No Oregon player has been enjoying Pac-12 play more than Dillon Mitchell.
After catching a total of only six passes against three overmatched nonconference opponents to start the season, the talented junior wide receiver has 21 receptions for 344 yards in the Ducks’ two conference games.
“It’s been amazing,” Mitchell said of being a focal point of the game plan against Stanford and California. “Definitely knowing I can get the job done and going out there and making plays. The coaches are believing in me more and more each week.”
This week Mitchell will face one of the nation’s most experienced and talented secondaries when No. 17 Oregon hosts No. 7 Washington on Saturday at Autzen Stadium (12:30 p.m., ABC).
The Huskies (5-1, 3-0) rank second in the Pac-12 and 18th nationally in passing yards allowed (174.7 per game).
“I believe their secondary is good,” Mitchell said. “They’re a group of guys that are going to come after it. They’re very disciplined. I’ve seen that a lot (on film). …
“I definitely feel on paper these guys are the best test of our year right now.”
Junior safety Taylor Rapp has an interception and a nation-leading three fumble recoveries. Senior safety JoJo McIntosh and junior cornerback Myles Bryant also received all-Pac-12 accolades last season.
Sophomore cornerback Byron Murphy leads the team with nine pass breakups this season.
“Good players with a lot of experience,” Oregon offensive coordinator Marcus Arroyo said. “Any time you’ve got guys with that many snaps, you have a chance to be good, and they do a really nice job.”
Washington, which still ranks third in the FBS in points allowed (13.7 per game), is coming off a 31-24 win at UCLA.
Chip Kelly’s true freshman quarterback, Dorian Thompson-Robinson, completed 27 of 38 passes for 272 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.
Justin Herbert will get his first chance to play the Huskies since his first career start — Oregon’s 70-21 loss in 2016.
“They’re about as talented as anyone we’re going to see, and they’re really well coached," Herbert said of Washington’s defensive backs. "They’re a group of guys that play tough defense, fly around, and they need every bit of attention that we’ve got.”
The Ducks (4-1, 1-1) expect Mitchell to be under extra scrutiny from the Washington secondary. He caught 14 passes for 239 yards during Oregon’s previous home game, the 38-31 overtime loss to Stanford.
“We’ve got to do things that fit our offense to continue to find ways to get him the ball,” Arroyo said. “I think he’s done a really nice job evolving throughout the season, and hopefully that continues.”
During the bye week, Mitchell studied the way Auburn’s receivers played during the Tigers’ 21-16 win over Washington in the season opener, as well as how Arizona State star N’Keal Harry was limited to five receptions for 20 yards during the Sun Devils’ 27-20 loss to the Huskies.
“I took a few things away,” Mitchell said. “I’m not going to say much, but I definitely feel like there’s some places where I can expose them.”
Washington coach Chris Petersen has muted his players this week, but Mitchell didn’t shy away from talking about the chip the Ducks have on their collective shoulder from the humiliating loss two years ago at Autzen.
“I do believe coming out and having, especially the game, 70-21, that’s very disappointing for the fan base, for the team, for everybody,” Mitchell said. “Nobody wants that. It’s definitely a block on our shoulder to come out and put it on them.”