SEATTLE — The Oregon-Washington rivalry finally has some balance.

At least that’s how it looks on betting slips with No. 12 Oregon pegged as a slight 2-point favorite over No. 25 Washington on Saturday at Husky Stadium (12:30 p.m., ABC).

That’s nearly the same narrow margin as last year’s overtime classic, when the Ducks outlasted the Huskies 30-27 at Autzen Stadium, only the second single-digit margin in the series since 2000.

“Man, it was a huge moment,” CJ Verdell said of his 6-yard game-winning touchdown run, which provided the fifth and final lead change in the game. “I don't know how it ranks. It’s definitely a great moment.”

After years of lopsided results, Verdell’s thrilling walk-off score on third-and-goal was one of the most memorable finishes in the history of the heated rivalry.

During the Ducks’ dominant 12-game winning streak (2004-15), the longest in the 119-year history of the series, the average score was 42.3 to 18.5.

Chris Petersen’s Huskies delivered a significant market correction by outscoring Mark Helfrich’s final Oregon team and Willie Taggart’s only Oregon team by a combined 108-24 during wins in 2016 and 2017.

Despite the bitter defeat last fall at Autzen, Washington went on to win its second Pac-12 championship in three years.

This season the Ducks (5-1, 3-0) are in the driver’s seat in the North Division.

However, the Huskies (5-2, 2-2) can close the gap and knock Oregon completely out of the College Football Playoff picture with a mild upset.

“The Pac-12 is still wide open, anything could happen,” left guard Shane Lemieux said. “Obviously, for us it’s just the next game mentality and we gotta practice every single week. I'm sure they're practicing hard right now, too, because it's a big game.”

 

There are more similarities than differences between these teams, which both have NFL prototypes at quarterback, a commitment to the running game and high-end defensive coordinators.

Justin Herbert will get his first start at Husky Stadium after missing Oregon’s 38-3 loss in 2017 with a fractured clavicle. In 12 career Pac-12 road starts, the 6-foot-6, 237-pound senior has passed for 2,605 yards with 26 touchdowns passes and two interceptions.

Washington defensive coordinator Jimmy Lake only returned two starters this season, but his unit has forced 13 turnovers that have led to 11 scores (eight touchdowns, three field goals).

“There's a fine line there of getting lost in the emotion of a game,” offensive coordinator Marcus Arroyo said of the challenges of silencing the sold-out crowd at Husky Stadium. “You can't just go ahead and try to all of a sudden change the way you play. You’ve got to go out and make sure that you do the things that still result in winning, and then focus on obviously being in a hostile environment.”

Oregon’s defense will face Jacob Eason, the 6-6, 227-pound Georgia transfer, who is completing 66 percent of his passes this season for 1,692 yards with 13 touchdowns and three interceptions.

The Huskies also feature explosive running back Salvon Ahmed (5.8 yards per carry, six touchdowns) and reliable wide receiver Aaron Fuller (79.7 yards per game, five touchdowns)

“They do a great job of protecting their quarterback,” coach Mario Cristobal said of Washington’s experienced offensive line. “Their quarterback is a very special player, can make every throw in the building, great pocket presence. They’ve protected him to the point where he hasn’t really been under much duress at all. …

“Just overall a very impressive offensive team, and schematically as well.”

Since the 27-21 loss to Auburn in the opener, the Ducks have allowed a total of 25 points during their five-game winning streak.

First-year defensive coordinator Andy Avalos’ unit has held its first three conference opponents under 10 points for the first time since 1933 and five consecutive opponents to single digits for the first time since 1958.

“In fall camp, I think we had a rough kind of few weeks trying to figure out Avalos’ defense, and then things got clicking,” Lemieux said. “So I can see why a lot of offenses are struggling against them.”

 

Despite having quarterbacks that are drawing NFL personnel to every game, the Ducks and Huskies both want to control the game on the ground.

Verdell had a slow start to the season but seems to be returning to his freshman form with 217 yards on 24 carries (9.0 yards per attempt) in back-to-back home wins over California and Colorado.

Cyrus Habibi-Likio has added 84 yards and four touchdowns in the last two games.

The Ducks had a balanced performance during the 45-3 blitzing of the Buffaloes with 252 rushing yards and 275 passing yards

“Coach Arroyo called a really good game. I think we were in sync, the running backs and the offensive line, the tight ends, the wide receivers did an excellent job blocking down the field,” Cristobal said. “Justin, also in the way he manages the run game and his protections, certainly allowed for some good chunk yardage and some protection adjustments that allowed us to keep the chains moving and gave us some good opportunities. We’re improving.”

Oregon must make up for the loss of tight end Jacob Breeland, the team’s leading receiver, who suffered a season-ending knee injury against Colorado.

Hunter Kampmoyer and Ryan Bay are listed as co-starters on the depth chart. Redshirt freshman Spencer Webb has returned to tight end from slot receiver, and true freshman Patrick Herbert is auditioning for a more prominent role.

"The young Herbert is going to have a chance to try to develop a little quicker than maybe we anticipated," Arroyo said of Justin Herbert’s brother. “We gotta move forward, and unfortunately Breeland was playing well.

“I am hurting for him but we move forward."

Follow Ryan Thorburn on Twitter @RGDuckFootball and email podcast mailbag questions to rthorburn@registerguard.com. For more Oregon sports coverage, visit DuckSports.com.