The Ducks managed to rebound from a heartbreaking loss to Cal by dominating Washington State at home—but the price paid for victory was steep.
Cameron Colvin, the fifth-year senior who'd eased the pain of losing starting wideout Brian Paysinger, is out for the season.
Perhaps even worse, Oregon’s two-headed tailback tandem is half of what it used to be without Jeremiah Johnson.
The Ducks will have their depth tested in Seattle. Needless to say, the key for Oregon will be for the offense to find a way to reload in the wake of so many injuries.
Aaron Pflugrad was impressive last week stepping in for Colvin, and Derrick Jones will no doubt see more action alongside Jaison Williams and Garren Strong. Tight end Ed Dickson could also see more balls thrown his way as the Ducks try to redistribute the load.
Of greater concern is the loss of Johnson, an at-times-breathtaking juker with a wicked stiff arm. He provides a terrific change of pace from the straight-ahead power of the more-heralded Stewart.
Stewart will have to stay fresh and remain productive while getting more carries, and Andre Crenshaw must step up to provide a change of pace.
Still, with Dennis Dixon, Stewart, Williams, and the rest of a strong offense still in place, it's unlikely that Oregon will be kept out of the end zone for long.
Special teams will be critical in giving the new-look offense and “bend-but-don’t-break” defense good field position to work with.
On the defensive front, the Ducks' primary concern will be slowing down the Huskies' ground game, particularly mobile quarterback Jake Locker.
The Ducks have struggled against skilled tailbacks and mobile signal-callers all season.
With experienced corners holding down the open field, look for Nick Aliotti to commit his safeties to stopping the run until Locker proves that he can hurt Oregon with his arm as much as with his legs.
The Ducks have fared well on the road this year, but make no mistake—this is a rivalry game, and Husky Stadium will be far more hostile than Stanford Stadium, or even the Big House in Ann Arbor.
Coach Mike Bellotti can downplay the emotion factor all he wants, but there's a reason Kenny Wheaton’s pick is shown at every home game for Oregon.
If the Huskies come out fired up and the Ducks come out flat, things could get ugly for Oregon.
The Ducks' last two trips to Seattle both ended in defeat. But if the Ducks can keep their intensity up, their superior offensive talent should let them fly south with a win.
My Call: Oregon 38, Washington 24.
USC has looked flat and unimpressive the past two weeks in losing to Stanford and scraping by Arizona. But even with the game against Notre Dame being played in South Bend, there's just too big of a talent gap between the two teams for the Fighting Irish to pull the upset.
Cal is obviously more comfortable being chasers than the chased, having imploded against Oregon State. But the Golden Bears still control their own destiny in the conference race.
Even with Longshore questionable, my gut tells me the Bears will rebound against a schizophrenic UCLA team lacking the playmakers to keep up with them.
Then again, the Bruins have surprised us before—though whether the surprise is good or bad depends upon what week it is.
Stanford couldn’t keep the momentum going against TCU, and Arizona didn’t find a way to get the job done against USC. Both these teams need a win badly—but given home field and their keener sense of desperation, I’ll take the Wildcats to beat the Cardinal in Tucson.