Pac-12 title hopes on the line: No. 17 Oregon vs. No. 7 Washington
By the numbers, stats and gambling spread
Saturday’s rivalry game between No. 17 Oregon and No. 7 Washington marks the third consecutive ranked game for the Ducks. The outcome will have major Pac-12 North Division implications. Washington is still the front-runner in the North and a College Football Playoff contender, while Oregon (4-1, 1-1) is 1 ½ games from the lead, a victory against the Huskies would put the Ducks back in the race.
Numbers to know: Washington (5-1, 3-0 Pac-12) leads the conference in scoring defense, allowing only 13.7 points per game. They have not allowed more than 35 points in 50 games.
In contrast, Oregon’s offense leads the conference and tank 12 nationally with 45.6 points per game. The Ducks are also getting it done on third down, leading the conference and ranking 10th in the nation with a 52.1 third down conversion percentage.
Fun fact: A former Oregon assistant for six years, Chris Petersen is 2-2 vs. the Ducks as Washington's coach.
Betting line: Washington by 3
Keys to an Oregon win
Herbert must be a factor: Quarterback Justin Herbert will get his first chance to play Washington since his first career start in 2016, Oregon’s 70-21 loss. This season he’s completed 76.4 percent (42-of-56) of his passes in Pac-12 games, including a near perfect 22-of-27 in the first half. He will be facing a tough and experienced UW secondary that ranks second in the conference in passing yards allowed (174.7 per game).
The Herbert-Dillon Mitchell connection must continue. Mitchell has become Herbert’s go-to dependable receiver. Mitchell has 344 receiving yards in the first two Pac-12 games, and 22 of his 27 catches this season have resulted in a first down or a touchdown.
Oregon’s defense will have to stop UW’s senior quarterback-running back tandem, Jake Browning and Myles Gaskin. In terms of career statistics, the duo is one of the best in the country. However through six games, the two have not kept with their pace. This season, Browning has nine touchdowns and five interceptions while the Ducks’ eight interceptions lead the Pac-12. It’ll be a big day for senior Ugo Amadi and freshman Jevon Holland, who each have three interceptions.
Keeping emotions in check: There is a difference between playing with passion and playing out of control, and the Ducks must stay disciplined in the rivalry. Oregon must keep their Pac-12 best average of five penalties per game.
Players to keep an eye on
Linebacker Ben Burr-Kirven is tied third nationally with 74 tackles through six games, just 10 tackles off of last year's total. The senior also ranks in the top three in the country in forced fumbles with three. Last season, Duck fans may remember when Burr-Kirven forced a fumble to begin the game that led to UW’s opening field goal. He’s dangerous in pass coverage as well as stopping the downhill run.
Quarterback Jake Browning: 2016’s Heisman Trophy runner up and a four-year starter for the Huskies. The senior is UW's all-time leader in both passing yards and touchdown passes. This season, he’s completed 66.9 percent of his passes for 1508 passing yards.
Myles Gaskin: The senior is at the top of the career leaderboards for the Huskies in both rushing yards and touchdowns. Gaskin is seeking to become the 10th FBS player ever to rush for 1,000 or more yards in four seasons, never done in the Pac-12. This season, he’s rushed for 554 yards and four touchdowns.
The Huskies have won five straight following the season-opening loss to Auburn. Oregon is coming off a bye week while Washington escaped Pasadena with a closer-than-expected 31-24 victory over UCLA.
Injury updates: Oregon’s bye week came at a perfect time, giving some rest to injured starters and key backups. Defensive end Austin Faoliu and tight end Jacob Breeland, who missed the California game with injuries, are expected to be back in the starting lineup. Tony Brooks-James is full-go after being limited to special teams vs. Cal. Running backs CJ Verdell and Darrian Felix are both back at full speed.
Last time UW visited Autzen: Washington thumped Oregon, 70-21. Washington quarterback Jake Browning pointed at Oregon linebacker Jimmy Swain as he rushed into the end zone for a 1-yard TD on the opening drive. Browning had eight total touchdowns.
How and where to watch
Time: 12:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 13
Where: Autzen Stadium, Eugene, Oregon
Radio: KUGN-AM (590), KUJZ-FM (95.3), KZEL-FM (96.1)