This week’s Pac-12 schedule is highlighted by a top-25 border war between the no. 12 Oregon Ducks and no. 25 Washington Huskies. Kickoff is set for 3:30 EST on Saturday, October 19 at Husky Stadium in Seattle. The game will be televised nationally on ABC.
If we check the Week 8 college football odds, the Ducks are 3-point favorites on the road. The over/under for the game is set at 51 points.
After losing their season opener to Auburn, the Ducks have rattled off five straight wins to help put them back in the national conversation. Oregon endured some tough games against Stanford and Cal but they blew away Colorado 45-3 last week to give them a lot of momentum heading into the second half of the season.
Most importantly, Oregon is 3-0 in conference play while every other team in the Pac-12 North has at least two losses. That puts the Ducks in the driver’s seat with regard to the conference championship game. However, if the Ducks can win the rest of their games and take home a conference title, they’ll have a good argument for a spot in the College Football Playoff. However, nothing is going to come easy with road games against Washington, USC, and Arizona State left on their schedule.
As for Washington, their hopes of repeating as Pac-12 champions have been diminished by losses to Cal and Stanford. The Huskies have also managed impressive wins over USC and Arizona, so they’ve proven that they can beat quality teams. However, they’re going to need to win out and get a lot of help to have a chance to return to the Pac-12 title game.
The Huskies are also playing their eighth game in as many weeks, as they don’t have their first bye until next week. Coming out of that bye, Washington will play Utah and also has games with Colorado and Washington State in late November. That’s not an easy schedule to navigate, although the Huskies can at least solidify a bowl spot with one more win.
While Washington owns the better all-time record in this series, Oregon has dominated this rivalry for most of the century. Between 2004 and 2015, the Ducks rattled off 12 consecutive wins over Washington. The Huskies won games in 2016 and 2017, only to let Oregon steal a 30-27 overtime win last year. That win in 2017 is Washington’s only home win over the Ducks in their last six meetings in Seattle.
It’s tough to go against Washington at home, but it’s also hard to trust them with two big blemishes on their record. I don’t doubt that the Huskies are capable of beating Oregon. However, the Washington team that’s capable of beating Oregon may not show up on Saturday. With the line only at a field goal, taking Oregon on the road feels like the safer choice.
Most people will want to talk about the Oregon offense, but the Oregon defense may be the biggest reason why they’re 5-1 and still have a chance to crash the CFP. Since the Auburn game, the Ducks have allowed no more than seven points in any game. To be fair, they haven’t played too many offensive juggernauts during that span. But the Colorado team they faced last week has some serious offensive talent. The Ducks held them to under 300 yards and created four takeaways despite the Buffaloes having over 35 minutes of possession. That tells me that the Oregon defense can match up against any team.
Meanwhile, the Washington offense has been up and down this year and vulnerable against qualify defensive teams. The Huskies were held to under 20 points by both Cal and Stanford. Even against USC, they managed just two offensive touchdowns and two field goals. Quarterback Jacob Eason has struggled when the competition level has increased, so I’m not expecting him to rise to the occasion against the Oregon defense. It could be another came with 20 points or fewer for the Huskies.
If that’s the case, the Oregon offense should be able to do enough damage to cover. Of course, Justin Herbert and company have also struggled against some of the better defensive teams in the Pac-12. The Ducks scored just 21 points against Stanford and 17 against Cal. That’s a little concerning against a Washington defense that’s held teams to 20 points or less in five of their seven games. However, I trust Oregon’s balanced attack to find a way to put points on the board. Herbert is having a strong season, averaging over eight yards per pass while throwing just one interception. The Ducks also have a steady rushing attack and a strong offensive line, making it tough to keep them under wraps for 60 minutes.
If the spread were a few points higher, I might have second thoughts. But the Ducks are notch above everyone else in the Pac-12. More importantly, they’ve proven that they can win games on both sides of the ball. Even against a quality team on the road, I like Oregon to survive and cover the 3-point spread.