Talkin’ Ducks: If you can get the Autzen crowd into it, they will win
Our Talkin’ Ducks panel featuring Jordan Kent, Joey Harrington, and Aaron Fentress break down the upcoming rivalry game between the No. 7 Washington Huskies vs. No. 17 Oregon Ducks in Autzen Stadium, Eugene, Oregon.
This game will bring “national respectability”
Let’s talk about national credibility shall we. The past few seasons have been a struggle in Eugene and for this Oregon football program. The firing of head coach Mark Helfrich in 2016 and then the one-and-done Willie Taggart in 2017. The Mario Cristobal era has officially begun and is off to a good start. A record of 4-1 (1-1 Pac-12), statistically better with reducing penalties (going from worst to first), and just the overall demeanor of the Oregon football program in the Eugene community.
A win vs. Washington on Saturday will have national recognition and place Oregon back on the map of a dominant program heading in the right direction.
“I think this is such an important game,” says Joey Harrington. “We talked about a statement game for Justin Herbert a couple weeks ago against Stanford. Yes, it had the opportunity to be that, but this is the moment. This is truly the last opportunity to do that. If you’re looking at it as a trampoline, a springboard to launch the season, this is that chance. Washington has been the dominant force in this conference the last couple years.”
Can we just acknowledge this as a rivalry?
This week, both head coaches Mario Cristobal and Chris Peterson, addressed the media previewing the game ahead. And both coaches are approaching this game with different messages to their teams. Cristobal is preaching the rivalry, using it as motivation and acknowledging the stage. While Peterson is treating it like any other tough game on their schedule.
So who has the advantage here?
Aaron: “You’re always going to be up for these games no matter what your mindset is.”
Joey: “70 points at home against Washington? That hurts. That leaves a mark. I can’t say what those guys are feeling, all I know is that if I was in that situation, you better believe I’ve had this thing circled on my calendar for two seasons.
Justin Herbert vs. Jake Browning
Joey: “I think Justin has the leg up. It’s tough. Here’s the thing, I hate to say, but as someone who has played this position, Jake is a great player. But what you look at this year, which some consider a stat reduction year - he doesn’t have those guys who made him look so good in the pass. But right now, I would take Justin Herbert over any quarterback in the country. He has, at least physically, what Jake Browning doesn’t. What Jake has that Justin doesn’t is the experience.”
Aaron: “If I’m offering a scholarship to one of those two guys, Herbert. If I’m drafting one of those two guys, I’m drafting Herbert. If I’m starting a program, I’m taking Herbert. If I have to win one game, I’m starting Browning. If I have one drive at the end of the game, I’m taking Browning. I’ve seen Browning win big games, I’ve seen browning win championships, we have not seen Herbert do much of that.”
Jordan: “The argument to that is that Browning has had a much better defense than Oregon over the past couple of years and you could argue a better supporting cast, but let’s get to this game and the last time Washington came to Oregon and the Huskies put up 70 on the Ducks… Now is the chance for the Justin Herbert coming out party.”
Justin Herbert vs. the Washington defense
Whether it’s the front 7 or the secondary, this Huskies defense is leading the Pac-12 only allowing 13.7 points per game. Washington does a really good job not allowing touchdowns when opposing offenses are in the redzone.
So what part of this Washington defense will be the most challenging for Herbert and the Ducks offense?
Aaron: “Dillon Mitchell [WR] is a baller. There is still question marks about the other receivers and what I feared all season is when they get into a tough game like this and they go up against a good defense with DB’s who can lock you up, are the other guys going to tip up and get open, make plays for Herbert, and be there on time before that pas rush gets to Herbert? Now the pass rush is not what it used to be, but I would be worried about that secondary.”
Keys to success for Oregon
Aaron: “I love what the front 7 has been doing for the Ducks. I think they’re one of the best probably since the national championship run in 2014. I think they need to get pressure on Browning, try to rattle the veteran and force him into some mistakes. Otherwise I think Browning is capable of making the veteran type of plays that will beat you.”
Joey: “They got to create turnovers. If you’re looking at this game purely stats, No. 1 offense (Oregon) vs. the No. 1 defense (Washington)…There is a Washington quarterback that is experienced, been in big games, which means he is going to score some points. What does that mean in the end? A really tight game. This defense [Oregon], in the same way what they did to CAL, that was the difference. That was the difference in an 18 point win or a close 3 point win. This defense needs to create turnovers. If you can get this Autzen crowd into it, they will win this game.”
Jordan: “If you’re Washington coming into this game, you’re going to lock down Dillon Mitchell… What does that mean? Well for Oregon, you don’t really have an established No. 2 receiver, you’ve got to be able to run the ball and it starts with the offensive line up front creating some holes for these young running backs who seem to get better and better each week. You have to get to manageable third downs.”