Pictured: Matisse Thybulle (in white)
Source: Ethan Miller / Getty Image North America

Preview: Washington at Oregon

Washington puts its undefeated Pac-12 record on the line at Oregon on Thursday in a matchup involving the two best scoring defenses in the conference. The Huskies are trying for their first 6-0 start in the Pac-12 since 1983-84, and have outscored their opponents by 100 points during a seven-game winning streak – their longest since starting 11-0 in 2014-15.

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“The only thing I think our standing in the Pac-12 and our record so far in conference does is just we’re getting everyone’s best shot and it makes people want to beat us even more,” Washington senior guard Matisse Thybulle told reporters after the Huskies’ 71-52 victory versus California on Saturday. “That means we have to play even better. We’re accepting the challenge and we’re going to take it head on, and it’s exciting.” The Ducks are coming off a 78-64 loss at Arizona State on Saturday after starting the trip with a 59-54 victory at Arizona on Jan. 17. “We got to continue to develop our team. Offensively, we’re going to have to execute better,” Oregon coach Dana Altman told reporters after his club’s scoring average dropped to 72.1 – second-lowest in the Pac-12 with Washington just ahead 72.6. The Ducks have won six straight in the series – their longest since winning seven in a row from 1937-39 – by an average of 13 points after last season’s 72-64 victory in Seattle behind 14 points from junior guard Payton Pritchard, and hasn’t lost at home to the Huskies since 2010.

TV: 9 p.m. ET, ESPN2

ABOUT WASHINGTON (14-4, 5-0 Pac-12): Sophomore guard Jaylen Nowell (team highs of 16.7 points and 3.4 assists per game, 5.4 rebounds) recorded 11 points, nine rebounds and four assists versus Cal after scoring 19 or more in four of his previous five games, and is averaging 7.6 boards in conference games. Thybulle was eighth nationally in steals (2.72) and 20th in blocks (2.33) entering Thursday – the only player ranked in the top 20 in both categories and one of two in the top 100 (Duke’s Zion Williamson). Senior forward Noah Dickerson (13.2 points, club-high 6.7 rebounds) recorded 12 points and 11 rebounds Saturday for his third double-double of the season while senior guard David Crisp (11.2 points) is scoring 15.6 per contest and has connected on 15-for-26 from the 3-point range in Pac-12 games.

ABOUT OREGON (11-7, 2-3): Pritchard (team highs of 11.9 points and 4.5 assists), whose 20 points Saturday were his most since scoring 22 in the season opener, needs seven assists to become the sixth player in program history with 1,000 points and 400 assists. Freshman forward Louis King (10.4 points, 5.3 rebounds) is averaging 16.8 points and 8.2 rebounds in Pac-12 games, including a pair of double-doubles and recording 19 points, eight rebounds and six assists versus USC on Jan. 13. Senior forward Paul White (10.8 points) has reached double figures in six straight games, averaging 15.6 in the Pac-12 while grabbing at least four rebounds in each of the last six contests.

TIP-INS

1. The Ducks lead the Pac-12 at 64.9 points allowed per game with the Huskies at 65.0 while Washington and Oregon are 1-2 in field goal percentage defense at 39.5 and 39.6, respectively.

2. Thybulle (254 career steals) is five away from moving past Arizona State’s Eddie House (1996-2000) and into third all-time in Pac-12 annals with Oregon State’s Gary Payton (321 from 1986-90) and Stanford’s Brevin Knight (298, 1993-97) leading the way.

3. Ducks senior G Ehab Amin (6.2 points) is one of two active players with 1,000 points (1,175), 500 rebounds (502), 200 assists (212) and 200 steals (249). Fort Wayne’s John Konchar is the other.

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Posted in CBB, Top Fantasy Picks

Preview: Utah vs. Washington

Without decorated quarterbacks Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen and Luke Falk, the Pac-12 took on a more defensive tone in 2018. And that’s certainly reflects in Friday night’s conference championship game which pits No. 17 Utah against No. 11 Washington in Santa Clara, Calif.

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Both teams boast top-20 FBS total and scoring defenses with the Huskies allowing 311.3 yards and 16.5 points and the Utes permitting 315.8 yards and 19.3 points per game. “You (had) better get your mind right,” Washington coach Chris Petersen said Sunday in his weekly news conference. “Our guys know it’s going to be (a defensive game). They (the Utes) don’t give you anything. Lots of man coverage, (they) pack the box and are extremely active and aggressive.” Washington will be playing in its second Pac-12 title game in three years while Utah is making its first appearance since joining the conference in 2011. “It’s our first trip to the championship, and I’m proud of our guys for continuing to persevere and fight this season,” Utes coach Kyle Whittingham said at his Monday media gathering. “We overcame so many obstacles and so much adversity. They are a great group to be around, and this has been one of the most enjoyable years of coaching for me.”

TV: 8 p.m. ET, FOX. LINE: Washington -5

ABOUT UTAH (9-3): The adversity Whittingham referenced centers mainly on the early-November injury losses of starting quarterback Tyler Huntley and tailback Zack Moss, who had accounted for 84 percent of the Utes’ total offense in the first nine games. Freshman Jason Shelley has stepped in at quarterback, and while he’s averaged only 208 passing yards over the last three contests, he’s also rushed for 112 yards and accounted for six touchdowns with no turnovers. Defensively, safety-turned-linebacker Chase Hansen has notched a conference-most 22 tackles for loss to pace a unit which has been the Pac-12’s stingiest against the run with 100.3 yards allowed (fifth nationally).

ABOUT WASHINGTON (9-3): Unlike Utah, the Huskies have the advantage of health and experience in the backfield with the senior duo of Jake Browning and tailback Myles Gaskin. Browning, despite averaging a career-low 224.3 aerial yards this season, is the school’s career passing yards leader and Pac-12’s all-time winningest quarterback, while Gaskin is averaging 107.6 yards on the ground and is the school’s all-time leader in rushing yards and touchdowns. Senior linebacker Ben Burr-Kirven is tied for the lead nationally with 155 tackles and paces a defense which ranks second in the conference against the run (121.8 yards allowed) and pass (189.4 yards).

EXTRA POINTS

1. With a 21-7 road win at Utah on Sept. 15, Washington has won five of the six meetings since Utah entered the Pac-12.

2. In the September contest, Gaskin rushed for 143 yards and a TD on 30 carries while the Huskies’ defense forced three turnovers and had a trio of fourth-down stops.

3. The Utes figure to have the edge in the kicking game, ranking in the top 14 nationally in field goals made (23) and net-putting average (40.6).

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Posted in CFB, Top Fantasy Picks

Preview: Washington at Washington State

There is more than Apple Cup bragging rights on the line when seventh-ranked Washington State hosts No. 16 Washington in Friday’s Pac-12 showdown. The Cougars are ranked No. 8 in the College Football Playoff rankings and need two more victories, some help from opponents and some help from the selection panel to crack the final four.

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The winner advances to play Utah in the Pac-12 title game, and Huskies coach Chris Petersen knows his defense faces a challenge in Washington State senior quarterback Gardner Minshew II, who leads the nation with 36 touchdown passes. “In terms of his pocket poise and presence, he’s got a great feel,” Petersen said of the Heisman Trophy candidate in a press conference. “You’re going after him, the ball is out. You’re not coming after him? He’s going to stand in there. You get to him? He’s going to get out of the pocket. Really decisive.” This is Minshew’s one and only taste of the fierce rivalry, and he didn’t disappoint when he was asked about his view of the Huskies. “I kind of hate everybody we play,” Minshew told reporters. “So I guess I hate them equally – as much as I hate everybody else.”

TV: 8:30 p.m. ET, FOX. LINE: Washington State -3

ABOUT WASHINGTON (8-3, 6-2 Pac-12): The Huskies will try to avoid a shootout with the Cougars behind a stingy defense that allows an average of 16.6 points and has held five opponents to 13 or fewer points. Senior linebacker Ben Burr-Kirven has been superb with 145 tackles – which ranks second nationally – as the only Washington player to record more since 1989 is Mason Foster with 163 in 2010. Senior quarterback Jake Browning has thrown just of 16 of his 94 career touchdowns this season while senior running back Myles Gaskin is just 94 yards away from becoming the 10th FBS player to record four straight 1,000-yard campaigns.

ABOUT WASHINGTON STATE (10-1, 7-1): The Cougars have won seven consecutive games behind the stellar play of Minshew, the East Carolina transfer who has topped 300 yards a school-record 11 times while passing for 4,325, fourth-most in school history. Minshew fired a school-record seven touchdown passes in last weekend’s 69-28 blistering of Arizona as 11 different players caught passes and six had scoring receptions. The defense allows an average of 22.6 points per game and features a force in senior linebacker Peyton Pelluer (team-high 76 tackles) and also is receiving strong play from sophomore linebacker Jahad Woods (68 tackles, four forced fumbles).

EXTRA POINTS

1. Washington has won 15 of the last 20 meetings, including a 41-14 romp last season.

2. Browning passed for 242 yards in last weekend’s 42-23 win over Oregon State after failing to reach 200 in three straight games.

3. Cougars sophomore WR Tay Martin has recorded four career multi-touchdown performances (two this season, two in 2017).

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Posted in CFB, Top Fantasy Picks