What to watch when No. 3 UW meets No. 5 Oregon in the Pac-12 title game, plus Mike Vorrell’s prediction

What to watch when No. 3 UW meets No. 5 Oregon in the Pac-12 title game, plus Mike Vorrell’s prediction

No. 5 Oregon (11-1) vs. No. 3 Washington (12-0)

Starting: 5 pm Friday

where: Las vigas

television: ABC

radio: Sports Radio 93.3-FM KJR

Latest line: Ducks by 9.5

UW Key Players

QB Michael Penix Jr.: 65.6% completion, 3,899 yards, 32 passing TD, 8 INT, 3 rushing TD.

WR Rome Odunze: 73 catches, 1,326 receiving yards, 13 receiving TD, 1 rushing TD, 1 returning TD.

LB Carson Bruener: 73 tackles, 3 pass breakups, 1.5 tackles for loss, 1 fumble recovery, 1 forced fumble.

Playmaker Jabbar Muhammad: 42 tackles, 11 PBU, 5 TFL, 3 INT, 2 sacks, 1 fumble recovery

UO key players

QB Bo Nix: 78.6% completion percentage, 3,906 passing yards, 37 passing TD, 2 INT, 159 rushing yards, 6 rushing TD.

RB Bucky Irving: 1,043 yards rushing, 6.4 yards per carry, 10 rushing TD, 48 catches, 379 receiving yards, 2 receiving TD.

S Evan Williams: 71 tackles, 5 NL, 4.5 sacks, 2 FR, 1 attack, 1 PBU

DL Brandon Durles: 25 tackles, 8 PBU, 6.5 TFL, 5 sacks, 1 FR

Rediscover rhythm

UW’s offense hasn’t been the same since topping Oregon 36-33 on October 14. The Huskies are averaging 44.3 points in their first six games and 31.7 in their last six. 530.7 total yards in the first six games, 392.5 total yards in the last six games; 424.7 yards in the first six games, 266.3 in the last six games. Simply put, the Huskies have to rediscover their first-half form on Friday. That means allowing quarterback Michael Penix Jr. to pile up completions early; integrating wide receivers Rome Odunze, Jalen McMillan, and Ja’Lynn Polk; establishing a ground game with Dillon Johnson, Will Nixon and Tebow Rogers; And turning red zone trips into touchdowns. It will take a full offensive effort to eliminate striped ducks. We will soon see whether Washington is up to this task.

Disable Nix

Oregon State quarterback Bo Nix has separated himself as the favorite to win the Heisman Trophy, having accounted for over 4,000 yards with 43 total touchdowns and two interceptions (!). The Auburn transfer runs Oregon’s offense expertly, extending plays and avoiding making costly mistakes. In their first meeting, UW’s defense managed 15 hurries but one sack, according to Pro Football Focus. It’s up to relentless UW edge Bralen Trice — who has produced 24 hurries and five sacks in his last five games — and the rest of the UW defense to make Nix uncomfortable, forcing them into fouls…and maybe an uncharacteristic foul. Because if Nix has time to work, and wide receiver Troy Franklin gets the ball in space, it will be difficult to slow down the Ducks consistently.

Tackles in the open field

Oregon State touts a quartet of proven playmakers — running backs Bucky Irving (1,043 rushing yards, 6.4 YPC, 12 total TDs) and Jordan James (661, 7.1, 11th) and wide receivers Troy Franklin (77 catches, 1,349 receiving yards, 14 TDs) and Tez Johnson (70, 942, 9). All four played in the Ducks’ narrow defeat inside Husky Stadium. This would once again be crucial for a UW defense that struggled to get in the open field to limit Oregon’s explosive plays. The Huskies missed 18 tackles (according to Pro Football Focus) against Oregon on October 14. On Friday, the onus is on defensive linemen Tuli Letoligasinwa and Olumu Ale to be disruptive up front and on their teammates to rally the football and finish plays. Behind them.

Forel forecast

For eight straight weeks, Washington has won by 10 points or fewer — and consistently, consistently finding its way. But it hasn’t always been pretty, with spurts of frustrating inconsistency on offense and defense for the Huskies. Meanwhile, Oregon has erupted since falling to the Huskies on Oct. 14, bombing its last six opponents by an average of 26 points. At this point, the Ducks are simply playing better. While Penix and Odunze will make their plays, and the Huskies will rise to the challenge, Oregon’s offense will stay motivated and gradually impose their will. UW coach Kalen De Boer has repeatedly said that his team plays its best under the bright lights… and he’s right. But against an Oregon unit that’s firing on all cylinders, the Huskies’ best won’t do the trick. UW will suffer its first loss of the season, likely falling out of the College Football Playoff (and into the Fiesta Bowl).

The final result: Ducks 37, Huskies 34

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