Chantel was looking for a way to stir pot in July and get the Pac-12 juices flowing. And there’s no better way to do that than to talk Oregon vs. Washington. The Huskies are getting all the hype. The national narrative around Oregon is that the dynasty might be in decline. So, hey, why not an early “who you got” Take 2 about the Oct. 8 matchup at Autzen Stadium.
Kevin Gemmell: Oregon
Since Chantel picked Washington to win the North division, it’s safe to assume that she also thinks the Huskies will end their 12-game losing streak to the Ducks. And with the amount of preseason love the Huskies are getting, it’s understandable.
Just so we’re clear, my half of this Take 2 is not an attack on Washington. I like the Huskies this year. I just like them better in 2017 than I do in 2016. I see a nice push this year, but the breakout year -- and possibly that elusive win over Oregon -- I just don’t see it yet.
The main reason I don’t see it is because I saw Royce Freeman at Pac-12 media days. And if you thought he was big before -- let’s just say dude looks like a linebacker. So he passes the eye test. But he also passes the stat test.
In two games against the Chris Petersen-coached Huskies, Freeman has averaged 153.5 yards per game with four touchdowns. Even the best defense in the Pac-12 last season couldn’t keep him under 100 yards. To be fair, they did keep him out of the end zone. All four touchdowns came in 2014 when, by the way, Washington was silly with first-round draft picks on defense.
Defensively, Oregon can’t be any worse than it was last year -- literally -- because the Ducks were the worst defense in the Pac-12. I get that Washington is going to be better offensively. But I think Oregon is going to be better on defense with Brady Hoke at the helm.
Both teams will be coming off of brutal divisional games the week before -- Washington at home against Stanford and the Ducks at Washington State. So that’s a wash. But the game is in Oregon, where the Huskies haven’t won since 2002. 2002! Jake Browning was 6!
Ask me one year from now and there’s a high percentage I’m taking Washington, because I think the Huskies are on the cusp of becoming a national power. But Washington fans need to be patient. I know 12 years is a long time. But for what could be coming in the years ahead, what’s one more year?
Oregon fans, if you’ve made it past my initial pick, stay with me here, because this isn’t a dismissal of the Ducks. And I know everyone is very proud of the streak, but the fact of the matter is that this game will have nothing to do with that streak. For fans and writers, yes. I’m sure it’ll be a topic of conversation at bars and tailgates. I’m sure it will be written in every story leading up to that game. I’m sure I will hear all the “Oregon vs. Washington” radio banter the week(s) leading up to the game.
But when Oregon and Washington step on that field, none of them will be thinking about what happened five, 10 or 12 years ago. Over that span, the Ducks have dominated. But this year is a little different. Both teams will be good, but both teams will have some question marks. I’m just looking at which question marks are more troubling (Oregon) and less troubling (Washington).
I’m not predicting some kind of landslide win for the Huskies. I think that Dakota Prukop and Jake Browning are both going to need to make some plays. I think Myles Gaskin and Royce Freeman will both have good games (not the best of their seasons, but good).
And when push comes to shove and I’m looking at which defense or offense is going to step up in the fourth quarter to make the play, I’m going with the more veteran of the two teams that has fewer marks -- Washington. Washington’s offense will be trending upward and so will Oregon’s defense. Oregon’s offense will be good by this midway point in the season, but Washington’s defense will be great.
Who knows? Maybe once I see them teams play in September I’ll feel differently. Or maybe I’ll feel more strongly about my pick.
Either way, pot stirred. Enjoy it.