Oregon sophomore quarterback Justin Herbert is closer to returning. At least, that's what the Ducks' depth chart indicates.
UO's quarterback chart reads: "Braxton Burmeister or Justin Herbert." This is the first time that Herbert has appeared on the depth chart since breaking his collarbone on Sept. 30 during a win over California. Saturday's win over Utah saw the first time Herbert has suited up for a game since getting injured.
Taggart said after the 41-20 win over the Utes at Autzen Stadium that team doctors didn't tell him that Herbert could not play. However, that doesn't mean they told Taggart that Herbert could play.
That said, Taggart did indicate that Herbert might have played if the team "needed" him. But one can't be sure if Taggart was serious or is simply playing mind games with opponents, namely No. 12 Washington.
The Ducks (5-4, 2-4 Pac-12) play at the Huskies (7-1, 4-1) at 7 p.m. on Saturday. It would be wise to make Washington at least believe that Herbert could return if he is not going to play. If Herbert were going to play, then it would make more sense to not list him on the depth chart.
The difference between the play of Herbert and that of freshman Braxton Burmeister is so vast that the Huskies must prepare for Herbert's potential return. But it doesn't appear to create much of a competitive advantage to have Washington focus on Herbert if he isn't going to play. Does anyone truly believe that the Huskies are too concerned about Burmeister beating them?
The bottom line is that Herbert will only return when he is completely healed.
"We're going to put Justin out there when we fell like he's ready to go," Taggart said on Monday. "We're not going to do anything to jeopardize him. If he's ready this week, we will play him. If not, then we won't."
According to a source, Burmeister took first-team reps on Tuesday but Herbert did participate in team sessions. That indicates that Herbert is not ready to return this week. Oregon has a bye next week before hosing red-hot No. 22 Arizona on Nov. 11.
Taggart said that his team's play against the Utes following three blowout should have boosted his team's confidence.
"It showed that we could win against a good football team even without our best quarterback," Taggart said.
Probably, but likely not against a team the caliber of Washington.
Oregon vs. Washington
When: 7 p.m., Saturday, Husky Stadium, Seattle, Wash.
Betting line: Washington minus 21.
Records: Ducks (5-4, 2-4 Pac-12), Washington (7-1, 4-1).
Last week: Washington won 44-23 over UCLA (4-4, 2-3). Oregon defeated Utah.
Coaches: Ducks' Willie Taggart (45-49, 5-4 at Oregon); Washington's Chris Petersen (126-27, 20-12 at Washington).
Fear factor (five-point scale): 10. Washington is allowing 12.1 points per game while scoring 38.6. Somehow the Huskies lost 13-7 at Arizona State a couple of weeks ago, which means they can be vulnerable at times. But likely not at home against a Burmeister-led Oregon team.
If Herbert starts, then the Ducks would have a puncher's chance to win. But even then, it's clear that Oregon is not on Washington's level.
Preliminary pick: Washington 47-13 (with Burmeister). Washington 47-27 (with Herbert).