Seattle, WA (SportsNetwork.com) - For the second straight week the No. 16
Washington Huskies will square off with a top-five squad, as the No. 2 Oregon
Ducks come to Seattle for a Pac-12 showdown at Husky Stadium.
There has been zero letup by the Ducks this season. Oregon has been running an
absolutely punishing offense out on the field, rolling to a 5-0 record while
averaging 59.2 points per game. With their 57-16 rout of Colorado last
weekend, the Ducks have scored at least 50 points in a school record five
straight games. Oregon also put up 755 yards of total offense against the
Buffaloes. That still doesn't seem to be enough for head coach Mark Helfrich.
"We're 5-0, that's our best statistic, and we haven't played remotely to what
we can in any phase in any game so that's encouraging," Helfrich said.
That is quite the statement for a Washington team, fresh off an emotional,
31-28, loss to No. 5 Stanford, to deal with. The Huskies have surprised some
by their play early in the season as they come into this game at 4-1 overall,
while ranked in the top 20 for the sixth straight week after failing to do so
in the last nine seasons.
Clearly Washington will be trying to avoid a repeat of the outcome from a year
ago between these teams. In that contest in Eugene, Marcus Mariota threw for
four touchdowns as the Ducks rolled to a 52-21 victory. Even with the win,
which was the ninth straight for Oregon against the Huskies, it may surprise
some to know that Washington still leads the all-time series with the Ducks
It is difficult to take Helfrich's comments about his team seriously. After
all the Ducks have been absolutely shredding opposing defenses this season,
ranking second nationally in total offense (630.4 ypg) and points scored (59.2
ppg). Obviously, there is not much room for improvement.
The Ducks are known for their heavy running game and even with De'Anthony
Thomas out last week with an ankle injury, the Ducks were impressive on the
ground yet again. Byron Marshall totaled 122 yards on 23 carries for the
nation's third-best rushing attack. Marshall (448 yards, four TDs) has been
the feature back this season, but he has gotten plenty of help from Thomas
(338 yards, six TDs), who is listed as questionable for Saturday, and Thomas
Tyner (204 yards, five TDs).
Equally lethal for both his ability to throw and run is Mariota. The sophomore
has shown no signs of a slump after an impressive rookie campaign. Mariota is
completing a modest 56.7 percent of his pass attempts, but has totaled 1,358
yards and 14 touchdowns, without a single interception. Then there is the 338
yards and seven scores he has accounted for on the ground, making him an even
more dangerous threat.
Mariota has relied primarily on Josh Huff (21 receptions, 445 yards, four TDs)
and Bralon Addison (19 receptions, 345 yards, four TDs) when he does decide to
throw the ball. Both had five receptions for two scores and over 100 yards
It hasn't just been on offense that the Ducks have been producing at a high
level. Oregon is letting up just 11.8 points and 331.2 yards per game to its
opponents. Even more impressive has been the Ducks' ability to get teams off
the field, as foes have converted on just 23-of-89 third down attempts, while
making only 13 trips into the red zone. Only four of those trips have led to
Ifo Ekpre-Olomu is a dangerous cornerback for the Ducks, while Tony Washington
(4.0 sacks) is the unit's best pass rusher.
Although perhaps not as prolific as the Ducks, the Huskies can certainly run
it up on the offensive side of the ball. Washington may be ranked just seventh
in the conference in scoring (37.4 ppg), but the Huskies are still piling up
yards with the third best mark in the league (557 ypg).
Quarterback Keith Price's stock continues to rise. The senior has throw for
1,394 yards and 11 touchdown, while completing an impressive 71.2 percent of
his pass attempts. On top of that Price has been intercepted just three times.
Needless to say Price will be looking to make up for his poor performance
against Oregon last year when he threw two interceptions.
Another player for the Huskies who has been slowly rising to prominence at the
Pac-12 and national level is Bishop Sankey. The Huskies' running back has
totaled 732 yards and seven touchdowns on the campaign and currently ranks
fourth in the nation in rushing.
Making the plays on the other end of Price's passes is a productive trio of
receivers. Jaydon Mickens (30 receptions, 273 yards, two TDs) has been a
reliable possession receiver, leading the team in receptions. Meanwhile, Kevin
Smith (21 receptions, 367 yards, two TDs) and Kasen Williams (21 receptions,
344 yards, TD) are threats that can stretch the field. It also bears
mentioning that Austin Seferian-Jenkins (14 receptions, 148 yards, two TDs)
can produce at a high level from the tight end spot.
Where the Huskies might actually have an edge over the Ducks is on defense.
Though Washington is allowing more points per game (14.8) than Oregon, the
Huskies lead the Pac-12 in total defense (287.8 ypg). Washington has also
allowed teams to get into the red zone just 13 times, while totaling 15 sacks.
Josh Shirley (3.0 sacks) and Hau'oli Kikaha (3.5 sacks) anchor the Huskies
pass rush, while linebacker Shaq Thompson (35 tackles) and safety Sean Parker
(24 tackles, three INTs) make plays in the open field.
"If we want to remain in the hunt in the Pac-12 North, we need to win
Saturday. That's what it's about," said Washington head coach Steve Sarkisian.
"We are going to go out and put our best foot forward and see if that is good
enough to win."
The Sports Network