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November 4, 2011Matchup: No. 6 Oregon Ducks (7-1, 5-0) at Washington Huskies (6-2, 4-1)
Kickoff: Saturday, 7:30 p.m. (PST), Husky Stadium, Seattle.
TV, Radio: The game will air to a national audience on Fox Sports Net. Craig Bolerjack, Joel Klatt and Petros Papadakis will provide the commentary. It can be heard in Seattle on 950-AM KJR with Bob Rondeau doing the play-by-play, Damon Huard doing color commentary and Elise Woodward reporting from the sideline.
Pregame festivities: Saturday's game will be the final game in Husky Stadium before major renovations begin. The school has several different plans in place for the game. The 1991 National Championship team will be honored at the game. Former head coach Don James will officiate the coin toss before the game. There will be a commemorative 360-degree interactive stadium photo taken before the game. Saturday will also be senior day for the Huskies.
Coaches: Steve Sarkisian, Washington (third year); Chip Kelly , Oregon (third year).
Series: Oregon has dominated the series in recent years, winning 12 of the last 16 meetings; having not lost since 2003. In every game since 2003, the Ducks have won by at least 20 points. Still, the overall series is in the Huskies' favor (Washington leads the series, 58-40-5).
Husky quarterback Keith Price made his first career start last season against Oregon. His start wasn't bad, but the Huskies lost 53-16.
About the Ducks: The entire Oregon team is built around speed, but it's most obvious on the offensive side of the ball where their tailback trio is one of the best in the nation. LaMichael James, Kenjon Barner and DeAnthony Thomas are all electric players who have the potential to score nearly every time they touch the ball. The Ducks are fourth in the nation and first in the Pac-12, averaging 309.3 yards per game on the ground. They also average over a yard per carry more than any other team in the nation with a 7.2 yard average.
Oregon uses the no huddle offense throughout games to wear down opposing defenses. That's been a major reason for the Ducks' ability to pull away from opponents in the second half.
The Oregon defense has played much better than it ranks in most categories. The Ducks are ninth in the conference in rush defense and fifth in pass defense. However, because their offense scores so quickly, the defense spends more time on the field than any other team in the conference, which skews the overall stats. Their yards per attempt are some of the best in the conference, they are fourth in yards per rush allowed at 3.8; and first in yards per pass at 6.0 yards per attempt. Oregon also has had a lot of success getting to opposing quarterbacks, ranking second in the conference in sacks per game, led by linebacker Josh Kaddu who has five.
About the Huskies: While the Ducks have a three-headed rushing attack, the Huskies lean on Chris Polk to do nearly all of the running. He's coming off of one of the best performances in Washington history when he ran for 144 yards and four touchdowns and also caught four passes for 100 yards and a score. He's fifth in the nation, averaging 150.83 yards per game and second in the conference only to James.
Quarterback Keith Price is coming off of his worst performance statistically of the season in which he threw three interceptions. None of the three were completely his fault though, as his receivers made mistakes that caused the turnovers. Still it may have his confidence rattled. He will likely be looking for tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins in this game. He's proven the ability to get open and make big plays; the two have also just missed on a couple of game-breaking plays as well.
The much-maligned Husky defense came through in the fourth quarter against Arizona last week, forcing three turnovers in the quarter helping a late surge and a Husky victory. Still, the defense has yet to show it can stop an opposing defense on a consistent basis. The run defense of the Huskies has been solid this season, but when opponents lean just on the run, they've had success against the Huskies. Stanford ran for a school-record 446 yards against Washington with the same play run nearly every time.
The Husky defense is thinking too much, according to Sarkisian. If they are caught thinking and not reacting against Oregon, they won't have a chance. Washington's defense needs to continue its momentum from the end of the Arizona game when the unit was playing with instincts and not overthinking every play. The Huskies' defense has a history this season of giving up big plays early.
What to expect: There will be plenty of emotion on Saturday when the two heated rivals meet in the final game in the currently configured Husky Stadium. Things could get ugly if Oregon's offense catches the Huskies caught up in the moment, but Sarkisian has vowed to keep his players focused on the game.
Still, the Ducks offense is just too quick for the Huskies to keep up with. Their only chance is to force a bunch of turnovers and score enough points to keep the crowd in the game. Even though the run defense is the strength of the Huskies, in the five-games the Huskies have given up 300-plus passing yards this season, the Huskies are 5-0. That would lead you to believe that the key to beating the Huskies is running on them. That is something Oregon should have no trouble with.
UDubNation.com pick: Oregon, 52-38.
Follow UDubNation's Mitchell Larsen on Twitter @MLarsen_Rivals