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Huard: No. 7 UW Huskies have everything to gain — and lose — vs No. 17 Oregon

UW Huskies QB Jake Browning has plenty of pressure on him for Saturday's game vs. Oregon. (AP)

It’s pretty hard to overstate how big the No. 7 UW Huskies’ road game at No. 17 Oregon is on Saturday.

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Win, and the Huskies’ hopes of getting back to the College Football Playoff gets a much-needed boost just as the second half of their season begins. Lose, and the opportunity for a meaningful bowl game goes out the window.

As we do each week, we sat down with former UW quarterback and current ESPN college football analyst Brock Huard to preview the game. Here are his keys for Saturday’s 12:30 p.m. game between the 5-1 Dawgs and 4-1 Ducks:

Don’t let Oregon QB Justin Herbert get comfortable.

Like all QBs, UW will have to get in Herbert’s face. Because Oregon loves to play with tempo and simplify defensive schemes, this will require heavy lifting from Greg Gaines and Huskies’ crew on the defensive line.

No repeats of last week in Pasadena.

The lack of pressure with four rushing against UCLA and the inability to get off the field on third down in the second half were absolutely troubling last week. I had a coach this season who played against Washington tell me that the Huskies’ biggest trouble “will be against a veteran offensive line that can handle their front and myriad of looks on D.” That was not supposed to be a beat up and young UCLA offensive line, but it is absolutely the challenge of a veteran Oregon O-line.

Get points on the board.

There are three important components for the UW offense this week:

• Jake Browning’s precision and accuracy. Oregon defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt does a good job of tightening the windows and forcing a QB to be on time and on point. Browning will have to be sharp.

• Explosive plays. This is more important than any game this season because sustaining drives without any negative plays or penalties in the noise and chaos of Autzen Stadium will be challenging.

• Touchdowns in the red zone. It was the killer in Week 1 vs. Auburn on the road, and when you play away from home you have to get TDs. It finished off the Bruins last Saturday, and putting a young kicker in situations to make big kicks is a recipe for disaster (see Arizona State last season).

Be ready for a big-game atmosphere.

Autzen is the loudest 58,000 seat venue in college football, and there is a reason Oregon coach Mario Cristobal has been on the campaign trail this week pumping up the passion and zeal of the fan base to be on hand and aboard Saturday. The noise can be deafening and impact every aspect of the game.

Everything to gain and everything to lose.

Is that possible? It sure feels that way, as it would enhance the strength of schedule for the Huskies immensely, and a loss would knock out any playoff aspirations for UW.

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