The Battle for the Northwest | Oregon Ducks vs. Washington Huskies


This match-up between the Oregon Ducks and the Washington Huskies is a great one between two prominent Pac-12 opponents.  These two teams are only separated by a few hours of driving on Interstate-5. It wasn’t too many years ago that the University of Washington was a national powerhouse, hosting teams like Miami, and plucking the feathers of Ducks. The tides have changed over the last few years and now Oregon plays the role of the favorite while Washington is steadily rebuilding its program back into the national spotlight. This Saturday’s game should be a good one and Oregon should come out on top, but I have to wonder how much longer will Oregon own the Northwest?  Put yourself in the shoes of a recruit; you’re an 18 year-old kid who isn’t from either state, which city would you rather call home for three to five years?  Would it be Eugene or Seattle? From an offensive standpoint when speaking about NFL development, which system would you rather play in if you have legitimate NFL ambitions? Would you chose the hurry-up spread offense seen in Eugene (not seen in the NFL), or Steve Sarkisian’s offense from his days at USC?  Once again I think Washington may have a leg up in this area. However, Oregon does a great job of recruiting out of state (and recently they have been grabbing some of the top notch recruits from in state), they have great facilities, “cool” uniforms, and fast explosive system in all three phases of the game. So anything could happen in years to come, but this weekend I can guarantee that we will see two dynamic coaches leading their teams into a game that will be hard fought and fun to watch.

Washington’s offense is impressive scoring 35.6 per game on average.  They look fast, aggressive, and intelligent. I am a big fan of what Sarkisian is doing up north in Seattle. Washington does a great job of using motion and overload receiver sets to create favorable matchups in both the running and passing game. Washington’s wide receivers have a little nastiness in them. Not only do they run great routes and make plays but they also block downfield, and that isn’t easily taught. The Huskies will even motion a wide receiver across the formation to become a kick-out block on a DE or an OLB (instead or to free up a full back). This is huge because it gives a big guy momentum and can make a defense widen towards the motion in fear of a fly sweep (similar to how Oregon State utilized the undersized Rodgers brothers in the past). Another advantage to putting three receivers to one side is that a lot of defenses will use some type of man coverage (with or without a two safety zone on top), and that plays to a huge advantage for Washington.  The reason it becomes an advantage is because they can now send running back Chris Polk on a route out of the backfield that is defended by a linebacker. Polk is a great receiver and creates difficult matchups for linebackers in pass coverage.

On the topic of Polk, and the running attack of Washington, one play that has been big for the Huskies is counter. A counter running play gives a misdirection in the backfield by having the running back first start to one side, get the ball, and cut back towards the other direction causing a misread or a false step by the defending linebacker group. The Huskies get great play-side push that enables a pulling guard and/or tackle to get up to a LB, sealing a great running lane for the tail back. Washington adds another wrinkle by faking (or throwing) a WR quick screen while showing the same blocking and tail back motion. This is legal because the pass is not forward so linemen can go up field.

Washington’s QB Keith Price has to be a pleasant surprise this season for UW fans. Replacing now Tennessee Titans QB Jake Locker seemed like a tough task. However Price works well in this offense and some may even say that the QB play has improved from Locker to Price. Price did throw three interceptions during their last game, but from what I saw, two of those picks were the faults of WRs deflecting catchable balls right into the hands of a Wildcat defender.

All in all I believe with Washington’s effective offense, and good kick return game, they will put up plenty of points against Oregon. However I do not think Washington will be able to stop Oregon’s offense for four quarters on Saturday. Washington is giving up 33.4 points a game and it is clear that Oregon can score on defenses that break down and have trouble defending the running game.

There are some questions for the Ducks this week. How will the QB position play out? Will Thomas be back at 100% slinging the ball around and running the option zone read attack from behind center. Oregon does not run a lot of deep drop back passes because Thomas is already starting out five yards behind center.  He establishes his feet and gets rid of the ball relatively quick. This spells trouble for the Washington pass rush that was able to get after Arizona’s (in comparison) immobile QB.

Who will get the most carriers out of the Oregon backfield, James or Barner? Last week against Washington State James had 13 carries for 53 yards while Barner had 11 attempts for 107 yards. This is a pretty good share of the load for Oregon, but I think Oregon fans would all feel better if James was able to carry a heavier share of the running game now that he is back from injury.

Darron Thomas went eight for 13 after not playing against Colorado. Thomas threw for 153 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. Bryan Bennett did come in and get some time against WSU as well.

The stage is set for a great showdown in Seattle.  It’s a 7:30pm kickoff between the University of Washington and the University of Oregon. I predict that both offenses will put up points, and that this game will stay close until late in the third quarter. Oregon has proven to be a great second half team (especially by the defensive coaching staff and their superior second half adjustments) and I believe that will be the difference in the game.

My final outcome is Oregon 44 Washington 27 in a game that showcases a ton of speed from both teams, especially on the offensive side of things.