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Washington vs. Oregon Preview: The Huskies Defense Is Tough to Crack

Oregon loves to throw downfield, but Washington doesn't give up big plays easily. It won't be easy for the Ducks QB Justin Herbert to break through against one of the nation's best secondaries.

Washington Huskies (-3) at Oregon Ducks

Sat. 10/13, 3:30 p.m. ET

Three things to know before betting on Washington-Oregon:

1. Since taking over as head coach of Washington before the 2014 season, Chris Petersen is 2-2 against Oregon. But each of the last two seasons, Petersen's Huskies have completely dominated the Ducks. The last time UW went into Autzen Stadium was in November 2016. As a 10-point favorite, the Huskies destroyed Oregon 70-21 behind a school-record six touchdown passes from Jake Browning. Last September, Washington was a two-touchdown favorite at home against Oregon, and once again covered easily in a 38-3 victory.

In Petersen's tenure at the school, Washington has gone 8-4 against the spread in games it was favored by a touchdown or less. One instance occurred this season, when the Huskies trekked to Utah on September 15 as four-point favorites. Washington won and covered in a 21-7 victory, limiting Utah to its fewest points since 2013. The Huskies failed to cover last week in a 31-24 road win over winless UCLA, but that letdown sets up another scenario in which Petersen has thrived: His Huskies are 10-3 against the spread when coming off a no-cover win as a favorite.

2. Recent Oregon teams have been defined by the vast gaps in quality between their offense and defense. This year's Duck D is the weak link on the team. After cupcake victories over Bowling Green, Portland State, and San Jose State to start the season, Oregon's defense got its first serious test against Stanford on September 22, and it did not go well. The Ducks surrendered 7.96 yards per play to the Cardinal, which managed only 4.49 and 6.04 YPP in subsequent games to Notre Dame and Utah, respectively. Oregon was shredded through the air by Stanford quarterback K.J. Costello, who completed 19 of 26 passes for 327 yards. Oregon starting cornerbacks Thomas Graham Jr. and Deommodore Lenoir, each 5-11, were undersized and overmatched against Stanford's imposing pass-catchers. Kaden Smith (6-5) caught six passes for 95 yards, while JJ Arcega-Whiteside (6-3) and Colby Parkinson (6-7) caught three touchdowns between them.

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In beating Cal 42-24 two weeks ago to easily cover as two-point favorites, the Ducks faced a group of mostly smaller wideouts. But Washington has Ty Jones, a 6-4 sophomore, lining up out wide. Jones isn't a go-to receiver (53.8% catch rate), but four of his 14 catches on the season have gone for touchdowns and he'll be a heavy favorite in any jump ball situations against Oregon corners. WR Aaron Fuller (95.7 receiving yards per game, 2nd in Pac-12), will be the primary target outside of the red zone for Browning, who has terrorized the Ducks defense over the last two seasons. A rushing attack led by Myles Gaskin (92.3 rushing YPG, 6th in Pac-12) gives the Huskies a balance that will stretch Oregon thin.

3. Oregon's strength is, of course, its offense, particularly its passing attack led by QB Justin Herbert. Standing 6-6 with mobility and a big arm, Herbert's arguably the best NFL prospect at the quarterback position in all of college football. But what's important for the Ducks right now is that he's sixth in the nation in yards per attempt (10.4 ), eighth in passer rating (180.9) and tied for 10th in touchdown passes (15). The Oregon passing game improved in recent weeks, with talented wideout Dillon Mitchell breaking out for 21 catches for 344 yards in the Stanford and Cal games combined. With 13 passes that have gone for 30 yards or more (12th in FBS), Herbert knows how to make big plays.

He'll be going against a Washington defense, however, that has eliminated big plays almost entirely. The Huskies have allowed only two passing plays of 30 yards or more, making them the only Power Five team to allow fewer than three. Led by one of the country's best safety duos in JoJo McIntosh and Taylor Rapp, the Huskies pass D ranks sixth nationally in yards allowed per attempt (5.4). It has also allowed only three passing touchdowns, making it one of only six FBS teams to allow that few. With a nearly unparalleled ability to neutralize Oregon's primary point of attack, Washington is positioned to build—and keep—a lead against the Ducks. Look for the Huskies to win by a touchdown and cover.

Pick: Washington -3

Confidence Level: High (on a scale of Low/Moderate/High/Very High/Extremely High)