All eyes turn to Seattle this weekend as the #16 Washington Huskies (4-1), fresh off their "statement loss" to Stanford, face their longtime rival and recent bully, the Oregon Ducks (5-0). The traveling roadshow College GameDay has even decided to make its first trip to Ted Bundy's alma mater in anticipation to what should the biggest game of the day. This, my friends, should be a game for the ages.
Or it could be just like the past nine meetings between these two ancient rivals, which Oregon won by an average of 26 points. There actually hasn't been a close game in the Washington-Oregon border war since 2000. The Huskies hold a 16-game lead in the all-time series between these two programs who first squared off in 1900. But simply mentioning the record misses out on the other key moments in the rivalry: UW orchestrating a vote to keep Oregon out of the 1948 Rose Bowl, Huskies fans tackling an Oregon receiver in 1962, "The Pick," "The Catch," UW players dancing on the O at Autzen Stadium, Huskies fans buying tickets to the Seattle Bowl to boo Oregon, etc.
This is the most heated rivalry on the West Coast. And, for the first time in a decade, both teams have a chance to win. Both teams enter the game with aggressive, up-tempo offenses and the top two defenses in the conference. Star quarterback Keith Price, who has passed for the third-most yards in Washington history, trying to avoid going 0-4 against the Ducks. New Oregon Head Coach Mark Helfrich, the pride of Coos Bay, calling plays against former Oregon player Josh Wilcox's defense.
Husky Stadium has encouraged fans to don the school's traditional color, black, for the game.
Here are three keys to the game:
Will De'Anthony Thomas play? —You might remember DAT as that little guy who scored a 28-yard touchdown against Tennessee. He hasn't taken an offensive snap since then. That game was almost a month ago. Oregon coaches have said the decision to play is up to him. Stanford's Ty Montgomery had two key long kickoff returns in the Huskies' statement loss last weekend; Thomas could probably do the same.
Keith Price playing Oregon one last time — Price made his first career start against the Ducks in 2010, in one of the few games the online ticketing system allowed me to go my senior year at Oregon. Despite playing better than expected, his team lost badly. The same happened in 2011. And again in 2012, when a nationally ranked Huskies team was embarrassed in Autzen. Can Price keep his stellar senior year going by beating the bullies down I-5?
A faceless opponent no more — One of former coach Chip Kelly's mantra was that Oregon was playing a faceless opponent each week. Washington was just another team. Another divisional rival. Kelly's successor, Helfrich, admitted earlier this week that as an Oregonian, he knows what this rivalry means. Will the 2013 Oregon-Washington game reignite the seething hatred not seen since the days of Bellotti and Neuheisel? One can only hope.
A look around the rest of the Pac-12
#5 Stanford vs Utah (3 pm PST, Pac-12 Network) — Utah, masters of the near win, take on a Stanford team coming off its worst performance of the season.
Colorado vs Arizona State (7 pm PST, Pac-12 Network) — Coming off its second loss in three games, Arizona State faces a game Colorado team that emptied out its supply of trick plays against Oregon last week.
California vs 11 UCLA (7:30 pm PST, ESPN2) — The hapless Sons of California take on the Sons of Westwood in a rivalry no one outside—and few inside—the state of California cares about.
Oregon St. vs Washington St. (7:30 pm PST, ESPNU) — The pass-happy cooglings and the equally pass-happy beavlings—both sitting pretty with 4 wins—duke it out to improve their chances at making a bowl game.
USC 38, Arizona 31 (Thurs.) — Freed from the tyrannical reign of Lane Kiffin, USC's players finally got to eat their cookies and taste the sweet nectar of victory over Arizona.