Week 8: Washington at Oregon

    Washington (5-1) at Oregon (5-1) Oct. 18, 8:00, Fox Sports 1 Here’s The Deal: Stanford or Oregon from the Pac-12 North again, right? Washington heads down

    October 17, 2014

    Washington (5-1) at Oregon (5-1) Oct. 18, 8:00, Fox Sports 1 

    Here’s The Deal: Stanford or Oregon from the Pac-12 North again, right? Washington heads down Interstate 5 this week determined to turn the division into a three-team race. 

    The Ducks have owned this series lately, administering 10 straight routs, the longest such streak for either side in the 113-year history of the heated rivalry. But this is a new era of Husky football, with Chris Petersen taking the reins in 2014. The former Boise State coach, who’s 2-0 all-time versus Oregon, has U-Dub playing its best football as the second half of the season begins. The Huskies hammered Cal last week in Berkeley, a sign that their sluggish start may now be in the rear view mirror. 

    Oregon is fresh off its best win of 2014 as well. Severely downgraded following a home loss to Arizona, the Ducks bounced back by throttling UCLA in the Rose Bowl. And just like that, Oregon is once again the Pac-12’s ‘it’ team, ascending back into the top 10. But the program must still prove that back-to-back shaky performances versus Washington State and Arizona are now a thing of the past. 

    Why Washington Might Win: Offensive-minded Petersen is coaching arguably the best defense of his career. When Oregon had issues with Wazzu and ‘Zona, breakdowns along the O-line was a central issue. And while the return to health of LT Jake Fisher is a game-changer, the Ducks haven’t faced a front seven as active as Washington’s. The Huskies are tied for third nationally with 24 sacks, attacking with the inside-outside presence of NT Danny Shelton and DE Hau’oli Kikaha, respectively. Plus, LB Shaq Thompson and CB Marcus Peters are dynamic playmakers with outstanding range. Oregon is still Oregon, but if Washington can put heat on Marcus Mariota, the Ducks have already shown this year that they’re not quite as explosive as recent additions. 

    Why Oregon Might Win: Nice win last week, Washington, but you’ve shown a lot of vulnerabilities on film this fall that the Ducks will be able to exploit. The Huskies are still a work-in-progress, especially as North Division contenders go. The pass defense remains vulnerable, but the bigger concern is the offense. Washington won’t be able to keep pace once Mariota gets the attack humming. The ground game has been largely uninspiring, and this is going to be a tough spot for young QB Cyler Miles. He’s not succeeded in stretching defenses, which won’t change against an active Duck secondary spearheaded by CB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu and S Erick Dargan. 

    Who To Watch Out For: Can the Huskies make Mariota uncomfortable? If yes, this is a ballgame. If not, it’s just another in a long line of Oregon blowouts in the rivalry. Fisher has a chance to really impress NFL scouts if he can neutralize Kikaha, who’s chalked up 13 tackles for loss and 10 sacks this season. Mariota with time is unstoppable. No. 8 doesn’t make mistakes, as evidenced by his 17 touchdown passes without an interception. And with time to survey the field, he’ll put jackrabbit receivers Devon Allen and Keanon Lowe in a position to streak through the Husky defense. 

    What’s Going To Happen: In many respects, it’s a different year for both Oregon and Washington. The results in this one-sided rivalry, though, will be the same. The Huskies are ready to compete in Eugene. But actually beating Mariota now that the offensive line has stabilized isn’t going to happen. The Ducks will have enough success on the ground, between Mariota and RB Royce Freeman, to capture an early lead. And the Washington backfield of Miles and RB Lavon Coleman will never be able to narrow the divide. Oregon will pull away after halftime and cruise to another double-digit victory over its rival from the north. 

    Prediction: Oregon 41 … Washington 21 
    Line: Oregon -21 o/u: 66.5 
    Must Watch Factor: 5: Birdman – 1: The Voice (now that the blind auditions are over) … 4

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