The highly anticipated Oregon-Washington collision is finally here, carrying just as much hype (if not more) as it did before the season started. Washington is technically the higher-ranked team, checking in at #7 in the AP Poll, but Oregon is right behind it at #8. Both are arguably the current leaders in the PAC-12 race, and both enter with Heisman contenders at quarterback: Bo Nix for the Ducks and Michael Penix Jr. for the Huskies. Plus, with the way last year’s game unfolded between these two rivals, it’s natural to expect another great game.
While Washington is favored by oddsmakers, the Ducks have what it takes to beat the Huskies. Here are the biggest factors that will determine if the Ducks can pull out a tough road win.
Oregon’s offense is well-established: it comes in having racked up 51.6 points, 330.6 passing yards, and 225.2 rushing yards per game to this point (according to Sports Reference). Sure, those numbers factor in the drubbings of the likes of Portland State and Hawaii, but Oregon has put up 42 points on consecutive PAC-12 opponents. It would be shocking if the Ducks don’t succeed offensively against Washington.
But while the Ducks are well-equipped for a shootout, that wouldn’t be an ideal outcome against a team built like Washington. The Ducks may be second in the nation in total yardage per game (557.8), but the Huskies are first (569.4), per ESPN. Significantly, Washington has 579 more passing yards than Oregon, or nearly 116 more passing yards per game. While a more balanced offensive attack like Oregon’s has clear merits, shootouts are won through the air, which would give Washington the advantage.
The Huskies have a three-headed hydra at wide receiver (and possibly the best group in the nation), led by Rome Odunze and Ja’Lynn Polk, while Jalen McMillan is a big threat in his own right. Another name to watch out for is freshman Germie Bernard, who had a breakout performance against Arizona two weeks ago, leading the team in catches (8) and receiving yards (98). Stopping Washington’s talented group of wide receivers will be key to an Oregon victory. The Ducks are 5th in the nation in passing yards allowed per game (per ESPN); Washington is going to be a much bigger challenge than any group the Ducks have faced so far, but Oregon has shown that it is capable of limiting the passing game.
The lines of scrimmage also figure to be a major swing point, even though most people’s attention is on the battle between both teams’ receivers against the opposing secondary. Washington and Oregon both have solid offensive lines—per NCAA.com, the schools are tied for the 7th-least sacks allowed in the nation, while Washington is tied-11th in tackles for loss allowed compared to Oregon’s tied-17th rank.
It’s a different story on the defensive side of the ball, though: Oregon averages 3.6 sacks per game, tied for 8th in the country, while Washington averages 1.2 (tied for 122nd in the country). Oregon is also producing more tackles for loss per game (6.6, tied-30th) compared to Washington (4.2, tied-120th). If players like Jordan Burch and Brandon Dorlus are able to generate pressure on Penix and contain the run game, it will go a long way toward disrupting Washington’s offensive rhythm and creating stops. It will be tough against Washington’s stout offensive line, but Oregon must capitalize on having the better defensive line if they want to win.
Lastly, one of the biggest X-factors of all, even if not as quantifiable, is this: Oregon has had the benefit of being challenged. In Week 2, Oregon rallied from a 9-point deficit at the start of the fourth quarter to defeat Texas Tech on the road. And just a few weeks ago, Oregon demolished then-ranked Colorado, a team with more national coverage than any other. Washington, meanwhile, has largely cruised through its schedule. The Ducks will benefit from those character-building experiences, and in a close game, the team that prevails could simply be the hungrier, more resilient team.
So, can the Ducks pull out a win at Washington? It seems like a toss-up, but I must go with the Ducks in a close one here. Both teams have explosive offenses, but the Ducks have proven resolve, and their defense should be just good enough to eke out a major win on the road. Washington will show why they’re a top-10 team, but Oregon will prevail in a shootout.
Washington and Oregon will kick off at 12:30 PM on Saturday.