WHAT TO EXPECT:
This is a different Washington team that last season; they are full of confidence and are built to play the same style of game as Oregon. The Huskies are going to do what they do which is run the ball and use the run to set up some passes. They will use quick outs as extensions of the running game. The Husky offense likes to run stacked receivers to get free releases and players in space.
The Huskies will pick up yards early in the game and they will have some success. The question is how much success? There has been a lot of chatter about the Washington pass defense which is allowing just 146 yards per game passing. Lost in that chatter is the fact that the average NCAA rank of the four BCS level opponents is just 70.5 in those games. Arizona is ranked 118th while Stanford is ranked 97th. Oregon has actually been more impressive in their pass defense than they have been give credit through five games. The Ducks have the 7th best pass efficiency defense in the nation and a lot of depth in the defensive back field. Oregon will look to stop the run early in order to force Washington into known passing situations so that defensive coordinator Nick Allioti can turn up the pressure on Price. This is where the offensive lines inability to protect Price could be a problem once again.
The Ducks running game is significantly better than anything Washington has seen. Though their pass defense has been stellar early this season, their run defense average at best. Last week against a Stanford team which lacked depth or explosiveness at running back, the Huskies still allowed 4.4 yards per carry giving Stanford 179 rushing yards. Oregon's rushing attack is considerably better.
The Huskies have significantly upgraded their linebacker play. The group is exceptional in pursuit and have the speed to contain the edge running very well. How do you neutralize great pursuit? Run right at them rather than trying to run around them. Expect Oregon to attack the immobile Shelton and the smallish defensive line with some early inside zone reads. This will lead to the Huskies looking to spy on the inside run leaving the middle of the field open.
The Ducks should be able to move the ball against a Husky defense that is much improved, but probably not 21 point improved over a season ago.
This game will likely be decided by special teams and which team gets the bigger stops at critical junctions of the game. While the Washington defense is definitely improved, they still lack playmakers outside of Shaq Thompson on that side of the ball. They also lack quality depth at the linebacker and defensive line spots. These facts should provide a tough road win and a new level of national respect for the Ducks.
If the Huskies start to get predictable or fall behind early and Price starts to press to make plays, it could get ugly, but this Husky team does not look like that is in their new genetic makeup.
DSA Predicted Score: Oregon 42- Washington 31