No. 2 Oregon Ducks at No. 16 Washington Huskies
Time: 1 p.m., Saturday
Where: Husky Stadium, Seattle, Wash.
Records: Oregon (5-0, 2-0 Pac-12), Washington (4-1, 1-1).
Coaches: UO's Mark Helfrich (5-0). Washington’s Steve Sarkisian (30-26).
Oddsmakers say: Oregon by 14 1/2.
Watch/listen: Television - FOX Sports 1 with Gus Johnson, Charles Davis and Kristina Pink. Radio: Oregon IMG with Jerry Allen and Mike Jorgensen. Satellite Radio: Sirius 91, XM 91.
On the line: Northwest bragging rights and the sanity of UW fans. Oregon has owned this series as of late, winning nine straight, most in blowout fashion. The Huskies, who once ran this rivalry for decades, finally has a team capable of ending Oregon’s current streak of dominance.
When Oregon has the ball: The Ducks rank second in the nation in total offense (630.4 yards per game) thanks in part to having faced largely inferior competition.
That changes Saturday against a Washington team that ranks 10th in total defense (287.8) and has allowed just 10 offensive touchdowns.
Oregon will have to contend with a complete defense void of significant weaknesses.
Colorado last week committed to stopping the run against Oregon and failed while also allowing big passing plays because of a weak secondary.
The Huskies have a chance to contain one or the other, if not both.
Three of the top 12 tacklers in the league are Husky linebackers, junior John Timu (7.8 per game), senior Princeton Fuimaono (7.2) and sophomore Shaq Thompson (7).
Washington also has a strong pass rush, ranking third in the Pac-12 in sacks (15). Getting after Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota will be junior defensive ends, Hau’oli Kikaha and Josh Shirley (3 ½ sacks each).
Where teams have failed against Oregon these last two seasons has been when trying to stop the pass while ganging up against the run.
Only Stanford succeeded in that endeavor last season when it defeated the Ducks, 17-14 in overtime. These Huskies have a chance to match that performance because of its elite secondary.
Sophomore cornerback Marcus Peters and senior safety Sean Parker lead a strong secondary that could make life difficult for Oregon receivers, sophomore Bralon Addison and senior Josh Huff, used to destroying past opponents.
The wild card in this matchup is junior running back De’Anthony Thomas. His availability is unknown because of an ankle injury. Without him, Oregon must rely on sophomore Byron Marshall and freshman Thomas Tyner to carry the running game. Both are capable but neither has ever been put in that position before against such a strong opponent.
Also, Thomas is a threat to score every time he touches the ball no matter how he touches it. Not having him on the field erases a big headache for the Huskies and could place the game squarely on the shoulders of Mariota, providing him with a chance to shine with a big game on the line.
When Washington has the ball: No team Oregon has faced since USC last season has possessed the offensive capabilities of Washington.
UW senior quarterback Keith Price is leaps and bounds above the five quarterbacks UO has faced this season.
He leads the conference in completion percentage (71.2) while passing for 278.8 yards per game and 11 touchdown passes with just three interceptions.
With all due respect to Colorado wide receiver Paul Richardson, Washington has the best group of receivers Oregon will have faced this season in senior Kevin Smith (21 receptions, 367 yards) and junior Kasen Williams (21, 344).
On top of that, junior tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins is one of the best in the country at his position.
But what makes Washington potentially devastating to Oregon is its running game, which can chew up yards and minutes.
Running back Bishop Sankey is fourth in the nation in rushing (732 yards) and has scored seven touchdowns. He’s done his work behind arguably the best offensive line Sarkisian has had.
While Oregon has yet to face an offense like Washington’s, the Huskies received a good education from Stanford during a 31-28 loss last week.
Still, the Cardinal defense is not as quick and liquid smooth as Oregon’s.
The Ducks returned eight starters from last season giving them an experienced and dominant unit used to big-game settings.
In other words, they won’t blink.
Individual matchup to watch: Washington sophomore linebacker Shaq Thompson vs. UO’s Mariota.
Mariota is second in on the team in rushing (338 yards) and has scored seven touchdowns. Looking to stop him from destroying on the ground will be Thompson, a hybrid linebacker/safety who will more than agile and fast enough to have a shot at keeping Maritota in check.
By the numbers: 79.5 percent. The percentage of Oregon’s 39 touchdown drives that have lasted less than two minutes (31).
Quotable: “We played that way for quite a while, you know, where it was ‘Be efficient, yet give ourselves in the fourth quarter the opportunity to win.’ I think we are a much more aggressive football team now…We play in attack mode on offense and on defense. I think it’s evident in our caliber of play right now and the quality of players that we have, and then the schemes that we’ve implemented." – Washington coach Steve Sarkisian on playing aggressively.
Fentress predicts: Two fast-paced offenses should mean plenty of points scored but attempting to keep pace with the Ducks is a mistake. UO, protecting the nation’s longest road winning streak at 17, has taken fast-paced offense to a level where others should not dare to venture. The Ducks will finally be tested but will rise the challenge. Oregon 43, Washington 30.