Johnson must be fully healthy and able to shoulder any workload demanded of them. Rome just has to be Rome.
In short, the path for the Huskies to win is to create negative plays defensively- sacks, turnovers, or fourth down stops-, and to get the offensive machine humming at full efficiency. The recent trends have not made this outcome look likely. I think UW will play better than the last three weeks and keep them game close, but I’m not confident in an outright win.
Washington- 30, Oregon- 38
Mark Schafer (12-0 SU, 7-4-1 ATS)
The game we all hoped for, the PAC 12 Championship, is next up. And it is not just any matchup, it’s a playoff quarterfinal, against #5 Oregon. This is the part that I have been dreading ever since the Huskies’ October win against the Ducks. It seems as though the teams’ fortunes have drifted in opposite directions, the Ducks have come out and dominated all comers and the Huskies have found other ways to win, if we’re being charitable. Frankly, it’s not looking good for the Home team: Michael Penix has looked fine but not a world-beater like earlier in the season. Ja’Lynn Polk seemingly has the yips and keeps dropping passes. Dillon Johnson may be injured despite his performance. To add to that, Bo Nix and his wide open offense have produced absolute fireworks with Nix operating with Terminator-like precision.
But, on principle, I will not pick Oregon to win under any circumstances, especially against the Dawgs. In order to win, we have to find a way to slow Bo Nix, and Bucky Irving, and Troy Franklin down. The key for the defense is, as usual, forcing turnovers. For the offense, Rome Odunze won’t be able to shoulder all of the load in the passing game so it is paramount that they involve others such as Jalen McMillan underneath or Germie Bernard out in space. If we can do all those things, and get the ball to bounce our way a few times, we’ll have a shot. I’m predicting a close victory!
Washington- 38, Oregon- 35
Max Vrooman (11-1 SU, 7-4-1 ATS)
It’s no hard to see why Oregon is a substantial favorite in this game if you look at literally anything except their head-to-head matchup (and maybe even that one too). The two teams have played 7 common opponents which makes up more than half the schedule. In those games both teams are 7-0 and Oregon has outscored the other team by an average of 42-15 while UW has won by an average of 36-26. That’s +6 for Oregon’s offense and +11 for Oregon’s defense. Both teams played 4 of the games at home and Oregon outscored the opponent by more in all 3 of the games that were in the same home/road location.
If you’re looking for Husky optimism it likely centers on DeBoer’s 2-0 record against Dan Lanning so far while at UW. Oregon doesn’t turn the ball over much on offense by virtue of one of the shortest average depth of targets in the country. Bo Nix has only thrown 2 interceptions which means you’re relying on forcing a fumble (something UW’s defense has really struggled with this season).
The good and bad news is that Dan Lanning loves to go for it on 4th down. That means you’ve got a shot if your defense can come up big in the right moments a few times which has happened for Washington in both of the last two meetings. The question of course is “is that sustainable?” You wouldn’t think so and yet it has happened time and again for the Huskies throughout the year where they come up big when the moments are the most pressure-filled.
Last year I predicted a 49-point Oregon bloodbath and Washington won by 3. Earlier this year I predicted a 3-point Oregon narrow win and Washington won by 3. What happens if we split the difference?
Washington- 23, Oregon- 49
THE FINAL TALLY
Straight Up: Washington- 1, Oregon- 2
Against the Spread (UW +9.5): Washington- 2, Oregon- 1
Over/Under (65.5): Over- 3, Under- 0
Average Score: Washington- 30.3, Oregon- 40.7
Oh, and here’s a bonus prediction from Gabey
“I know you want a real answer, but I’m too busy stress puking about Bucky Irving, Grubb slowing down the game, and Michael Penix’s health for my neurons to create one legible human sentence. Hail Backspin.”
Washington- 49, Oregon- 0