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Oregon's defensive line poses a big matchup problem for the battered Washington offense.
As #2 Oregon returns to Autzen Stadium on Saturday seeking a ninth consecutive win in the series with hated #23 Washington, much of the thought that the Huskies can make the game competitive is based on their 17-13 win last Thursday over then #8 Stanford. Many were impressed by the fact that Washington, despite injury woes that have absolutely decimated their offensive line, we able to pull out a victory against a top ten team with one of the most talented and physical front sevens in the country.
Well, I wasn't impressed.
Washington barely cleared 300 yards of offense. Ketih Price was sacked three times, threw an interception, and barely completed 50% of his passes. UW only averaged 4.0 yards per rush even with Bishop Sankey's 61 yard touchdown run. If you take away the two big plays--Bishop Sankey's 61 yard touchdown run, and Kasen Williams' 35 yard touchdown on a screen pass, the Huskies were unable to put any drives together or mount any kind of consistency. Essentially, Washington won that game becuase they were facing a team with in Stanford with an incredibly one-dimensional offense. Josh Nunes is going to give Jon Hays a run for his money as the worst quarterback in the conference. Because of that, teams are going to be able to stack the box to stop Stanford's running game without terrible fear of ramifications. Once UW was able to do that, their offense only had to do enough to outscore the inept Cardinal. Washington isn't going to be able to make Oregon one-dimensional offensively, and they're facing a defense that is the equal of--if not superior to--Stanford. That makes a path to a Washington victory dependent on a lot of improbable events coming together.
Oregon's defensive line will be the biggest factor in this game. We know that the unit is extremely deep and talented, but I don't think fans appreciate just how dominant the defensive line has been. Oregon gives up an anemic 3.3 yards per carry, and has only allowed three rushing touchdowns all season. They have 16 sacks through three games. They face a really banged up Washington offensive line that has suffered a ton of injuries this season. The Huskies average only 3.5 yards per carry on the season and give up three sacks a game. The defense should be in the Washington backfield all game long, making Price uncomfortable and extremely sore by game's end.
The two weapons that Oregon really needs to worry about are Williams and tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins. Williams had ten catches against Stanford, but Seferian-Jenkins was a non-factor. Oregon's elite corners and excellent safety play should keep Williams from being able to have a Marqise Lee kind of performance where one player can drastically change a game.
The gameplan for this one isn't difficult. Oregon's defense isn't a good matchup for the Washington offense, and the Ducks should be able to consistently control the line of scrimmage. Washington may be able to overcome that to beat a bad offensive team. They won't overcome that to beat Oregon.