Before I get to the pick, two quick notes:
— A UW official said there were 65,700 tickets sold as of this afternoon, so lots of seats still available;
— And sorry this is kind of late for the second straight week. Lots of bad traffic in Seattle made my day a little more hectic than expected.
Now, for the pick.
This is obviously an intriguing matchup, and it’s hard to know anymore if picking UW is an upset since Ted Miller, Stewart Mandel and Phil Steele are all going with the Huskies.
On the other hand, I saw that Rob Moseley, who covers Oregon for the Eugene Register-Guard, picked the Ducks 48-17.
And I heard about a computer simulation that ran it 10,000 times or something and had Oregon winning 35-23.
I think it will be closer than that. The Huskies are at home, and Jake Locker an an improving UW receiving corp seem a good matchup to take advantage of what may be Oregon’s biggest weakness — a secondary missing two good cornerbacks due injury. The stats don’t back up that the secondary is Oregon’s weakness as the Ducks lead the Pac-10 in passing defense. But I think that’s in large part a function of who they’ve played — teams like WSU and UCLA with horrible passing games — and way their games have unfolded.
On the other hand, Oregon is perfectly matched to take advantage of what is one of UW’s biggest weaknesses — its run defense. UW is getting better on defense but is still allowing 5.1 yards per carry and prone to a really big run or two every game. If the Huskies let Oregon do that on every carry, it’ll be a long day.
When I broke the game down, here is how I gave the checkmarks
QB — Washington. Jake Locker gets the edge over a not 100 percent Jeremiah Masoli.
RB — Even. Hard to pick between two good main TBs in Chris Polk and LeMichael James.
WR — Washington. Oregon doesn’t have as good a corps as it has in the past though TE Ed Dickson is really good.
OL — Oregon. Ducks are young but improving and more proven than UW.
DL — Oregon. Ducks have two really good DEs who have helped the team rank tied for second in sacks with 18.
LB — Washington. Huskies LB corps having a solid year.
Secondary — Even. Two patchwork units due to some significant injuries.
Special teams — Oregon. Ducks have had some kicking problems, but their return units have done a lot more than UW’s.
That’s three checks each, though UW could have a really big edge at QB depending on how well Masoli can play —- his status is hard to ignore in any fashion and is one factor that heavily tilts things toward UW — while Oregon’s edges on the line could be significant, as well.
Washington’s offensive key? Run well enough to set up the pass and take advantage of what looks like an advantage with its WRs against Oregon’s secondary.
Washington’s defensive key? Don’t give up a lot of big plays, meaning tackle well in the open field — Oregon’s offense is predicated on setting up one-on-one matchups; and being in the right position — Oregon’s spread option offense is also designed to confuse and make opponents unsure who has the ball and where it is. As Nick Holt said this week, no assignment errors. Fans may not like to hear stuff like that, but I keep remembering E.J. Savannah saying after Oregon’s 55-34 win over UW here in 2007 that the Huskies just never seemed to know who had the ball. The Huskies have to stay disciplined tomorrow.
No offense to the Huskies, but the by-the-book pick here would be Oregon — just looking at the numbers would give an overall edge to the Ducks, and UO also has shown it knows how to win.
But UW is also 3-1 at Husky Stadium this year and has beaten two teams that are pretty equal or better in talent than Oregon — Arizona and USC. And a partisan Husky Stadium crowd will also play a role.
One other thing that could play in UW”s favor — Oregon has just three senior starters in its two-deep for tomorrow’s game. That’s good news for the Ducks down the road — that may make them as young as any team in the conference and indicate good times ahead. But Oregon didn’t play well at Boise State with all that youth, and a pent-up Husky Stadium could make the difference tomorrow. That, and Locker, who seems due for another up game.
So call it UW, 31-28, and the Huskies scratching a five-year itch.