Preseason roundtable: toughest matchup

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CJ Verdell (Oregon)

Oregon running back CJ Verdell celebrates as he scores the game-winning touchdown in overtime against the Huskies in 2018. After one of the most competitive contests between the two teams last year, and Oregon's rise in the 2019 preseason rankings, Oregon should be a team circled on the Huskies' schedule. 

Before the Washington football team starts fall camp on Aug. 2, read our writers' best takes on the upcoming football season. Today, Alec Dietz, Josh Kirshenbaum, and Hailey Robinson tackle which competitor on UW's schedule will be the toughest in 2019. Read the Daily's thoughts on the UW's biggest strengths here, our thoughts on the UW's biggest question marks here, and who UW's potential breakout candidates will be here

Alec Dietz - Oct. 12 @ Arizona

How badly has Washington fared against teams in the Grand Canyon State? Well, in the past 20 years the Huskies have won just six games in the state of Arizona in 20 tries. Before UW beat Arizona in overtime in 2016, they hadn’t won a road game against the Wildcats since 2006. In those 10 years they were outscored 171-71 in four games. 

The Huskies broke the streak in 2016, but it took overtime, and if you recall, Wildcats quarterback Brandon Dawkins absolutely ran wild against the Dawgs Death Row. Washington was able to avoid Khalil Tate in 2017 and 2018, but this season, the new-look Husky defense gets to see one of the nation’s most explosive playmakers in his house right after a trip to Stanford and before a homecoming showdown with Oregon. 

Not exactly ideal.  

Josh Kirshenbaum - Oct. 5 @ Stanford

Want to know the list of Pac-12 road venues Washington hasn’t won at this decade? There’s Sun Devil Stadium, which we’re pretty sure is cursed, and there’s Stanford Stadium. Washington will visit Palo Alto in Part 2 of a four-part Murderers’ Row (vs. USC, at Stanford, at Arizona, vs. Oregon), and it’ll be a chance to either build or kill momentum.

Weird things happen when Washington plays Stanford. Not the ASU- or WSU-style of single, flukey play weirdness, but a more macro weird, especially this decade. Sometimes Stanford’s offense disappears and the UW wins. Sometimes Stanford’s offense disappears and Stanford wins anyways. Sometimes Stanford’s whole team disappears and the Huskies ride the resulting blowout to a Playoff appearance. 

In the past two years, Washington’s style has been to start slow and get it going after the first quarter to win, but not against Stanford. The Huskies had their best start of the 2017 season on the Farm, then lost anyway. Last year, Washington jumped out to a 21-0 lead at halftime, then came one Hail Mary away from losing.

The one theme that has held true throughout the series this decade has been physicality. Whoever wins on Oct. 5 will be the team that wins at the line of scrimmage — especially at the end of the game — and for the season to really get going, the Huskies really need it to be them.

Hailey Robinson - Oct. 19 vs. Oregon

Washington’s homecoming game against Oregon will close out the toughest part of its schedule, a four-game stretch that includes both previously mentioned games and a matchup with USC. But even if the Ducks were coming to Seattle in the wake of an easier stretch, this game would still be a defining moment of the season. 

After all, it’s Oregon. 

Last year’s visit to Eugene was a close but devastating loss, 30-27 in OT, following two victories so resounding that t-shirts were printed of the first and a 10-year streak was broken by the second. Back at home, no matter the state of the rest of the season, this is the game the Huskies have to win. 

This is about the rivalry, but it’s also about the Pac-12 North. Oregon and Washington are the two most likely teams to have a shot at that title, and this game could very well be the deciding factor.

Reach the Daily Sports Staff at Twitter: @UWDailySports

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