Every week, Oregon has seen a step up in competition with stronger offenses. What sets the Huskies apart from the Ducks' previous opponents is they have the ability to run the ball as well as throw it. To this point in the season, the teams the Ducks have played have been one dimensional offensively. Now Oregon gets to test itself against a more complete team.
The Ducks haven't defended someone like Bishop Sankey to this point in the season. Sankey is in the top five nationally in rushing yards and rarely goes down on first contact. Last week, the Cardinal were able to stifle him in the first half, but they could not keep him from going for 125 yards and 2 scores against a vaunted Stanford defense. To slow Sankey, the Ducks are going to need to rally to the ball and tackle well in space. Fortunately, the Ducks are talented in that respect but they have to continue to improve on this to slow Sankey.
As mentioned, the Huskies aren't simply a one dimensional team. In addition to having Sankey in the backfield, they have an improved Keith Price calling the signals and heading up the offense. Price had a strong game last week throwing for 350 yards and 2 scores, consistently finding Jaydon Mickens, Kasen Williams and Kevin Smith. Were it not for a drop by Austin Sefarian-Jenkins, this rivalry game may be a meeting of top-10 teams. The trio of Mickens, Williams and Smith are going to test the Ducks secondary in a way they haven't seen yet this season. Price has upped his completion percentage to over 70% and has developed as a pocket passer, leading the Huskies down the field without much standing in their way.
Seemingly lost in the Husky offense has been Austin Sefarian-Jenkins. While the Ducks have been covering opponents' wide receivers, Oregon has been giving the underneath throws to quarter backs. Sefarian-Jenkins has only been averaging 3 catches per game, he could see a lot of action Saturday. While he hasn't been a big contributor to this point in the season, he is considered by many to be the premier tight end coming into the draft this season and a talent like like simply cannot be ignored.
Last week, the Ducks seemed to struggle early to cover Colorado's Paul Richardson and found themselves started to get cut up a little defensively. After making some adjustments, the Ducks were able to settle in and defend the way fans have been accustomed to seeing them defend.
Oregon has to find a way to take away one of Washington's dimensions offensively. If Oregon's offense can produce and get away a bit from the Huskies, it may force them into having to pass the ball more than they would like to. This is one of those games where the game could change on a big defensive play. The past couple years the Ducks have been able to make those plays, and they are going to need to make them again this year.