1. Contain Price and Polk
You can't stop sophomore quarterback Keith Price and junior running back Chris Polk, you can only hope to contain them. At least that's what most defenses are finding out when you face Washington when they have the ball. In his first season as a full-time starter, Price has shredded the competition, completing 66.5 percent of his throws and leading the Pac-12 in touchdown passes with 23. A dual-threat dynamo to boot, Price can also beat you with his feet, though he typically leaves that to Polk, who currently leads the conference in rushing yards (1,016). Since he's arrived on campus, Chris Polk has arguably been the Huskies most valuable player, rushing for over 1,000 yards in each of his three seasons as Washington's starting running back. Polk is also one of the best pass-catching backs in the conference, if not the country, as he already has 18 receptions for 249 yards and three touchdowns through eight games this season. Indeed, if there's one team outside of Stanford that is capable of going blow-for-blow with the Ducks on offense, it is Washington. The biggest key to Oregon winning and extending their winning streak against Washington to eight will be holding the Huskies' two-headed monster in check. Surely Price and Polk will get theirs, but the onus is on the entire defense to make sure they aren't giving up explosion plays by way of air or ground. Fortunately for the Ducks, they've been rock solid in that department, though they haven't been tested like they'll be tested Saturday night in Seattle. A key player to watch for Oregon on defense against Washington could be senior cornerback Anthony Gildon, who missed the Washington State game last weekend due to injury. When healthy, his presence at corner is a calming one and one that was noticeably absent against the Cougars as the freshman trio of Terrance Mitchell, Troy Hill and Ifo Ekpre-Olomu had their hands full against Marshall Lobbestael and Washington State's passing attack. Whether Gildon is healthy come Saturday remains to be seen, though it will certainly take more than one man on defense to accomplish this tall order.
2. No First Half Gaffs
Beginning with their Thursday night game versus Cal a few weeks ago, the Ducks have come out of gates rather sluggish and unimpressive on offense (Colorado not withstanding). No matter if it's Darron Thomas or Bryan Bennett who gets the starting nod against the Huskies this weekend, it's imperative that the offense start quickly to combat the potent Husky offense and the terrific home field advantage at Husky Stadium. In fact, the game should feature more than the usual fervor that envelops the Oregon-Washington rivalry, as it is the final game at Husky Stadium before ground is broken on the stadium's renovation project. That, coupled with it being a night game and plans to honor the 20th anniversary of the Huskies' 1991 National Championship on Saturday, creates additional hype and anticipation surrounding the game. How well Thomas and/or Bennett handles the setting will go a long way in determining how successful the Ducks will be. Throughout the 2010 season, a hallmark of Thomas' play was his composure and ability to lead in adverse situations, and when given his opportunities, Bennett has demonstrated similar qualities. Making individual plays and getting the ball successfully to Oregon's wealth of playmakers on offense could be the early shot of confidence the Ducks need to set the tone for the rest of the game.
3. Win The Turnover Battle
In what is expected to be an extremely charged environment on Saturday night, holding on to the ball when you have it, and in turn, taking the ball away when you don't will be of particular importance. Turnovers are nothing more than opportunities won or lost, and in what figures to be a fairly evenly matched and emotional rivalry game, they are often indicators of who wins and who loses. Neither team has been especially prolific one way or the other when it comes to giveaways and takeaways this season (Oregon enters Saturday with an even turnover margin, where as Washington enters +2), however both teams may have found their stride last week as the Ducks came up with two interceptions and a blocked punt that was returned for a touchdown against Wazzu, whereas the Huskies intercepted three Nick Foles passes and recovered one fumble versus Arizona. The only drawback for both teams is that both Washington's Price(3) and Oregon's Thomas (2) tossed a combined five interceptions in their games the previous weekend, demonstrating that both players have been victimized by turnovers as of late.
Follow Chris Courtney on Twitter at eDuckCCourtney
3 Keys To Washington
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