There's a serious strain of overconfidence among Duck fans about the Washington game.
Most seem to think it will be another 50-point romp, another weekend that shows the Ducks are just vastly better than the rest of college football.
But this is a very different Husky team than the ones Oregon dominated over the last nine years. The current Huskies are physical and well-balanced. Last week they outgained Stanford in Palo Alto 489 yards to 279. Quarterback Keith Price is completing 71.3% of his passes. Workhorse running back Bishop Sankey is 4th in the country in rushing with 146.4 yards per game. Trusting in three reliable outside receivers and a dangerous tight end, Price has the Huskies converting 58.3% of their third downs, 62% at home. Overall, the offense cranks out 557 yards and 37.4 points a game.
The Malamute offense has been stopped three and out just six times in 65 tries all season.
Defensively, however, is where the Huskies have made the biggest improvement. Coordinator, Justin Wilcox has been a Duck killer before, engineering the 19-8 defeat in Boise four years ago, and this year he has the Dawg defense hitting, ripping and stripping, allowing just 14.8 points a game. They're #1 in the conference in total defense, 287.8 yards per contest. They held Kevin Hogan and Stanford to 100 yards passing.
They're anchored inside by 6-1 327-lb. nose tackle Danny Shelton, a beast to move in the middle. The defensive ends have combined for 6.5 sacks. Linebacker Shaq Thompson is one of the best athletes in the country. The entire defense can stick and move: they've allowed just two passing touchdowns all year, 146 yards a game through the air, while intercepting seven passes.
The Ducks are playing this game without De'Anthony Thomas and Colt Lyerla, two of their principal weapons going into the year. Washington cornerback Greg Ducre was a high school teammate of DAT's in Compton. Ducre told Adam Jude of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, “He said he’s trying to, but probably not. He said he’s trying to, though, so we’ll see.” It's all smokescreen: Thomas isn't playing. He's moving around better, walking without a limp, but he doesn't have any explosion or ability to cut on the ankle. If he tried, he wouldn't trust it, so it's better he sits.
Lyerla's absence is pooh-poohed with the next-man-up mantra, but he caught two touchdown passes against the Dawgs last year, and neither Johnny Mundt or Pharoah Brown has started in a big game.
Which brings the conversation to the biggest sticking point on Saturday night. The Ducks are 5-0 and look like world beaters, but they haven't played anybody. Their five wins have come over the two worst teams in the PAC-12 Conference, an FCS school, a 2-3 Virginia team that lost 48-27 at home to Ball State last weekend, and a rebuilding 3-3 Tennessee squad whose signature win this season is a 31-24 slugfest with South Alabama.
4-1 Washington, meanwhile, beat Boise State 38-6 in their opener, manhandled Illinois, Idaho State and Arizona before losing by a field goal to Stanford after breakdowns in kickoff coverage. This week Steve Sarkisian has starting linebackers Thomson and John Timu on the kickoff team, and the Ducks will have untested Troy Hill returning them alongside Keanon Lowe.
Without Thomas, the Ducks lose some of their swagger and explosiveness. Byron Marshall is a capable back, but he doesn't light up the highlight reel the way The Black Momba does. True freshman Thomas Tyner has the gamebreaking ability, but he hasn't yet found it at the college level, and he has two fumbles in his last two games, a concern against a ballhawking defense.
Unless the Ducks do a good job protecting Marcus Mariota and get him in a good rhythm early, the offense could have trouble with a strong Washington defense.
Oregon fans are full of chortle and retort about the nine-year win streak and the relative rankings of the teams, but they're neglecting one very critical element. This game is being played in a hostile environment on the road, the loudest, most charged atmosphere the Ducks have faced in a long while. It's a great equalizer. Washington will begin this game with tremendous passion and emotion, and they're highly likely to play over their heads, bring the most intense effort the Ducks have seen since Stanford last November.
To handle it and thrive, Oregon needs a crisp start and a defense that executes and tackles. Last week Colorado, lowly Colorado, had six plays over over 20 yards, and 374 yards on offense.
If Oregon plays in a similar fashion against Washington, they could find themselves in serious trouble in a road game against a solid opponent. This is an Oregon team that hasn't had to play its starters in the fourth quarter, with a Heisman Trophy candidate at quarterback who's never led a fourth quarter drive to win a game.
Other than the three interceptions he's spread out over five games, the guy in purple and black has better stats.
Mark Helfrich told Register-Guard reporter Ryan Thorburn, “I think certainly they’re the most complete team we’ve played. “They’ve got a lot of big, fast, talented guys. Their schemes have changed, I think, to accentuate that athleticism in some of their skill guys.”
It will take Oregon's best, most complete effort of the year to beat Washington. The forecast calls for 57 degrees and showers the 1:00 p.m. kickoff, televised nationally on Fox Sports 1. Gus Johnson will handle the play-by-play.
The more I thought about this thread, it became clear to me that everyone here is correct. Our own vision for the game is what we want to see. But really, I am going with the Las Vegas oddsmakers. They do this for a living and they like the Ducks by 14 points last I heard.
Dale, you are probably correct but really what does it matter if I have high expectations? Anything I think, or do or do not do will have no outcome on this game. What do the players think? What do the coaches think? Have the coaches got them prepared? I bet they do and I bet we have a good football game.
Hey Dale, why don't our pictures carry over from facebook when we log on to your site? I notice that yours is the only one.
I'm glad the prelims are over and we're finally getting to the meat of the matter. We'll soon find out whether the Ducks are good enough be be called contenders. Oregon knows how to play in big games, the Fuskies don't. I think the pressure is going to do more harm to them than to us. Mariota is mellow, Price is panicky. As Alfred E Newman would say, "What... me worry?"
All the pundits say this game could be close and fusky has a real shot at winning because this is their best team in the last 10 years. Well guess what? This is Oregons best team in the last 10 years as well, yet no one seems to be making that point when bringing up fusky. I just don't get it.
"DUCK FANS AREN'T FEELING THE PROPER LEVEL OF PANIC ABOUT UW"
Maybe so and you raise some valid concerns. But as long as the players are taking the challenge seriously, we'll be OK. DAT not playing, if that is indeed the case, is a problem.
(My apologies in advance, Dale, it this offends you, but: "either or, neither nor". Thought you might like to know.)
Hey Dale, I've been working out of town so I may have missed one of your articles, but I thought DAT'S status was questionable, did that change?
My opinion about this game comes from observation. Oregon has not played a quality opponent, but neither have the Fuskies. (I'm on record saying that Furd is not as good as last year.) I respect them for their play vs Furd, but whatever respect we give to them for the rest of their schedule, we must also expect in return.
Boise State (3-2) is not the team it was, having lost to the Fuskies and Fresno State. Illinois (3-2) was crushed by Nebraska. Idaho State (2-3) has losses to UC Davis and North Dakota (not the good one). If a team goes 3-2 or 2-3 in the part of the season where you're supposed to be playing teams you can beat (usually), it probably means you're not a very good team. If you're 4-1, with your only loss coming against a top 5 opponent, it probably means you're not ready for the big time yet, but still have something to prove.
In spite of strength of schedule, I believe the Ducks have improved as much as the Fuskies since they last met. I have no illusion this game will be easy or over quickly, but there is nothing in the dawg's body of work that says they have suddenly learned how to out-Oregon Oregon.
Yes, they'll be pumped up. Yes, it is in their house. Yes, they're better than they were. All of that goes without saying, and I don't disrespect anyone for not wasting their breath saying it. Still, I respect the Ducks enough to know that they, too, will rise to the occasion, and rise up tall.
There is no doubt. There is no fear. I don't follow the Ted Miller weekly Duck neurosis hotline where he imagines some new demon Oregon has yet to slay every week, just to make his articles garner lots of comments and views. I don't listen to the cacophony of loons who never cease to find any advantage, no matter how meager, in Oregon's opponents, and then spend the next six days blathering on and on about how Oregon cannot overcome it. Why is it any secret that every game is the biggest game of the year when your goal is to win every game? It's that just the way it is? That's how the Ducks prepare, and that's how I think.
The difference between a fan and a reporter? I don't have to be right, I just have to believe. At the end of the day, I still have credibility because I celebrate what I got right and admit where I was wrong; they just move on and find the next talking point as if they never doubted, never made anything up, and never disrespected anyone.
The Ducks are good. I expect them to play well and overcome any obstacle in front of them. Especially this weekend.
There are plenty of humble realistic Duck fans out there. To speak for duck fans and say we aren't feeling the proper level of panic is simply your single minded view. I haven't spoken to one Duck fan who thinks we're going to blow the Huskies out. Is it possible? Of course, we have that potential. But to speak for all duck fans, it's not accurate to make the assessment made in this article. I'm a season ticket Duck fan and I take this game very serious. As most duck fans I'm sure do.
Doesn't much matter what we Oregon fans believe or say about the outcome - none of us are going to be playing on that field Saturday. So - I say go for it! Another 50 point win! The Ducks are good enough to do it, and it wouldn't surprise anybody too much if they did.
Sure it's going to be tough, the players and coaches all know this and they're doing something about it. That's the important part of this.
Let's separate fan fantasies from player reality - and sit back and enjoy what promises to be an epic match up.
Although I enjoy your writing, Dale, and appreciate you doing it full time for us this year, every once in a while you are just plain wrong.
You have mistakenly transposed Washington's '3 and out' drive percentage as their 3rd down conversion percentage. These are two totally different statistics, not the same thing. Yes, they only have 6 '3 and outs' out of their 65 drives, but they DO NOT have an over 90% conversion rate on third downs! - that would be truly herculean and is just not statistically accurate or truthful.
Please check your statistics and change your post to reflect actual facts, so as not to cause other duck faithful to totally buy into your 'panic of the day'... ;)
Thank you. :-)
Dang Dale, you're a downer bro :) A couple things concern me,1) not having DAT and 2) our open field tacking. Beyond that, I now have faith in our coaching and talent. Because I have faith in our coaching I believe the players will be well prepared and not overconfident. I would be curious to know if Price and the rest of the starters are playing through the 3rd & 4th quarters in their previous games? Also looking at what they are scoring...quick eyeball test say the average is somewhere in the mid 30's...I believe in our D, I believe the Ducks can hold them down in the 20 range and the Ducks will score in the 30's at the very least. I'm going to the game...should be fun, but it is also an excellent bit of experience for these guys...we get to see what they are made of. At the end of the day, with this team, the talent we have...it's on them to go out there and WTD. If they do not, then to a man, they didn't want it bad enough. As fan's, it's good for us to keep perspective...Love your family, like your team. Should be fun man.
@SonomaDuck Good point about the player's expectations being the vital thing. The article was just an attempt to cover the game from a different angle. Fans' expectations color how they see the matchup.
@NormVanbrocklin I hardly ever get my picture taken, so I use the same photo for everything. You add a picture by creating a livefyre profile.
@SE PDX Duck Fan Amen brother! Sing it!
@DLW37 You are quite right in pointing out that the players' mindset is what's important. The headline is just meant to get people thinking about the game and the fact that it will be a competitive one. Washington has a balanced talented offense and the #1 defense in the conference.
@Stevoduck He's not likely to play, and not likely to be 100% if he does, although officially there's no word except that he'll try to be ready.
@BrentPelkey Not really speaking for Duck fans, rather I am speaking about them. The Thursday panic is a tradition of evaluating the game from a contrarian viewpoint. I write a lot of laudatory pro-Duck articles, and sometimes I like to mix it up. Some of the numbers and matchups point to a much closer game than many people expect, and the atmosphere of a road game before a hyped crowd is a challenge.
@BrentPelkey I think it's possible. Even probable. The media has portrayed this game as a way to define the Ducks, when it is actually a way to validate Sark's changes and the dawg's improvement.
Washington's stature is based upon a win against Furd last season and what that 2012 Furd team went on to become. Furd was lucky to survive in Seattle this year, against a healthier, more experienced team that beat them going away last season. Furd has not improved.
Oregon has improved. There are glitches, but nothing to slow them down really. They played "poorly" in the first quarter against the Buffs and still managed a meager 29 points... MM is playing "poorly" and still one of the top 3 QBs in the nation, if not the best. Measured against a similar 2012 schedule, they are ahead of that team in almost every category.
I take it serious too, but I don't see anything to worry about at this point. It should be a great game, and one that I think, based upon experience and observation, Oregon should win going away.
@tj1 That's a fair point. Do you think there's any danger of the players not being ready? Mark Helfrich said they were too quiet before the Colorado game, not in the right emotional pitch.
@DonealDuck Apologize for the error--I knew what the number meant and as you rightly pointed out, transposed it. Six three and outs in 65 series is still impressive: the Ducks have to get the Husky offense off the field and establish the tempo of the game.
@DonealDuck Conversion rate on third downs is 53%, they've gone three and 6 times in 65 series. Sorry if I didn't make that clear.
@DonealDuck Even I missed that Doneal... Dale's numbers are usually so spot-on that my eyes glazed over for a second and it went right by. :-)
@sozeduck Sing it brotha! Sing it! :-) A little over the top, but I got the references and you made me spit a little beer up my nose. Thanks!
@Brownstone1 It should be. An electric atmosphere.
@Dale Newton "...the #1 defense in the conference." And here's to hoping THAT won't last past about half-time on Saturday. After the way I was treated up there in the 70's and 80's, I want this streak to reach 99, not just 9.
@Dale Newton @Stevoduck Come on Dale... If he was 100% do you really think that they'd come out and say that or would they use this as a means to mislead the husky's. Why was DAT in uniform at Colorado? Yeah he had a boot on but that is just part of it all and saftey. Oregon loves smoke and mirrors and this is a prime example. Watch the interviews again. Any answer from coaches to DAT about his health are very vague. Expect to see DAT bringing his blazing speed and shifty moves to puppy stadium on Saturday. Maybe not on kickoff return or a ton of reps at Running back but he will be a factor.
Bummer, thanks for being the messenger, let's hope for a ducks win without any further injuries, going into this portion of the schedule we don't need any more injuries. Thanks for the article, even though this is the first time I've hoped your not spot on :)
I'm in socal surrounded by Trojan fans. For years they had no doubt they would win the next game, and were surprised when they didn't.
That's me now.
This team is good enough. Ducks should win - that's probabilities. It was evident they were flat last week, but they are a tough minded group with good leadership - I'd be surprised if they did it two weeks in a row.
If you tell me Mariota's record against their first five opponents do not count, then why should the Fusky's record count? Because they played two conference games already? One in the rain and the other against a team they own?
"The Malamute offense has been stopped on third down just six times in 65 tries all season."
as it is not correct.
It could read "The Malamute offense has been stopped in only 3 downs in just six of 65 drives all season." and be correct. But your sentence conveys an over 90% 3rd down conversion rate, when, as you stated, the actual fact is a 53% 3rd down conversion rate - a WHOPPING difference ;).
Thank you in advance, Dale!
@DonealDuck @Dale Newton @Duckbill @zduckfan @BrentPelkey Doneal, he is unable to edit it without deleting the entire post and all of our comments. That's a limitation of the Bloguin software, not something Dale is choosing to leave up there. It sucks, but it is what it is.
He's acknowledged the error and we just have to move on. It happens with my posts all the time.
We assume the Fuskies have played a tougher schedule. None of these teams have played anyone who's played anyone to define themselves as a good team. I don't buy it. Won't buy it until maybe the end of November.