Oregon will be making the trip up to Seattle this weekend to take on Washington. This is a game that both fan bases have had circled since Oregon won 30-27 in overtime last season. This is also a huge game for both teams and where their season’s currently stand.
A win by Oregon will essentially end the Pac-12 North because Oregon would basically have a three-game lead over any team viewed as a threat, because of tiebreakers. However, if Washington were to win, the Pac-12 North race would be within one game, and it would increase the pressure on Oregon as the season wears on.
Oregon vs Washington: Keys For an Oregon Win
Oregon has yet to play in as hostile an environment as will be present at Husky Stadium on Saturday. The most comparable environment in the Mario Cristobal Era was Washington State last season. While Oregon made it a game in the second half, the environment clearly made an impact on the first half. The offensive line was jumpy, there was miscommunication between Justin Herbert and his receivers, and we saw a few snapped balls while Herbert was making adjustments at the line.
If the communication is off, Oregon will put themselves in some tough spots. The offense can’t afford false starts. If that happens, it will put them in obvious passing situations, which is not where the offense wants to be.
Also, Herbert and his receivers have to be on the same page. If they waste passing plays because they are on a different page, it’ll also put them behind the chains.
The communication needs to be dialed-in defensively as well. Now the defense being on the same page hasn’t been an issue this season, but again, this will be the toughest environment so far, so everything needs to be dialed-in.
Take Early Shots Downfield
Of course, loosening up the defense will make running the ball easier. With Jacob Breeland lost for the season, most would expect the passing game to take a hit. However, that could also hurt the running game. So anything the coaching staff can do to take people out of the box and make the running game easier will increase the teams’ chances of winning.
Oregon vs Washington: Keys Continued
Shutdown the Washington Running Game
The Oregon defense has been dominant this season. The Washington offense has been inconsistent. Washington’s best chance of moving the ball consistently in this one is to get the running game going.
Washington has a few different options at running back that they can throw at Oregon. Salvon Ahmed is the best one, but Sean McGrew is also dangerous. Richard Newton has also shown capability this season, but he’s banged up right now and might not be playing.
If Oregon doesn’t allow Washington to run the ball, it will put a lot of pressure on Jacob Eason to have the beat this defense.
That would generally be a good thing for Oregon. While Eason is talented, he has been spotty at best against the better teams Washington has played. Eason will have throws that amaze people, but he will also put the ball in harm’s way, and he has a tendency to hold onto the ball too long, which will allow the pass-rush to get home. Also, Eason is not the most mobile quarterback, so if the pass-rush can get there, he likely won’t be escaping much.
It all comes down to stopping the running game for Oregon.
Be Dialed In On Special Teams
Oregon wasn’t good on special teams last season, and frankly, they haven’t improved much this season. Camden Lewis has not made anyone feel good at kicker, although he has made his last two field goals.
Oregon also hasn’t been good on kick returns this season. Now the good thing is in the punting game things have been dialed in. Blake Maimone has improved a lot, and Jevon Holland is a strong punt returner.
Lewis has also done a good job of kicking touchbacks on kickoffs. The main thing is Oregon being able to block better on kick returns, and there’s a good chance Lewis is going to have to make a field goal in this one, which likely doesn’t make any Oregon fan feel good. However, maybe this is the game that gives him confidence.
Also, the whole punt return team has to be dialed-in. Holland is great, but nothing can happen like the ball hitting the back of a player running down the field and giving Washington good field position. That ties back into communication.
Oregon vs Washington: Overall
This is going to be a low-scoring game. It will largely come down to who can stay ahead of the chains best and convert on third downs.
It will also come down to turnovers. With rain being expected this weekend in Seattle, that could make the turnover battle even more of a wild card.
If Oregon comes in and takes care of the ball and stays ahead of the chains, they should win. They have a strong offensive line and Washington isn’t quite as good upfront as they were last season. If the offense can loosen up the Washington defense early in the game, it should give this offensive line a good chance to impose their will.
However, Oregon has a lot to prove on the road under Mario Cristobal. Yes, they got a win at Stanford earlier this season, which was a good step. But this is going to be a different animal and a different test.
Top Photo: Thomas Boyd/Associated Press