Oregon has won nine in a row over Washington, all by 17 points or more. Since the Huskies’ 42-10 victory at Husky Stadium on Nov. 1, 2003, Washington has held a lead just twice against the Ducks: 7-0 in 2005 and 3-0 in 2009.
That Washington’s fall in the late 2000s coincided with Oregon’s rise as a perennial power has made the emotions from the fan bases even sharper.
After a decade of Duck dominance, the meeting Saturday between No. 2 Oregon (5-0, 2-0 Pac-12) and No. 16 Washington (4-1, 1-1) at sold-out Husky Stadium has some tangible significance, with ESPN’s “College GameDay” on the UW campus for the first time and with the belief of some that the Huskies are finally equipped to keep pace with the Ducks.
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Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. for a national audience on Fox Sports 1.
There is, of course, no team Washington fans would love to beat more than the Ducks, who are again in the national-championship hunt. And there’s no stepping stool UO fans would love to use more than the Huskies, whose controversial 31-28 defeat at No. 5 Stanford last week gave credence to their return to national relevance.
“I think it’s great, because the fans are so passionate and they care so much. And that’s what makes Washington such a great place,” said UW defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox, the former Oregon defensive back. “It matters to both fan bases so much.”
For their part, the Huskies have insisted this is one game in a nine-game Pac-12 Conference season. It’s the same tack the Ducks took for four successful years under former coach Chip Kelly, whose “faceless opponent” mantra sapped much of the emotion out of the rivalry.
The Ducks haven’t changed much, if at all, under their first-year head coach Mark Helfrich, a Coos Bay, Ore., product who grew up rooting for the Ducks in a time when Don James’ Husky teams owned the Northwest.
The goal for the Huskies, certainly, is to get back to those glory days.
“We have to make it a rivalry,” said UW quarterbacks coach Marques Tuiasosopo, a former Husky star.
UW’s losing streak won’t be a motivation when kickoff arrives, UW coach Steve Sarkisian said.
“One game’s not going to change the last nine years,” he said. “We’re not naive to the fact that our fans, this university want to win this game, but we’re also understanding that the process that it takes, those rah-rah speeches on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday — those aren’t going to help us play Saturday. …
“We’re going to come out of the tunnel, we’ll be fired up and all that stuff and they’re going to be, too. But our preparation is way more important than getting caught up in we need to avenge the nine previous seasons and all that.”
Oregon, sporting a 17-game road winning streak, comes into the game averaging 59.2 points a game, and with a defense ranked second in the nation in allowing 11.8 points a game.
The Huskies, however, will be the Ducks’ first formidable challenge.
Oregon is a 13½-point favorite, and UW’s best shot at the upset will be limiting UO quarterback Marcus Mariota, considered the Heisman Trophy front-runner by most national pundits.
In the microscope of the moment, the Huskies are focused more on what this game could mean for them in the context of this season, and this climb back to relevance.
“We know Oregon’s a good football team,” Sarkisian said, “and if we want to remain in the hunt in the Pac-12 North, we need to win Saturday. That’s what it’s about.”
|2004||Ducks 31, Huskies 6|
|2005||Ducks 45, Huskies 21|
|2006||Ducks 34, Huskies 14|
|2007||Ducks 55, Huskies 34|
|2008||Ducks 44, Huskies 10|
|2009||Ducks 43, Huskies 19|
|2010||Ducks 53, Huskies 16|
|2011||Ducks 34, Huskies 17|
|2012||Ducks 52, Huskies 21|
Adam Jude: 206-464-2364 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Twitter: @a_jude