Motivation should not be an issue for the Oregon Ducks after last season’s humiliating 70-21 loss to the Washington Huskies. The Ducks are looking for revenge and derailing the Huskies’ College Football Playoff aspirations.
Braxton Burmeister finally got a win under his belt as the Oregon starting quarterback but is still a work in progress. The running back corps of Royce Freeman, Tony Brooks-James, and Kani Benoit did the heavy lifting on offense. With a healthy backfield, the Ducks amounted 347 yards rushing in last week’s 41-20 win over visiting Utah.
Coach Willie Taggart may want to give Charles Nelson a second look at quarterback should Burmeister get the start again. A broken play saw Nelson avoid getting sacked and delivered a 22-yard touchdown pass to Jacob Breeland. The play was perhaps the loudest Autzen Stadium roared from Nelson’s heroics.
Justin Herbert continues to practice and is getting closer to return. Last week, Herbert dressed against Utah, fueling speculation of entering the game. Herbert ended up not playing as he was seen at practice just throwing and not taking contact from players.
Oregon is one win away from bowl eligibility which Coach Taggart needs to mark this season as successful in his first year. Herbert will undoubtedly want to play since his first collegiate start came in the ugly loss at home to Washington.
For now, Taggart is not assuring if Herbert will be available against the Huskies. Oregon’s current depth chart has Herbert listed next to Burmeister, leaving a hint of a possible return. Taggart does not want Herbert to return until he is fully ready and feels he will not suffer any setbacks from his collarbone injury.
Washington checks in at No. 12 in the initial College Football Playoff rankings. Chances of a Pac-12 team in the final four appear unlikely at this point. For the Huskies, it wins out and hopes chaos ensues in the coming weeks. The Huskies could have been higher, but a shocking 13-7 loss on the road to the Sun Devils could ultimately shut out the Pac-12 from the playoff.
The Huskies responded last week with a 44-23 win at home against UCLA. Jake Browning appears to be still shaking off the sting of defeat against ASU. In the two games, Browning has not thrown a touchdown pass and one interception.
To Browning’s relief, Washington’s rushing attack shined against UCLA. After a slow start to the season, Myles Gaskin is back in full gear. He turned in his best game of the season with 169 yards rushing and one touchdown. Backup, Lavon Coleman, rushed for three touchdowns and 94 yards.
Coach Chris Petersen will hope Browning can regain his confidence as Oregon has remained stout all season in stopping the run. The Ducks are ranked 15th nationally in allowing only about 115 yards per game. Credit goes to Troy Dye and Jalen Jelks who have helped lead a young defensive group.
In the air will be a big concern should Browning regain his form seen before the loss to Arizona State. The Ducks are allowing about 253 yards passing.
Freeman and crew could also face a tough time on the ground with Washington only allowing about 72 yards on the ground per game. The passing game could see difficulty as well with Washington’s pass defense allowing approximately 164 yards per game.
A 12-game win streak abruptly ended for Oregon against Washington after Browning carved up the defense for 304 yards and six touchdowns. Washington would go on to represent the Pac-12 in the College Football Playoff last season only to be crushed by Alabama.
The streak may be over, but Oregon has not lost in Seattle since 2003, a streak worth keeping to make Washington fans bitter. A win for Oregon will give Coach Taggart bowl eligibility in his first season as head coach and keep Washington out of the College Football Playoff.
A win for Washington keeps their hopes alive and put an end to the losing skid at home against Oregon.
Northwest rivals meet in the #Pac12AfterDark game which should provide plenty of drama. Revenge is on the mind for Oregon as a hostile environment awaits the team inside Husky Stadium. Washington is a heavy favorite but expects this game to be close as plenty is at stake for both sides.