The Washington Huskies might be the most exciting matchup to watch for Oregon all season. The Huskies mirror the Ducks in almost every area, from their up-tempo offense with studs at every skill position, to their underrated defense. Washington nearly beat Stanford last week and crushed Boise State in the first game of the season, so they’re for real. Oregon can’t afford to have units on either side of the ball struggle on Saturday.
Every matchup in this game will be worth watching, but below are two of the most crucial battles that will determine if the Ducks can maintain their perfect record.
Oregon’s front seven vs. Washington’s offensive line
Oregon’s defensive line and linebacking corps were two of the only areas of concern for the Ducks going into the season. While players like Derrick Malone, Boseko Lokombo and Tony Washington have looked excellent, they also haven’t faced an offense anywhere close to Washington’s level. Quarterback Keith Price and running back Bishop Sankey get all the (deserved) glory, but don’t forget about the big guys blocking for them. If the Ducks fail to put pressure on Price and don’t plug Sankey’s running lanes, the Huskies could score points as quickly as Oregon’s offense often does. Oregon’s front seven need to cause trouble around the line of scrimmage in order to prevent this game from becoming a shootout, which might come down to who possesses the ball last.
Oregon Key: More than anything, the Ducks need to put pressure on Price. Giving him extra time to throw to his wide array of receivers could result in some big plays that immediately change the course of the game. Long pass plays make the crowd go wild, too. Oregon doesn’t want to give that rowdy Husky Stadium crowd any excuse to get louder.
Washington Key: Big pass plays are obviously ideal for the Huskies, but controlling the line of scrimmage will be even more important. If Oregon’s linebackers and safeties are forced to respect the run, Price will have more chances to make big passing plays. Washington’s offensive line could directly contribute to a huge day from Price simply by blocking well in the run game.
Oregon’s secondary vs. Washington’s receivers
This is a true strength vs. strength battle. Oregon has one of the best secondaries in the nation but it leaked a bit last week against Paul Richardson and Colorado. Washington doesn’t have one elite receiver like Richardson but they have three above average wideouts in Kevin Smith, Kasen Williams and Jaydon Mickens. Washington is balanced on offense, but they’ve been stronger through the air so far. The game might hinge most on who can win this battle.
Oregon Key: As with the defensive line, Oregon’s secondary needs to limit big plays. The Ducks got away with giving up some long pass plays last week against Colorado because Oregon was the vastly superior team, but Washington can play with the best teams in the nation. The Ducks need to make the Huskies work to get their touchdowns.
Washington Key: Spreading the wealth. The Huskies have three solid receivers, so if Price can get the ball to those three and others the Ducks will be on their toes worrying about every wideout on the field. That will leave more one on one battles between Washington receivers and Oregon defensive backs, which will give Price much wider passing lanes to deliver his passes.