It's Hate Week, and there is a long list of reasons why it is Hate Week. It is the one week of the year where it is socially acceptable for this amount of hate and it has been so long since the Huskies won.
This will be one of the most entertaining games of he last six or seven years in the series, making the rivalry all the better. It's bitter sweet, because now the games mean more, but then again Washington is winning.
Oregon is a 24.5-point favorite over Washington, which seems like an awfully big spread for a rivalry game.
Washington Will Win If:
They create long third downs. Washington ranks 82nd in the nation in passing downs S&P+ according to Football Outsiders. Against the run and the pass on a per play basis the Huskies are top 30 in the nation. On passing downs they give up a ton of yards and they are going to need to make situations like 3rd and 8 or more against Oregon.
They slow the run. I think it is unrealistic to expect Washington stop the run, but having them slow it would be necessary for them to win. If they held Barner and Thomas to less than 4 yards a carry they will slow the offense down in terms of tempo, and force Mariota to throw more. I've said this many times, but if I'm a defensive coordinator against Oregon I am forcing the quarterback to carry the football every time and daring him to throw a bunch of times a game. Against Stanford the Cardinal didn't rush the football very much and the Huskies secondary was just good enough to keep the game within reach the entire time.
The secondary is solid. If Washington wants to stop the run they are going to have to bring extra defenders in to the box. This is going to put pressure on the secondary to cover receivers on an island, but is something they probably have to do. The Huskies need to cover as many people at the line of scrimmage horizontally to try and beat the screens and rushing attack.
Oregon Will Win If:
They win first down. Oregon is 65th in passing downs. Basically, when Oregon has a long ways to go for a first down and passing is the only way to get there, Oregon has troubles converting. A tough problem to have for sure, but ranking 65th in the nation isn't good.
Oregon can spread the field vertically. While Washington will try to stack the box and perhaps sell out on the run, Oregon needs to have a constraint play that can spread the field vertically and pull the safeties out of the box. While in the past I've argued that the Ducks already spread the field horizontally, the air raid at West Virginia has shown that if you can spread the field vertically, the endzone is your oyster.
Limit mental mistakes. In the second quarter the biggest reason why Washington State was able to make a game out of it was shortened fields. They made a pick in Oregon's half of the field and got a good return to set up a score. Oregon also gave up a huge kick return that set up the second score of the quarter. Penalties happen when Oregon runs the offense at such a fast pace, but a few players seem to be chronic offenders. Roughing the passer has been the story of the season so far. It has extended drives for opposing teams that have resulted in points and is really just a totally unnecessary penalty to commit.
While there are many other factors in the game these are the most important. Washington can control their play on first down while on defense and if they can stop the run with good coverage behind, they can keep this game close enough throughout to win.
With a 24.5-point spread Oregon will win this game as long as they don't shoot themselves in the foot. Oregon's mental mistakes have killed them at times and against a really good team like Washington it will come back to bite them. They can avoid bad situations by winning first down and blow the game open with a great downfield passing attack.