Oregon Ducks vs. Washington Huskies Complete Game Preview
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If this were being written 20 years ago, it would have a whole different tone to it. From 1974 to 1993, the Washington Huskies went 17-3 against the Oregon Ducks. In 1994, the Huskies were just three years removed from sharing a national championship with the Miami Hurricanes.
Then the 1994 matchup with the Ducks happened. Oregon cornerback Kenny Wheaton cut in front of a pass into the flat by Washington quarterback Damon Huard near the Oregon goal line and raced 97 yards for the most famous play in Oregon football history. "The Pick" is widely regarded as the key turning point in the path of the Oregon football program.
The Ducks went on to win the Pac-10 title and reached their first Rose Bowl since the 1958 season. The Huskies remained in the national conversation for a handful of years, even winning the 2001 Rose Bowl to finish third in the BCS rankings. But since the dramatic win in 1994, the Ducks have won 14-of-18 matchups with the Huskies.
Aside from the 2000 Pac-10 Championship, the Huskies have been mostly mired in mediocrity since the turn of the century, with the exception of their disastrous 0-12 season in 2008.
What matters is that the Ducks have dominated the series of late. Oregon has beaten the Huskies nine consecutive times by an average score of 43-17.
But you can throw out the history for this game because there has been a rebirth of the once-proud Husky program. Like it or not, the Huskies seem as if they are finally ready to get over the hump. On Saturday afternoon, we'll know for sure.
The Huskies lost a heartbreaker at Stanford last week and need to beat the Ducks to stay in the Pac-12 North race.
Here's everything you need to know
What: Oregon Ducks at Washington Huskies
When: Saturday, Oct. 12, 4 p.m. ET
TV: Fox Sports 1
Spread: According to VegasInsider.com, the Ducks are favored by 14.5 points.
Oregon Keys to Victory
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Get Out Fast
The crowd at the newly renovated Husky Stadium will be the toughest test yet for Marcus Mariota as the Oregon starting quarterback. That crowd will likely set another record for the loudest decibel level ever recorded at a college football game.
If the Ducks get out to an early lead, they will be able to get the crowd out of the game. The longer they let the Huskies hang around, the more the crowd will become a factor. The Ducks don't want that to happen.
Show the Huskies What an Uptempo Offense Really Looks Like
The Huskies also feature an uptempo offense, but no one does it like the Ducks. Oregon has too many athletes and too much experience to let anyone beat it at its own game. If the Huskies want to get into a race, the game will be over by the third quarter.
The Ducks are at their best when the defense plays aggressively by building off of what the Oregon offense has done on the previous series. If the offense strikes quickly, the defense will be aggressive in trying to disrupt the Huskies' tempo and eliminate any big plays that could keep the Huskies in the game.
Washington Keys to Victory
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Get Out Fast
The Huskies need a big play early in the game on offense or special teams to get the ball rolling. If they can follow that up with a big turnover, the stability of the new construction at Husky Stadium will be tested.
If they can force Mariota into throwing his first interception of the year, we will all see what the Heisman Trophy candidate is made of.
Run the Ball
The Huskies are much improved along the offensive line and it shows. Keith Price isn't running for his life on every play like he did in 2012. More importantly, running back Bishop Sankey is running all over opposing defenses.
Keeping the ball out of the hands of the Oregon offense is the key to beating the Ducks. The best way to do that is to pound the ball and run the clock.
Sankey, the 5'10", 203-pound back, leads the Pac-12 in rushing and could become a legitimate Heisman candidate with a big game in a Washington victory.
Win the Turnover Battle
Turnovers will likely determine the outcome. If Oregon wins that battle, it will win the war. If the Huskies can cause a fumble or two and force Mariota into a rare mistake, it could completely alter the course of the game.
Oregon Players to Watch
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Simply put, the 6'4" sophomore has been brilliant in the first five games of the year. He has thrown for 1,358 yards and 14 touchdowns with no interceptions in 134 attempts. He has also added 338 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground.
He has the numbers and the recognition to be a leading Heisman candidate. What he hasn't done in 2013 is beat a ranked opponent. The Huskies and their crowd will offer a big test for the silky-smooth Hawaiian. If he leads the Ducks to a big win on the road against a proven opponent, his stock will jump even higher.
Is he ready? Thomas has been sidelined since suffering an ankle injury on the opening kickoff against Cal two weeks ago. Ankle injuries can be tricky and we won't know how effective he can be until he proves it on the field.
Ask Wisconsin what they think and they'll tell you. The same goes for USC. Thomas is the one player that can change the course of an entire game in the blink of an eye. There is no better time for him to cement his legacy as one of the all-time greats at Oregon than now. A kickoff return, a long-run or a big play through the air by Thomas could take the air out of the Huskies and their crowd.
If Thomas is at full-strength, the Huskies are in trouble. If he's not, the Ducks will need to make up for it with production from somewhere else in the lineup.
Marshall has rushed for 243 yards and two touchdowns as the starter since Thomas went down. He has been solid as the leading rusher for the Ducks. He is averaging 6.31 yards per carry on 71 rushes for a total of 448 yards. Regardless of whether or not Thomas is on the field, Marshall is likely to play a big role in the game.
With or without Thomas at full-strength, Tyner will be the fastest man on the field come Saturday. He is a local product out of the Portland area and knows as much about this rivalry as anyone. Tyner grew up in the geographical center of the rivalry and Saturday could be his chance to make a huge impact on the series.
Washington Players to Watch
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After a breakout season in 2011, Price backtracked in 2012. As a senior, he has a formidable offensive line for the first time in his career. He can make all the throws and can make plays with his feet when things break down.
An improved Oregon defensive line compliments their aggressive back seven well. If they can get to Price and rattle him, they have the talent and skill to force him into game-changing mistakes.
Sankey has become one of the premier running backs in the country and is the type of back that can help wear down the Oregon defense. In two games, Sankey has rushed for 286 yards and three touchdowns, including 125 yards and two scores last week in Palo Alto. Along with Price and the talented Husky receiving corps, Sankey helps give Washington their best offense in years.
He'll need another big game this week if he wants to remain in the hunt for the Heisman Trophy and keep the Huskies in the race for the Rose Bowl.
Widely considered as the premier tight end in college football entering the season, Seferian-Jenkins has yet to prove anything in 2013. He'll need to step up in a big way against the Ducks.
At 6'6", 276-pounds, the projected first-round pick is a matchup nightmare for anyone. Oregon has an athletic group of linebackers but size is their biggest detriment. Stanford took the Ducks out of the national championship race in both 2001 and 2012 with late touchdowns that came as their big tight ends won jump balls against Oregon's top defensive backs.
TE Zach Ertz sent the 2012 game to overtime with this controversial catch late in the 4th quarter. Could Washington take a play out of the Stanford playbook? If they are going to, Seferian-Jenkins will be the guy.
What They Are Saying
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Mark Helfrich might be in his first year as the Oregon head coach, but according to Ryan Thorburn of Registerguard.com, he knows all about the rivalry with the Huskies. As an Oregon native, he remembers the days when the Huskies had total control in the series.
This isn’t a me-versus-Chip thing, but growing up here, sure I know what the Oregon State rivalry means, I know what the Washington rivalry means. I was sitting in the stands in the olden days when the Washington fans certainly vocally outnumbered the Oregon fans, singing ‘Tequila,’ and all those kinds if things.
Washington head coach Steve Sarkisian knows what Oregon is capable of, which is why he told Oregonlive.com's John Canzano that the Huskies have learned from what Oregon has done on the field.
Oregon's done a great job offensively over the past five or six years years now. What Chip started and what Mark is continuing to do, they've done a tremendous job of moving the football. I don't think we're the only team in the country that found some nuances out of the things they've done that fit what we do schematically.
Sarkisian told SeattleTimes.com's Adam Jude that he doesn't resent the questions about him adopting plays from the Huskies' biggest nemesis.
I haven’t really thought of it that way. I think we have strengths on our team that are similar to strengths on their team. Obviously, we have some pretty good skilled athletes; they have good skilled athletes. I’d be a fool not to play to those strengths.
Oregon running backs coach Gary Campbell told Oregonlive.com's Andrew Greif that De'Anthony Thomas is still up in the air for Saturday's game. "We don't talk about injuries, but he was out at practice," Campbell said. "We'll see how he is for Saturday."
Oregon safety Brian Jackson might be from SEC country, but he knows how much the Huskies need a win over Oregon to salvage their season and put an end to the nine-game losing streak.
I can’t wait for this game because it’s going to be a lot of fun. It’s going to be a very electric crowd. These guys are definitely ready to play us. It’s going to be a big game for us, not only because it’s the Huskies, but because these guys are coming of a loss where they had a chance to win that game. They’re going to be extra fired up for this game.
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The Huskies have the firepower on offense to hang with the Ducks if the game doesn't become too fast. They also have a much improved defense capable of giving the Ducks some problems.
The Huskies are fighting to keep their Pac-12 championship hopes alive and want nothing more than to end the nine-game losing streak to their Northwest rivals. The team will come out fired up and the crowd will likely break noise records. But in the end, the result will be the same.
With or without Thomas at full strength, the Ducks have too many weapons. They will impose their will on the Huskies and show them how a fast-paced offense is really run.
Prediction: Oregon 45, Washington 31