It is a fitting 'end' to the Old Husky Stadium for the Huskies to be lining up against the Ducks. This stadium has seen it's share of beat downs on the Ducks from Eugene in it's 150 year history, but it certainly has not been this decade.
With an all time record of 51-37-1, even after Oregon has reeled off seven strait victories, shows a rivalry that has historically been one sided. For decades Washington was THE dominate force in the Northwest. The Huskies were seemingly the only team outside of Southern California that has traditionally sustained success. This of course led to much dissatisfaction for the fan-bases of the other Northwest schools, and Washington has been Oregon's target for a long time.
It is said the Ducks hated the Huskies, and the Huskies simply looked at this as an annoyance, which of course would lead to much stronger feelings of hatred from the state to the south. The upset win in 1994 over Washington ended a six game winning streak for the Huskies, but also signaled a new era of Duck Football. Since that fateful game, Washington has only four victories over Oregon, where as Oregon has posted just one losing season since then.
Oregon has only built on the relative success of the 90's to explode in the late 2000's, with three strait 10 or more win seasons in the last three years.
The Huskies, on the other hand, have had one season of real success since that fateful game in 1994. After serving their probation and hiring their second Head Coach post Don James, The Huskies were back in the Rose Bowl, going 11-1 and finishing 3rd in the country in 2000. The only loss of the season? To those Pesky Oregon Ducks 23-16. My how times have changed.
So that leads us to a question that at one time would have been sacrilegious, could a win Saturday over the Ducks be the pivotal point in the Huskies return to form? Would winning this game over Oregon be a springboard to success similar to the 1994 game for Oregon?
Of course, the situation is different. Oregon had no past history of glory to return to in 1994. It was a program defining moment, and the Ducks have not looked back. For the Huskies, it would be a return to their historical spot near the top of the conference.
Still, there are similarities. Before that game in 1994, the Ducks had lost 10 of the last 12 to the Huskies. The Huskies were coming off a recent National Championship, but were hindered by the retirement of Don James, and the probation that went along with that. The Duck win came at the tail end of the most dominating period in Washington Football history.
Going into this game, the Huskies have lost 9 of the last 12 to the Ducks. Oregon is currently enjoying it's most successful period in their history, and are fresh off a national title appearance last year. While the rumors swirl around the program about recruiting violations, the NCAA has taken no action at this time.
In other words, the Huskies will have to take out Oregon while they are still on the top of the PAC-12 mountain with no signs of slowing down.
The Huskies have made significant strides during Sarkisian's first two seasons, and season three is coming along right on schedule. Could UW be posting better defensive numbers? Of course, but it is hard to be too upset about a 6-2 start.
These Huskies aren't winning in 90's Husky fashion of smothering defense, but they are winning. Chris Polk is proving to be arguably one of the best running backs in Washington history, and the rest of the skill positions are loaded with young talent. The Stanford game gave the Huskies their first shot at showing they are legitimately a PAC-12 title contender, but we all know how that debacle went.
Sarkisian and his team get a second chance against Oregon on Saturday, giving us a scenario that is just somehow more fitting in a Husky fans mind. It would have been great to beat Stanford, but who wouldn't take an upset over a top 10 Oregon team in the last game before renovation?
Who wouldn't take an upset over Oregon, followed by a sustained run of success? It worked for Oregon in 1994, why can't it work for Washington in 2011? If the Huskies pull off the win on Saturday, there will be one hurdle that Oregon had to jump through that Washington won't have to bother with, Washington does not have to convince the country it can sustain success, pollsters remember this Husky program as a successful one. It isn't a question of if, but rather when, this program will be back.
On the anniversary year of Don James National Title, these Huskies have a chance to regain their place in the Northwest.