Ducks and Huskies square off in pivotal Pac-12 affair
Seattle, WA – The sixth-ranked Oregon Ducks are set to do minded Washington Huskies in Pac-12 Conference action.
Since losing the season opener to now top-ranked LSU, Oregon has run off seven consecutive victories, all of which have come by double digits. The club has scored more than 40 points in every win during the streak and is coming off a 43-28 decision over Washington State. The Ducks and the Stanford Cardinal are the only two unbeaten teams in the league, and they will square off next week. With that in mind, it is important for Chip Kelly's team not to look past Washington.
"We just keep getting better and better each week," says Oregon DE Terrell Turner. "It doesn't matter if we have to win by one point or by 100, as long as we come out on top."
The Huskies are a dangerous team, as they have won four of their last five games to move to 6-2 overall, including 4-1 in league games. Last weekend, Washington moved to a perfect 5-0 at home with a 42-31 decision over Arizona.
"They respond extremely well to adversity," said Washington head coach Steve Sarkisian of his players after the win. "They battled, they competed, we made adjustments and they adjusted with us."
Washington owns a 58-40-5 series advantage over Oregon, but the Ducks crushed the Huskies last season by a 53-16 final.
The Ducks are generating 47.5 ppg and 526.9 total ypg, numbers that will scare even the most confident defensive coordinators in the FBS. It all starts with the ground attack, as Oregon pounds out 309.2 ypg at a staggering clip of 7.2 yards per attempt. LaMichael James is one of the top backs in all of college football and has rushed for 905 yards and eight scores while averaging 8.4 ypc despite missing two games with injury. Fellow tailback Kenjon Barner has run for 560 yards and seven scores, and there are a few talented receivers in the fold, including De'Anthony Thomas (six TDs) and Lavasier Tuinei (seven TDs).
As for the QBs, Darron Thomas has taken the majority of the snaps and has thrown for 1,380 yards with 18 TDs and five INTs. Bryan Bennett has seen significant action recently and has six passing scores with no picks.
Last week against Washington State, Barner ran for 107 yards and a TD, as James was coming off an injury and was limited. Coach Kelly wasn't happy with the play of his offense in the first half so he replaced Thomas with Bennett to start the third quarter. Bennett threw a pair of TDs on just four completions to help his team pull away.
"We just felt that Bryan (Bennett) gave us a better chance in the second half," said Kelly.
Opponents are scoring 21.2 ppg against Oregon, which is surrendering 397.0 total ypg. The Ducks have been solid against the run, yielding just 3.8 ypc, and they have posted 23 sacks to date. On a down note, they have notched a modest total of nine takeaways.
The Ducks certainly could have played better against Washington State last week, as they permitted 462 yards to the Cougars. Still, Kelly has to feel good about the fact that his squad came up with a pair of interceptions and allowed Washington State to reach the end zone just twice.
That Oregon defense will have its hands full with Washington tailback Chris Polk, who dominated Arizona last week. Polk ran for 144 yards and four touchdowns on 34 carries, and he became the first Husky RB ever to post 100 rushing and receiving yards in the same game by hauling in four receptions for exactly 100 yards and a score.
"I don't know if any other player in our program now for the last two and a half years has had more of an impact, the changes that we have made and the progress that we have made as a football program," said Sarkisian of Polk.
Overall this season, Washington is generating 35.6 ppg and 429.6 total ypg, and Polk has already run for 1,016 yards and nine touchdowns. He has three more scores on the ground, and Jermaine Kearse leads the receivers with 31 catches for 395 yards and six TDs. Kearse did hurt his ankle against Arizona and is listed as questionable for this weekend's affair. The UW quarterback, Keith Price, as been tremendous to date, having completed 66.5 percent of his passes for 1,990 yards and 23 TDs with eight INTs, but he will miss Kearse if he can't go or is limited.
Arizona is one of the best offensive teams in the nation, so the fact that Washington surrendered 424 total yards doesn't come as a surprise. Give the Huskies credit for the fact that they only allowed two touchdowns to the Wildcats, and for coming up with four takeaways, including three interceptions.
Opponents are scoring 33.4 ppg against Washington, which is allowing 430.4 total ypg. The Huskies have surrendered 29 touchdowns to opposing offenses, and while the run defense hasn't been particularly strong, the real problem area for Sarkisian's club has been slowing down opposing passing attacks.