On Saturday, August 30th at 10:00 EST, the Washington Huskies and the Oregon Ducks kick off the 2008 college football season with a televised conference showdown on Fox Sports Network.
The 21st nationally ranked Oregon Ducks are listed as the -13.5 favorites by the oddsmakers to win this contest. This Washington/Oregon betting preview by Jimmy Boyd is here to help you better handicap this matchup as it breaks down both sides. Make sure you check out his college football picks each week to see who he likes to beat the spread.
While the Ducks finished the 2007 season 9-4, they couldn't help but be a little disappointed. Nine games into last season, Oregon had climbed to No. 2 in the BCS rankings and was ready to contend for a national title. But all of those hopes were lost when Heisman Trophy candidate Dennis Dixon went down with a season-ending knee injury. Without Dixon under center, Oregon dropped its final three regular season games before rebounding with an impressive 56-21 win in the Sun Bowl over the South Florida Bowls. Dixon's replacement in 2008 will be Justin Roper. He starred in last year's Sun Bowl victory, throwing four touchdown strikes. He will get the nod to start the season opener as projected starter Nate Costa will miss eight to 10 weeks following a knee operation.
Besides having to atone for the loss of a Heisman Trophy candidate, Oregon must also try to adequately replace running back Jonathan Stewart. Stewart led the Pac-10 in rushing with 1,722 yards last season and was drafted 13th overall by the Carolina Panthers. While Oregon's two best offensive weapons are gone from last season, the team is still considered to be a top-tier team in the Pac-10 conference.
Nothing has gone as planned for Washington Huskies head man Tyrone Willingham. He is coming off a disappointing 4-9 season in which the Huskies were only able to win two Pac-10 games. Willingham has also become the first coach in Washington history to have three straight losing seasons. What that does is put him on the hot seat. A season opening loss to rival Oregon will have the athletic administration all but ready to send him packing at season's end. If there is hope for Willingham, it lies in super sophomore QB Jake Locker. Locker is attracting NFL scouts by the bunches with his combination of speed, power, and athletic ability. He was named Pac-10 Freshman of the Year after tallying 3,048 yards and 27 touchdowns. He set a Pac-10 record with 986 rushing yards by a QB.
With Locker under center, there's no doubt in my mind that the Huskies will be able to score the football, the big question is if they will be able to stop anyone on defense. In last year's matchup with Oregon, the Huskies put 34 points on the board, but relinquished 55. The Huskies gave up 661 yards and allowed the Ducks to rush for a school record 465 yards. With Washington's young team being another year older and with Oregon not having Jonathan Stewart, things should go better for the Huskies defense. But will things go well enough for them to have a chance to pull off the upset? We shall see, but the college football lines aren't giving them much of a chance as two touchdown underdogs.