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Huskies defense propels it in matchup against Oregon

Washington's defense has been playing better and better. It has gotten some national attention as of late, and it could give Oregon some serious trouble this Saturday in Eugene. If it does, Washington has its best chance of beating Oregon in a decade. I'll tell you why.

Danny Shelton is one of the best defensive tackles in college football and will have a big role in stopping Oregon's high-powered offense.
Danny Shelton is one of the best defensive tackles in college football and will have a big role in stopping Oregon's high-powered offense.
Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

Cal Jared Goff takes the snap from the Washington 1-yard line after a commanding 79-yard drive, reaches the ball toward the goal line and...fumbles?

That was how I watched, and I sat on my balcony in disbelief and Shaq Thompson was running on my computer screen. He just...kept...running. The massive 14-point swing made its way into everyone's gamer, and for good reason. The momentum shift was monumental.

I was talking to a local football coach the other day and his team had lost their game last Friday because the other team scored three scoop-and-score touchdowns. One was enough to break the backs of Cal, never mind the two other fumbles lost by the Golden Bears. The area-high school team here in eastern Oregon lost by 16, and you take away those 21 points they win, and they win handily.

That's a testament to how good this UW defense is.  I don't know if I've seen a unit go from heroes, to goats to heroes again so quickly. The defense essentially won the Hawaii game by itself, and almost lost the Eastern game alone. Now, behind four straight strong defensive performances, the Huskies are 5-1 and riding a surge of momentum as they head to Eugene to take on the ninth-ranked Ducks.

A couple months ago, I wrote a post about the rivalry between Oregon and Washington. It's a really good story, but it hasn't been a good rivalry the next decade. Washington's defense is in position to change all of that this weekend.

The way to beat teams like Oregon requires a good running game, a capable passing game, and a really, really good front seven.

Washington certainly has the front seven to beat Oregon. Defensive end/linebacker hybrid Hau'oli Kikaha is leading the nation is sacks, with ten.

Defensive tackle Danny Shelton is sixth in sacks (7.0), eigth in tackles for loss (9.5) and tied for second in fumble recoveries (three). Then there's Thompson, who is tied with Shelton in fumble recoveries, but unlike Shelton has ran all three of them back and has four defensive TDs overall.

All that praise doesn't take away from the other eight guys on the field. Middle linebacker John Timu is as good at diagnosing plays as I've seen. True freshman strong safety Budda Baker is finally adjusting to the speed of FBS football and becoming a very, very solid strong safety. The entire d-line is good: guys like Andrew and Evan Hudson and Joe Mathis and Elijah Qualls are solid contributors. True freshman Sidney Jones IV has been a revelation at corner opposite junior Marcus Peters (who has significantly curbed his attitude since the suspension).

Notice I haven't written anything about the offense. That's on purpose. The word that best describes the UW's offense is: meh. They're meh. They're alright, decent, so-so, ok. Nothing more, nothing less. They were better against Cal, but 31 points almost seemed disappointing, even though it wasn't.

I'm a firm believer, though, that winning is the ultimate goal. Should you always want to improve? Yes. Should you never be complacent? No. But they won. They created momentum as they move toward the biggest game of the year: Oregon.

And Oregon is a really difficult task. They the ball as good or better than any team in the country. Marcus Mariota is probably the best player in the country. Washington isn't going to be able to win a track meet against Oregon, but their front seven will keep them in the game. Washington State was able to get a lot of pressure on Mariota, although the Ducks' left tackle was hurt and that contributed to a lot of Oregon's woes.

The UW, though, has one of the best pass-rushing units in the land, and it will test Oregon's pass protection. Although it's a road game, this is Washington's best opportunity to beat the Ducks in ten years.

I can't wait for Saturday.