Saturday, October 6, 2012

#23 Washington Huskies travel down to face #2 Oregon Ducks

By Kshell

This week the newly ranked #23 Washington Huskies(3-1, 1-0) fresh off their upset of then #8 Stanford Cardinal are looking to have an even bigger upset this week. The Huskies travel down to Eugene to take on the #2 Oregon Ducks(5-0, 2-0) as they are looking for their first win in this series since 2003. The Huskies still lead the all-time series comfortably 58-41-5 despite losing eight in a row. This will be the first time both these teams will square off as ranked teams since 2000 when the #20 Oregon Ducks defeated the #6 Washington Huskies 23-16. The last time the Huskies won where both teams were ranked was back in 1990 when the #17 Huskies blew out the #19 Ducks 38-17. In fact only 1990, 1995, and 2000 were the only years these teams have squared off where both were ranked since 1990 which is pretty incredible. The Ducks are used to winning big national spotlight games while the Huskies are still trying to figure that out. A win down in Eugene would be Steve Sarkisian's biggest win of his young coaching career.

If the Huskies were to pull off the upset they'd need a big game from Keith Price. Price is returning to the stadium where he made his first career college start as a freshman against #1 Oregon back in 2010. In that game Price was 14-28 passing for 127 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions. It was a 25-16 game in the middle of the third until it turned ugly. Last year against Oregon Price struggled badly as he was 24-35(68.6%) passing for only 143 yards(4.1 YPA) with two touchdowns and two costly interceptions. Price for the season is 75-127 passing(59.1%) for 737 yards(5.8 YPA) with five touchdowns to two interceptions. Those are well below his capabilities as his offensive line must buy him some time so he can finally make some plays. Price hasn't thrown for over 200 yards this year since the first week of the season.

At quarterback the Ducks once again have a new quarterback in Marcus Mariota who is only a freshman. This will be the third different starting quarterback in four years for Chip Kelly. His two most recent starting quarterbacks beat out the previous years backup as well. Mariota this year is 99-144(68.8%) passing for 1,103 yards(7.7 YPA) with 11 touchdowns to four interceptions. He has also ran for 181 yards with a touchdown.

His backup quarterback Bryan Bennett who many expected to be the starter is 13-23(56.5%) passing for 135 yards(5.9 YPA) with one touchdown and two interceptions. He has ran for 57 yards and three touchdowns on the year. Oregon has plenty of weapons to make these quarterbacks look good including the most exciting player in all of college football.

The most exciting player in the game today is sophomore play maker De'Anthony Thomas. Last year against the Huskies he only carried the ball one time but scored on a nine yard touchdown run. He also ran back a kickoff 69 yards to set up a score. This year Thomas has rushed for 302 yards on 31 carries(9.7 YPC) with five touchdowns. He also has 19 receptions for 193 yards(10.2 YPC) with three touchdowns. He has four kickoff returns for 53 yards(13.3 YPR) and 10 punt returns for 150 yards(15.0 YPR) including a 48 yarder. Add it all up and Thomas is averaging 139.6 yards a game.

The other weapons for the Ducks include Bralon Addison who has 15 receptions for 185 yards(12.3 YPC) with a touchdown. Colt Lyerla has nine receptions for 118 yards(13.1 YPC) with two touchdowns. Keanon Lowe has 12 receptions for 112 yards(9.3 YPC) with a touchdown. Dwayne Stanford has 11 receptions for  106 yards(9.6 YPC). When you add it all up the Ducks have five different guys with double digit receptions already and six guys who are over 100 yards already. Eight different Ducks have also caught a touchdown pass this year showing you the kind of depth they have.

The Huskies might be one of the few teams on Oregon's schedule who could make an argument they have more talented skill players than Oregon. They are led by sophomore wide receiver Kasen Williams. Williams last year against the Ducks caught six passes for 79 yards(13.2 YPC) with a touchdown plus a 53 yard reception as well. Williams on the year has 25 receptions for 292 yards(11.7 YPC) with three touchdowns. He is coming off of a career game last week where he had  10 receptions for 129 yards(12.9 YPC) with the game winning touchdown against Stanford.

The other standout the Huskies have is tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins who the Ducks shut down last year. He was held to just one catch which went for negative yardage. For the year Seferian-Jenkins has 22 receptions for 221 yards(10.0 YPC) with a touchdown. Outside of Seferian-Jenkins and Williams the Huskies are lacking production. Kevin Smith has six receptions for 68 yards(11.3 YPC) hopefully this week he can return to health. DiAndre Campbell has four receptions for 38 yards(9.5 YPC) with a touchdown reception. Jaydon Mickens has five receptions for 33 yards(6.6 YPC) as he is a true freshman.  Kendyl Taylor has two receptions for 17 yards(8.5 YPC) as he is being moved to running back this week. The Huskies going forward need another receiver to step it up to get the passing game going.

Despite issues with the offensive line Bishop Sankey has had a great back to back weeks. Last year against Oregon he had two carries for 21 yards(10.5 YPC) with a 19 yard rush. This year Sankey has 329 yards rushing on 64 carries(5.1 YPC) with four touchdowns. He also has six receptions for 39 yards(6.5 YPC).

He is coming off of a career game last week against the 3rd rushing defense in the nation Stanford. He ran for 144 yards on 20 carries(7.2 YPC) with a 61 yard touchdown run on a 4th and 1. Backing up Sankey now is Taylor who last week ran for only nine yards on four carries. He also has Erich Wilson who has ran for 119 yards on 21 carries(5.7 YPC). The Huskies also have big back Dezden Petty who has ran for 65 yards on 24 carries(2.7 YPC) as he picked up a crucial fourth and one last week. The Huskies running game is in pretty good hands despite injuries and losing Chris Polk to the NFL.

The Ducks under Chip Kelly once again feature the best running game in the Pac-12 if not college football. This year they are led by Kenjon Barner along with De'Anthony Thomas who I already mentioned. Barner against the Huskies in 2010 ran for 60 yards on only nine carries(6.7 YPC) including a 30 yard touchdown run. Last year against the Huskies Barner ran for 41 yards on 10 carries(4.1 YPC) with a one yard touchdown to open up the second half.

This season Barner has rushed for 605 yards on 95 carries(6.3 YPC) with nine touchdowns. He also has 11 receptions for 111 yards(10.1 YPC) with a touchdown this season. He will eventually make his money playing on Sunday's in the NFL as he is a talented back who the Huskies must contain to have any shot at keeping this game close.

The Ducks have another running back who has done well in Byron Marshall who has ran for 199 yards at a 5.0 YPC clip with two touchdowns. Through five games this year the Ducks are rushing for 1,535 yards(307 YPG) with 21 touchdowns. In 2010 the Ducks ran for 279 yards at a 5.1 YPC clip with six rushing touchdowns against the Huskies. In 2011 the Ducks ran for 212 yards at a 5.4 YPC clip with three rushing touchdowns. The Ducks ability to run the ball down the Huskies throats is the main reason why they have dominated this series lately.

This rivalry is officially a friendly rivalry again since both coaches are friends with each other. This is like when Don James and Rich Brooks were friends. Only now Kelly is playing the role of James and Sarkisian is playing the role of Brooks. Sarkisian has another chance to showcase his program and prove to everyone his program is going in the right direction. Even if the Huskies don't win but are competitive along with last weeks upset of Stanford would indicate that. For the second time this year the Huskies are playing the #2 team in the nation on the road. For the third time in five games the Huskies are playing a top 10 opponent. For Sarkisian he has nothing to lose and everything to gain with a win over Oregon. He can make a lot of friends with a win. On the flip side another embarrassing blowout loss would start the negative chatter once again.

The Huskies have an opportunity to put a scare into the Ducks and then try and upset them. The Huskies have first down NFL draft picks on their roster just like the Ducks do. The Huskies program last year saw themselves ranked and were on ESPN on the road in a big game. They lost to Stanford 65-21 as they are hoping to avoid such a letdown again. For the bulk of this rivalry the Huskies have dominated the Ducks but in the past decade the Ducks have been the ones dominating. Can the Huskies steal back the rivalry down in Eugene? Can Sarkisian pull off back to back top 10 wins something the Huskies haven't done since 1982 when in late November they defeated #9 UCLA 10-7 at home then defeated #3 Arizona State Sun Devils 17-13 on the road. They then famously lost to 2-7-1 Washington State to get bounced from the Rose Bowl. So it has been 30 years since the Huskies won back to back weeks against top 10 opponents. Perhaps this can be the year where the Huskies do it again.

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