Washington at Oregon

The Sports Xchange

October 10, 2018 at 5:34 pm.

KICKOFF: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET
SITE: Autzen Stadium, Eugene, Ore.
SERIES: Washington leads Oregon 60-45-5. The Huskies won 38-3 last season.
RANKINGS: Washington No. 7; Oregon No. 17


–RB Myles Gaskin rushed for more than 100 yards for the second time this season last week against UCLA. Even when splitting carries with Salvon Ahmed, Gaskin has found a groove. He has at least 81 yards in four consecutive games, but that same pace could be a challenge at Oregon. The Ducks are 18th in the nation in rushing yards allowed per game.

–QB Jake Browning has played his three best games of the 2018 season in Washington’s last three outings. He followed up performances of 15-of-22 passing with three touchdowns on Sept. 22 vs. Arizona State and 23-of-25 on Sept. 29 vs. BYU with a 265-yard passing, 49-yard rushing game in last week’s win over UCLA.

–S Taylor Rapp has been an important utility man for the Washington defense this season, leading the Huskies with four sacks while also serving as support in run-stopping and a presence against the pass. He dove for an interception last week at UCLA, providing the kind of play that can be difference-making against Oregon. Ducks QB Justin Herbert has been somewhat turnover prone, throwing five interceptions in five games.

–LB Ben Burr-Kirven leads the Pac-12 with 74 tackles. Burr-Kirven’s ball-hawking against the run is particularly vital against an Oregon offense boasting three ball-carriers averaging at least 40 yards per game in CJ Verdell, Travis Dye and Tony Brooks-James.


–QB Justin Herbert makes Oregon’s offense fly, with 1,411 passing yards and 15 touchdowns on the season. But, for how good Herbert is, he’s yet to get a signature win against a top-tier defense. He did everything he could against Stanford earlier in the year, but the Ducks still came up short. This could be the last time the hometown legend gets a chance for a big-time win, and what better scenario than against hated rival Washington? Herbert has led the Ducks to an average of 42.3 points over his 20 games as a starting quarterback.

–DE Jalen Jelks had somewhat of a slow start after he burst onto the college football scene last year, but that can all change with a great performance against the Huskies. Jelks must put pressure on Washington quarterback Jake Browning, making him uncomfortable in the pocket and forcing him into bad throws. At the same time, Jelks must be a force against the run, containing Myles Gaskin and setting the edge.

–WR Dillon Mitchell, after a slow start to the season, has been unstoppable his past two games, catching 21 passes for 344 yards and one score against two of the better pass defenses in the country.


It’s no secret that fans from Oregon and Washington don’t get along.

Add in the word’s “revenge” and “championship” … and, well, the 111th meeting between the Ducks and Huskies promises to be exciting.

“Intensity of rivalries like this is through the roof … it’s off the chart,” Oregon head coach Mario Cristobal said.

“You can talk about it or write about it or explain it, and it still doesn’t capture the true fire and intensity and passion that goes behind something like this.”

No. 17 Oregon and No. 7 Washington will kick off the newest chapter of their rivalry on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET in Eugene, Ore.

Oregon enters the game in search of a defining win, one that proves the Ducks are part of the upper echelon of teams in the country. After 12 straight wins over Washington from 2004 through 2015, Oregon has lost the last two games against the Huskies.

Hoping to help turn around Oregon’s recent fortunes is quarterback Justin Herbert.

Herbert — a 6-foot-6 junior who is projected to be a first-round pick in the upcoming NFL Draft if he opts to turn pro — will be tested more than ever by a Huskies secondary that features multiple players who should be playing on Sundays.

His ability to stand tall in the pocket, deliver the ball wherever he wants and dictate the entire offense is part of what appeals to scouts.

“He’s got size, arm strength, better touch than people think. He’s athletic for a big man, he can really throw on the run,” one NFC executive told Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer.

“And he’s a great kid, has off-the-charts intangibles, wants to be a doctor, he has it all squared away. He wasn’t raised to be a quarterback, but he’s from a football family. … He’s only 21, so he could use an extra year. But if he’s a top-5 pick, he has to consider going.”

With Herbert at the helm, the Ducks average 503.6 yards and 45.6 points per game this season, both ranking in the top 15 in the nation. Against other top defenses in Stanford and Cal, the Ducks averaged 36.5 points as Herbert threw for 571 yards and three scores.

Washington has dominated the previous two games in the rivalry, relying on a strong defense and outscoring Oregon 108-24 in the process.

This year is no different as the Huskies have a passing defense that has given up three scores on the season, third best in the nation. The Huskies surrender 13.7 points per game, also third best in the nation.

In 2016, the Huskies snapped their 12-game losing streak to the Ducks when quarterback Jake Browning totaled eight touchdowns, none more memorable than when he pointed at Oregon linebacker Jimmie Swain as he crossed the goal-line.

“It was pretty dumb to do,” Browning said last year when asked of the 2016 incident. “It kind of sucks that it was such a big game, and that’s what everybody talks about, is pointing. I think that was pretty selfish on my part, and I’m not going to let that happen again.”

“The wag” — as it’s come to be known — still upsets Washington head coach Chris Peterson. So much so that he decided to bar Browning from meeting with any of the media this week ahead of Saturday’s showdown.

This is the first time since 2013 that both teams are ranked when they meet. That has occurred five times previously, and Oregon currently leads 4-1 in those situations, including the 45-24 win in 2013.

Saturday’s showdown is also expected to provide clarity to the race for the Pac-12 North crown.

The Ducks have one Pac-12 loss, suffering a heartbreaking defeat to Stanford. Oregon can’t afford to lose another conference game, but a win by the Ducks puts them in the thick of the title race.

The Huskies are undefeated in Pac-12 play but still have to face No. 19 Colorado, Stanford and 5-1 Washington State in the Apple Cup. The Huskies would still have a shot at the Pac-12 title if they lose to Oregon, but that would essentially eliminate them from consideration for a College Football Playoff berth.

While this rivalry is viewed as one of the most intense on the West Coast, Peterson is making sure his team views it as just another one on their season-long march to the championship.

“I also think it seems like every week is just a huge game to us, like everyone’s got us circled and all those type of things,” Peterson said. “So that’s why we just concentrate on ourselves … every week is a big week.”

On the other hand, Cristobal is making sure the Ducks know exactly what’s at stake.

“Our players have seen and understand the history of the series … they understand how passionate both fan bases are about this — it’s critically important for both programs involved,” Cristobal said.

“We don’t ever try to mask or hide or downplay the factors that go into rivalry games. It’s always going to be like that with the way we prepare and motivate our players.”