Washington's 11-year losing streak to its most hated rival should come to an end Saturday night.
It’s about time, isn’t it?
Twelve years ago, the Huskies ran away from the Ducks in the second half en route to a 42-10 victory at Husky Stadium. Twelve years and 4,366 days later, the Huskies haven’t been able to celebrate another victory over their most hated rival.
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That changes Saturday night.
Yes, the Huskies finally have a defense that looks capable of slowing down — just enough, anyway — the Ducks’ offense. For so long, it felt like Washington had only a hope-and-a-prayer chance to beat the Ducks. For so long, it felt like a matchup where everything had to go right for the Huskies and everything had to go wrong for the Ducks for UW to even stay close.
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Now, Vegas has UW pegged as a 3-point favorite, and there’s belief around Seattle that this is not only a game the Huskies can win but should win. That’s a bit much, frankly, but it does represent just how quickly mentalities from the two sides have changed. The sky is falling in Eugene with a 3-3 team. A 3-2 team in Seattle is being celebrated.
Forget that Washington State knocked off the Ducks in Eugene last week after Oregon blew a late 10-point lead. It might motivate the Ducks even more, but shouldn’t diminish what would be a second straight breakthrough victory for Chris Petersen.
That won’t come easily.
Petersen used the word “scary” when describing the Oregon offense this week, and the Huskies have gone out of their way to praise Royce Freeman, the Ducks’ sophomore running back. And freshman Taj Griffin looks like the perfect compliment to Freeman out of the backfield.
Vernon Adams Jr. gave UW a scare last season at Husky Stadium, throwing seven touchdowns and nearly leading Eastern Washington to an upset. There’s no official word from Oregon, but the general feeling is he will try to return from a broken finger Saturday night.
Complicating things for the UW defense is the first-half suspension for Azeem Victor, who has been the Huskies’ MVP early in the season. Without him, the Huskies will have to find a way to limit Oregon’s big plays.
On offense, UW will have to keep pace. The Huskies successfully made things ugly in their 17-12 upset of USC, but it’s difficult to imagine them doing that consistently against Oregon. Jake Browning will have to complete some of those deep passes he missed last week and the run game behind Myles Gaskin will have to make another leap forward for UW’s ball-control style to work.
No matter how ugly it gets, and no matter how ugly the rivalry has been for the past 11 years, this has a chance to be a beautiful night for the Huskies.
Prediction: Huskies 34, Ducks 28.
Around the Pac-12:
Oregon State at Washington State (1 p.m., Pac-12 Network): The Cougars have been bad at home under Mike Leach, and the Beavers aren’t as bad as they looked last week at Arizona, and there is perhaps reason to worry about a letdown for WSU after that big win at Oregon. Still, have to go with the Cougars. The pick: WSU 42, Oregon State 28.
USC at Notre Dame (4:30 p.m., NBC): On one hand, after a disastrous week at USC, you can envision a scenario in which the Trojans rally around interim coach Clay Helton and go to Notre Dame and somehow manage a thrilling win. The Trojans lost their coach, not their talent. More likely, though, a steady Irish team gets it done at home. The pick: Notre Dame 35, USC 31.
Arizona at Colorado (6 p.m., FOX Sports 1): Neither team is very good. We’ll pick the team that’s the least bad. The pick: Arizona 45, Colorado 38.
Arizona State at Utah (7 p.m., ESPN): Utah should win this, but the Sun Devils have been playing well of late and they’ll keep it close. Utes defense will ultimately prove too tough at home. The pick: Utah 24, Arizona State 20.