Washington’s College Football Playoff hopes are dead.
The seventh-ranked Huskies traveled to No. 17 Oregon on Saturday in what essentially amounted to a CFP elimination game. They had a chance to win it, too, but a 37-yard field goal try by Peyton Henry as time expired was hooked left.
That set up overtime. Washington stalled inside the 10 and settled for a field goal to start the extra frame. Oregon then seized its opportunity with CJ Verdell running in the winning score from six yards out to win the game.
A clutch Justin Herbert pass set up Oregon’s winning TD
But before Verdell could win it, Oregon needed a big throw from star quarterback Justin Herbert. A holding penalty put the Ducks in a third-and-11 situation in OT. Herbert stood tall in the pocket and delivered a strike to his favorite target, Dillon Mitchell, for a 17-yard gain and a first down.
Three plays later, Oregon did what Washington could not in overtime: put it in the end zone. Washington had its chances, too, but failed to execute.
It took just two plays of overtime for the Huskies to advance to the Oregon 3-yard line. From there, Washington went with a wildcat play on second down — one that Oregon sniffed out. On third down, Jake Browning looked for Ty Jones — the two connected on a game-tying 43-yard touchdown late in the third — but Browning badly overshot his target. Browning tried to hit Jones on a back-shoulder throw, but threw it too high to give Jones the chance to fight through the defender and make a play on the ball.
Those lapses in execution resulted in a field goal for Washington, and, ultimately, a win for Oregon.
Oregon delivers a fatal blow to Washington’s Playoff hopes
Washington bounced back from a Week 1 loss to Auburn in Atlanta by winning five straight. Those five wins helped the Huskies climb back up toward the top of the polls.
But that loss still meant the Huskies had no margin for error. No two-loss team has ever reached the College Football Playoff, but it would have been hard for the CFP committee to keep a one-loss Pac-12 champion, especially one that went undefeated in conference play, out of the field of four. That is what Washington was before the game, but its rivals took it away.
Despite the five-game winning streak, Washington has looked beatable. The offensive performance has been inconsistent, and UW could only muster one-possession wins over teams like Arizona and winless UCLA. Oregon is a clear step up in competition, especially on the road.
Ultimately, the Ducks proved to be too much.
Oregon has put itself in good position in the Pac-12 North
The Pac-12 North race is going to be a tight one.
As of now, Oregon — which lost to UW by a combined score of 108-24 over the past two years — has a leg up. Sort of.
Washington remains in first with a 3-1 conference record while Oregon, Stanford and Washington State are 2-1 in league play. Oregon’s lone loss is to Stanford. The Ducks blew a big lead and lost in overtime to the Cardinal. But Stanford, with back-to-back losses, has really struggled lately. Stanford would hold a tiebreaker over Oregon, but still has challenges against Washington State and Washington on the horizon, plus “The Game” against Cal.
Oregon has already played Stanford and Washington, but four of its final six games are on the road. That starts with a trip to Pullman next weekend. Washington State can’t be counted out either, but that visit from the Ducks is the start of a really tough second half of the schedule. Wazzu still has trips to Stanford, No. 19 Colorado and the season finale against Washington, the in-state rival it hasn’t beat since 2012.
Based on schedule and having the tiebreaker over Washington, Oregon has the most favorable position.
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