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5 Things To Watch: Washington

Nov 11, 2022

EUGENE, Ore. — The Oregon football team puts its unblemished record in Pac-12 play on the line Saturday when the Ducks host rival Washington in Autzen Stadium.

The No. 6 Ducks (8-1, 6-0 Pac-12) remain the only unbeaten team in conference play, and they're knocking on the door of the College Football Playoff. The Ducks have eight straight wins and have scored 40 or more points in all eight; that's the longest active streak in the country of scoring 40-plus points, and one of just 21 times it's been done in college football history — five of those being by Oregon.

The No. 25 Huskies are 7-2 overall and 4-2 in conference play. After a perfect start to the season in nonconference play, which included a win over then-No. 11 Michigan State, UW lost back-to-back road games against UCLA and Arizona State to fall to 4-2. Washington has won three straight since then, including over then-No. 24 Oregon State last week.

Washington leads the all-time series, 60-48-5, while Oregon leads in games played in Eugene, 22-13-2. The Ducks have won 15 of the last 17 in the series, including the last three in a row.

Saturday's game kicks off at 4:10 p.m. and will be televised by FOX, with Jason Benetti on play by play, analysis from Brock Huard and sideline reporting from Allison Williams.

Some storylines to watch Saturday evening …

1. Like Oregon, the Huskies struck gold in the transfer portal at quarterback this season. UW added Michael Penix Jr., who leads the nation in passing yardage and is No. 2 in total offense; he passed for 300 or more yards in each of UW's first nine games before falling just short with 298 against the Beavers last week.

Oregon has been susceptible at times to shots in the passing game this season. Like everyone else UW has faced this fall, the Ducks will have their hands full with Penix and his stable of receivers.

"He's a talented player," UO coach Dan Lanning said. "He throws the ball well, and there aren't a lot of throws that he can't make. He does a good job of operating from the pocket. He can be elusive at times, but I think he has a lot of confidence in the guys that he's throwing to. And obviously, he's been able to turn that into success."

2. Of course, the Huskies will have their hands full as well, with an Oregon offense that also is potent but has been more balanced this season. The Ducks are No. 11 in the FBS with 231.22 rushing yards per game, and No. 21 in passing with 289.3 yards per game; while UW is No. 1 in passing, the Huskies are No. 98 in rushing.

At the helm for the Ducks has been their own transfer at quarterback, Bo Nix, who has been responsible for 36 total touchdowns passing, rushing and receiving, most in the FBS.

"It's been so much fun, just being out there with the guys," Nix said. "It showed on Saturday (at Colorado) when you had different people scoring and everybody celebrating. The whole offense is going up and down. The defense is having their fun. I think just as a whole that's why we're playing really well. We just connect well with each other."

3. Lanning made sure in practice that this week felt a little different, playing UW's fight song each day and ending practices with motivational talks from UO legends including Mike Bellotti and Dino Philyaw.

Some UO coaches of the past chose not to emphasize any extra intensity for rivalry weeks. Lanning embraces it.

"There is no love lost in this game, and that's something that's exciting," Lanning said. "It makes games like this fun. You know, I'm getting to talk to some former alumni that have played here — Coach Bellotti, Dan Fouts — guys that I've been able to kind of link up with and just communicate with on what this game has been like over time. It's been exciting for me because this game means something to people."

4. For the second week in a row the Ducks will be without a member of their defense for the first half Saturday, due to a targeting penalty drawn in the second half the week before.

Last week, linebacker Jeffrey Bassa sat out the first half at Colorado for a targeting foul at Cal. This week, it'll be safety Jamal Hill sitting out the first half, a trend the Ducks would like to see end going forward.

"We got to coach better on our end, of hitting in the strike zone," Lanning said. "Doing a good job in the target zone and coach tackling better on our part. It's disappointing. You hate to lose players and you want to be able to play in moments like this, big games like this. You want your players to be available and able to play."

5. If there's a storyline Oregon fans won't have to worry about this week, or beyond, it's the future of Lanning with the program.

Already, Oregon's success this season has stoked rumors that the Ducks' first-year coach might be a candidate for jobs elsewhere. That made portions of the UO fanbase skittish given the coaching turnover in recent years, but Lanning emphatically put those rumors to rest this week.

"I think there's a little bit of a problem in society today with people looking for what's next and where there's an opportunity," Lanning said. "The reality is, the grass is not always greener; in fact the grass is damn green in Eugene. I want to be here in Eugene for as long as Eugene will have me. This place has everything that I could possibly want, everything my family would ever want. I have an 11-year old that's lived in eight different states. The last thing I want to do for everyone is leave.

"I want to enjoy this opportunity here. It's been a phenomenal place for us. When you talk about things that align, things that match your vision, what you're looking for as a head coach, Oregon checks every box for me. I think history maybe shows this is a great place to be and not a great place to leave. I want to be here."