Oregon vs. Washington: Does Bishop Sankey or Keith Price Pose a Bigger Threat?

Jeff Bell@@JrayBellCorrespondent IOctober 10, 2013

UW QB Keith Price
UW QB Keith PriceStephen Lam/Getty Images

For many reasons, Oregon vs. Washington sets up as one of the best games of the year in the Pac-12.

The Ducks are 5-0, relatively untested and have a seemingly unstoppable array of weapons on offense. The defense is buckling down when it counts and hasn't allowed more than 20 points in any game.

Meanwhile, the Washington Huskies have assembled their best group of players in a decade, led of course by quarterback Keith Price. The rushing attack is led by Bishop Sankey, whose legend is growing on the west coast but may be waiting until this weekend to really explode on the national scene.

Steve Sarkisian's group has plenty of other weapons on offense, most notably receiver Kasen Williams and tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins. The Dawgs' defense isn't too shabby either, allowing fewer than 15 points per game.

But without a big day from Sankey and Price, Washington isn't going to notch its biggest regular-season win in recent memory. Both guys can make plays all over the field and have the experience to stay focused in close games and tough situations.

So who poses a bigger threat to the Ducks?

Let's start the discussion by taking a look at Sankey, a running back who has picked up right where he left off last year and who, at present, is fourth in the country in yards per game.

UW RB Bishop Sankey
UW RB Bishop SankeyStephen Lam/Getty Images

He has 732 yards rushing and seven touchdowns and has the ability to put the team on his back, as evidenced by his 40-carry effort against Arizona in the pouring rain.

Perhaps the most impressive performance by Sankey came last Saturday when he racked up 125 yards on the mighty Stanford defense.

It's fairly obvious where he can hurt the Ducks, and that's at the second level when he breaks through the defensive line. Oregon's linebackers have played well this year, but we've seen a number of missed tackles, which is something that Sankey will thrive on.

If Derrick Malone, Rodney Hardrick and Boseko Lokombo are unable to wrap Sankey up quickly, the junior back will have a chance to break off some big runs. He isn't going to bulldoze over the defense, but arm tackles won't do the trick and he has the best balance of any back in the Pac-12.

Now let's shift gears back to the quarterback spot, where Price has improved dramatically from an underwhelming 2012 campaign.

On the season, Price has thrown for 1,394 yards with 11 touchdowns and three interceptions. The most impressive aspect of his game is his accuracy, as he's completing over 70 percent of his throws. Granted, many of his throws have stayed underneath the secondary, but that's an impressive mark regardless.

Many will point to Price as a mobile quarterback, and he is, but he's not a threat to take off down the field. He has just 42 rushing yards and one touchdown this year.

UO CB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu
UO CB Ifo Ekpre-OlomuScott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports

The term "mobile" is applied because of Price's ability to move around in the pocket and force defenses to continue covering receivers downfield. In Washington's last offensive snap against Stanford, Price avoided the rush and waited until the last possible second before releasing a throw that just barely hit the ground as it arrived in his receiver's arms.

No matter how good the Ducks' secondary is—and we have every reason to believe the unit is elite—they will struggle to cover Williams and Seferian-Jenkins if Price is extending plays with his legs and giving guys a chance to get open.

Not to mention he's fairly agile when he wants to be. The rushing numbers are telling, but that doesn't mean he won't take off and pick up a few first downs if the defense allows it.

Because of the quarterback's ability to do so much more with the offense, the answer here is Keith Price. When Sankey gets the ball, he's going to run with it. There may be a trick play or two where he throws it or tosses it to a receiver on a reverse, but for the most part, Sankey can only hurt the defense by carrying the ball.

Plus, he isn't the fastest running back in the league. He certainly has home-run ability, but the Ducks' defense is as fast as they come and Sankey isn't the type who can beat Malone and Lokombo to the edge.

Price will have the ball on every offensive snap and will be able to distribute it to any number of offensive weapons. His toughness is unmatched, and he isn't making the same mistakes from last season.

Both players are going to have their moments on Saturday, and for the first time in a while, Duck fans may experience some tense moments. But the guess here is that the defense will settle in and bottle up Sankey as the game progresses.

But if Price is accurate with his quick throws, it will open up the entire playbook on second and third down and the defense could be in for a long day, even if the offense is doing its part.

Because of the impact his position has on the game as well as his improvement from last season, quarterback Keith Price poses the bigger threat to Oregon on Saturday in Seattle.

All stats via ESPN unless otherwise noted.


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