The seventh-ranked Washington Huskies (5-1) face another tough assignment away from home this season as they take on the 17th-ranked Oregon Ducks (4-1) at Autzen Stadium in Eugene, OR (3:30 p.m., ABC). The Huskies have been tabbed by oddsmakers as 3.5-point favorites, while the consensus betting total is 57.5 points.
Oregon has had an extra week to prepare for their Pacific Northwest rival, which has beaten them the last two matchups, though the Ducks had won 12 straight over the Huskies prior to that. The two programs are meeting for the 111th time, with Washington leading the series 60-45-5.
“Intensity of rivalries like this is through the roof…it’s off the chart,” Oregon head coach Mario Cristobal told reporters on Tuesday. “You can talk about it or write about it or explain it, and it still doesn’t capture the true fire and intensity and passion that goes behind something like this.”
The Huskies’ calling card has been their defense, which ranks fourth nationally in points per game allowed. However, they haven’t exactly been facing a murderer’s row of offensive talent. During their five-game win streak, the highest-ranked offense by yards per game that Washington faced was 83rd-rated Utah. The Ducks’ leading wideout, Dillon Mitchell, thinks the Huskies’ defense is vulnerable.
“They’re all good cornerbacks and safeties,” he told the Oregonian on Tuesday. “They’re very disciplined. I’m not going to say much, but I definitely feel like there’s some places where I can expose them.”
Justin Herbert, considered by some NFL executives as a potential first-round pick, headmans the Ducks’ powerful offense, which ranks 12th in points per game and 14th in yards per game. He completes over 64 percent of his passes, averages over 10 yards per attempt, and has a 15 to 5 TD to INT ratio. Herbert is likely the best quarterback Washington has faced all year.
Jake Browning has had a solid year overall (though his 9 to 5 TD to INT ratio is a little wanting), and the same can be said for halfback Myles Gaskin. But the Huskies have had difficulty scoring, ranking just 71st in the county in points per game. Oregon’s 18th-rated run stoppers should be able to snuff out the ground game, limiting Washington’s play selection.
By contrast, the Huskies’ rush defense has been a little soft, ranking 42nd in yards per game allowed. C.J. Verdell, along with Travis Dye and Tony Brooks-James, should be able to take advantage of that susceptible unit. They’ve combined for nearly 900 yards on the ground this year, with Verdell accumulating over 400 of them.
Neither of these teams has been a great bet in 2018 (3-8 combined against the spread), but the Ducks look very appealing getting over a field goal in Eugene.
Prediction: Oregon wins, 34-27
The play: Oregon +3.5