No. 5 Washington, Oregon meet while headed in opposite directions
Washington got everyone's attention last week with a lopsided win over then-No. 7 Stanford.
The fifth-ranked Huskies were able to clear that very sizable hurdle in the Pac-12 North, but now comes more tall timber. Yes, Oregon is struggling, but Washington has lost 12 consecutive games in this Northwest rivalry -- and only one of those defeats was closer than 17 points.
That came last season when Oregon won 26-20 in Seattle.
"It is on," Washington defensive end Joe Mathis said of facing Oregon. "We have to get some work in and get ready."
The programs are headed in very opposite directions as they prepare to meet in Autzen Stadium in Eugene, Ore., on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. ET.
The Huskies (5-0 overall, 2-0 Pac-12) are coming off a 44-6 victory over Stanford and are ranked in the top 10 for the fifth consecutive week, their longest such stretch since a nine-week stint during the 2000 season. The Ducks (2-3, 0-2) have lost three consecutive games and will be trying to avoid their first four-game losing streak since the end of the 2006 season.
Washington's defense, filled with projected future pros such as safety Budda Baker, cornerback Sidney Jones and linebacker Azeem Victor, leads the Pac-12 by allowing 12.8 points per game. The Huskies are second in total defense, yielding 299.2 yards per game.
Washington managed to subdue Heisman Trophy candidate Christian McCaffrey last week, holding him to only 47 yards on 12 carries. Stanford managed only 29 yards on 30 carries, including eight sacks. Outside linebacker Psalm Wooching had three sacks and forced a fumble, earning Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week honors.
Meanwhile, Washington's offensive line didn't allow a sack to Stanford.
"When those stats are like that, they can kind of be a little misleading in terms of sometimes things just start to happen and then they snowball and you get a couple extra ones and stuff," said Washington third-year coach Chris Petersen.
"But we were really pleased with how hard and how effective our lines played. They protected Jake (Browning) well and we were able to run the ball. On the other side, we really squeezed the pocket. I think anytime your lines play at a really high level, you've got a good chance to win."
Browning, a sophomore, ranks second nationally in passing efficiency with a rating of 196.3. Against Stanford last week, he completed 15 of 21 pass attempts for 210 yards, with three touchdowns and no interceptions.
He will be taking aim at a struggling Oregon defense. The Ducks allowed an average of 43 points in losses to Nebraska, Colorado and Washington State. The Cougars had 651 yards of total offense in a 51-33 win over the Ducks on Saturday.
"I think everybody has to dig it out and compete at the end of the day," said Oregon junior linebacker A.J. Hotchkins.
"Getting 50 put up on us is not a good thing, but we can't put that on anyone but ourselves. At the end of the day, we need to compete every play, not just when you want to or just in the second or third quarter. It has to be the whole game."
Oregon's run defense continues to get worse. In the past three weeks, Nebraska ran for 228 yards, Colorado had 260 on the ground and WSU finished at 280, its most in a conference game since 2005.
"You look them in the eye to make sure we still have their hearts and minds, which we do and we will," said Oregon coach Mark Helfrich. "Then you move forward."
The Ducks have scored at least 32 points in every game this season, so the offense should provide a challenge for the Husky defense.
Running back Royce Freeman had 138 yards and three touchdowns against Washington State to pass Kenjon Barner and move into second place in school history with 3,664 rushing yards. Freeman has rushed for 307 yards in two previous meetings with Washington.
"He's as good as there is in the country, without question," Petersen said. "He backs it up every week."
Oregon senior quarterback Dakota Prukop threw for just 132 yards against the Cougars and was intercepted once. Freshman Justin Herbert came in and threw for 70 yards in the fourth quarter. Helfrich said Monday that Prukop would remain his starter for this week's big game, although he wasn't as committed to that on Tuesday.
"I mean, we're still competing," Helfrich was quoted as saying by The Oregonian. "We're still competing."
Multiple media outlets reported that Herbert will be the starter against the Huskies.