The Husky Hype Highway got a lot wider this past weekend. It's damn near a freeway right now. Here come the Huskies flying down the road toward the National College Playoff.
The Huskies were extraordinarily dominant in all phases of the game on Friday versus Stanford. Both the offensive and defensive line for the Huskies had the games of their career against arguably some of the best talent in the nation at Stanford. The one prediction no one made last week was that UW would absolutely bully Stanford at the line on both sides of the ball. The defensive line for the Dawgs was absolutely brilliant sacking the quarterback eight times. Psalm Wooching had his best game ever with three sacks and was named Walter Camp defensive national player of the week. Joe Mathis had a highlight reel game where he embarrassed one of the Stanford offensive lineman. The UW offensive line was stellar in their protection of Jake Browning allowing no sacks and opening up holes for Myles Gaskin to finally break 100 yards. John Ross, Chico McClatcher and Dante Pettis all looked exceptional at the receiver position running fast routes and beating the outmatched corners and safeties. Christian McCaffrey was finally shut down in the run game. The only minor hiccup the whole day was allowing a 57-yard kick return by McCaffrey and missing an extra point. Special teams made up for it though with a clutch muffed punt recovery that helped maintain momentum against Stanford. The nation has been put on notice that the “Husky Hype” is real and they are looking to continue farther down the hype highway with their next stop at Oregon. Let's break down the matchup at Autzen Stadium and see how the Dawgs plan to break the long streak of Oregon wins.
The Huskies are favored by a touchdown against Oregon for the first time in over a decade. After Huskies’ stunningly dominant win against Stanford and Oregon's embarrassing loss to Washington State, the tide seemingly has turned in the Pacific Northwest. Let's first look at Oregon and what they will bring to the field this Saturday.
Oregon is coming into the game on a three game losing streak. Things on the offensive look better than the defense. Royce Freeman is arguably their best weapon despite playing through some injuries and has scored 7 touchdowns already on the season. Similar to Stanford, the Ducks will rely on the run game with Freeman if they want any shot at winning this game. Freeman is a great running back who could beat most defenses with his speed and power. If the Huskies can muster up a similar effort in stopping the run as they did with Stanford, the Ducks stand little chance of making noise against the Dawgs. Dakota Prukop started the season with unknown expectations but has proved himself merely to be a middle of the pack quarterback in the Pac-12. Though Prukop has some mobility, his numbers are not anything special with only 8 touchdowns and 1,1173 yards through five games. The one danger here with Prukop is his run ability. Arizona's Brandon Dawkins was able to keep the game close against the Huskies using his mobility and making big plays. Prukop could potentially be a thorn in UW's side if the Huskies have trouble containing him. Prukop is working without his starting left tackle Tyrell Crosby and missing his Olympic speedster Devon Allen at the starting receiver position. To make matters worth for Prukop he may not even start this Saturday as head coach Mark Helfrich is considering using relative unknown freshman QB Justin Herbert against the Huskies.
Defensively, Oregon has first year defensive coordinator Brady Hoke calling the plays. Hoke took a year off after being fired as Michigan head coach and is not doing so well in his new position. Hoke's defense allowed over 650 yards against Wazzu including 280 rushing yards, which is far higher than normal for a pass happy Washington State team. Oregon ranks near the bottom of the FBS in scoring defense. If these numbers were not bad enough, Oregon will be without their leading tackler Johnny Ragin who was injured in their last game. Brady switched the Oregon defense from 3-4 to a 4-3 scheme this year. This may account for some of the atrocious failure of stopping the run leaving running lanes open while pressuring the quarterback. So far Hoke's rebuilding magic has failed to turn around the problems Oregon's defense has suffered since last year. This is bad news for the ducks with a dangerous backfield combo in Gaskin and Coleman. Browning is one of the most efficient quarterbacks in the nation ranking second only behind Toledo's Logan Woodside. This puts pressure on Oregon's secondary to deliver when the defensive line of the Ducks may be struggling. So far the Ducks defensive backs are ranked 115 out of 128 teams in yards allowed at 280 per game which is even worse than last year. The Ducks have a slightly above average number of sacks and interceptions for the year but will that be enough? Probably not.
After last week’s exceptional performance we can expect the Huskies to have the better team on both sides of the ball. The biggest Husky Hype prediction from last week that came true was holding Stanford to under 25 points. They held them to just 6 points. And as predicted, the Huskies forced a fumble deep in Stanford territory which helped seal the deal for the Huskies. More of the same this week? You bet. Let's look at the squad breakdown.
Jake Browning will look for another impressive night against the ducks. Browning threw for 210 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions against Stanford. Browning is at a 70% pass completion rate putting him into the Heisman hunt if Lamar Jackson and Deshaun Watson start to slip in their performance. Gaskin finally broke the 100 yard mark for rushing this year and likely will see at least the same number of snaps and yards against Oregon. There is a good chance UW will pound the ball in the run game even more on Saturday to take advantage of Oregon's poor rush defense. This may allow Gaskin to see greater yardage than last week on more snaps along with Coleman. The stellar play of the offensive line against Stanford should allow both the passing and rushing game to execute if they continue to provide superior protection. Dante Pettis caught some great deep passes last week and should see some more big plays this week. John Ross was looking like a high NFL draft pick last week with his speed that just outpaced everyone who has attempted to cover him this year. Expect more John Ross highlight reel material against Oregon.
Defensively, UW will likely implement the same game plan as they did Stanford. Number one priority stop the run. Taking Royce Freeman out of the game by stuffing the run will essentially allow UW to dominate Oregon. Helfrich claims Freeman is 100%. He logged 138 yards and three touchdowns versus Washington State so Freeman is likely to be back to his physical self against the Dawgs. Freeman is second in yards per game in the pac-12 only behind Christian McCaffrey. Freeman is a much more power runner at 235 pounds than McCaffrey so will present a different challenge for UW's defensive line. Many picked Freeman to be a top candidate for Heisman at the beginning of the season. His ability to make plays is the most pressing danger UW faces at Autzen Stadium. The next challenge will be to shut down Oregon's spread offense. The self-proclaimed “Death Row” defense of Washington will be challenged by the speed and tempo of Oregon's offense. Luckily, Sidney Jones and Budda Baker have been phenomenal in the secondary. Joe Mathis is developing on the defensive end and Psalm Wooching had a coming out party last weekend with 3 sacks. If the secondary holds up for Washington, the opportunities for coverage sacks will allow guys like Azeem Victor and Keishawn Bierria to put pressure on Prukop (or possibly Herbert) and limit the big plays Oregon is known for.
Special teams will hopefully continue to improve. UW needs to contain big runs on kick returns. McCaffrey is arguably the best returner in the country so it was not unexpected for him to get a big return this past week. UW can not allow those type of plays this week that might keep Oregon in the game. John Ross is overdue to take one to the house this year and perhaps we will see another big return for a touchdown from him or Pettis. In case the game is close, UW can not afford to miss more extra points as it has been a recurring issue this season.
Here comes the fun part where we get to make the Husky Hype predictions for this week:
-UW scores over 40 points for the 5th game this year
-Huskies come up with another sack-riffic performance with 5+ sacks
-Huskies rush for over combined 200 yards
-Browning gets his 20th touchdown of the season putting him on pace to break the single season record of 33 held by Keith Price
-Oregon fails to convert on 4th down twice
-Announcer mentions the coaching hot seat for Mark Helfrich at least three times
Final Score Prediction: UW pummels Oregon 42-21