Washington’s last win over Oregon came in 2003. Since then, the Ducks have won 12 consecutive games in the series, and are 125-40 (good for a 75.8 winning percentage) with three appearances in the Rose Bowl and two in the national championship game. Meanwhile, the Huskies are 68-90 over that same span (equivalent to a 43.0 winning percentage), and boast postseason appearances in venues such as the Holiday, Las Vegas, and Fight Hunger bowls.
One of these outcomes is marginally better than the other.
When the Huskies and Ducks face off Saturday evening at Autzen Stadium, though, it will be the Dawgs who look like Goliath to Oregon’s David. Fresh off of a 44-6 pasting of defending Rose Bowl champion Stanford, Washington totes a No. 5 ranking and will hope to put a beatdown on their southern rival that is currently in the midst of its worst losing streak since 2007.
All that leads us to one fundamental question: Will Saturday’s game mark the end of The Streak, or will Oregon find a way to further infuriate Huskies for another 12 turns of the moon?
Buy: The Streak Stops at 12
Washington comes into this week’s matchup with the Ducks with all the momentum in the world at its back. The Huskies are ranked No. 5 in the nation, have the conference’s No. 1 scoring offense and defense (45.4 and 12.8 points per game, respectively), and have one of the nation’s most respected head coaches at the helm. Opposite them sit the Oregon Ducks, who have gone 11-7 while turning to two FCS-transfer quarterbacks since losing Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota to the NFL. Moreover, at 2-3, the Ducks are sitting on their first losing record since opening the 2011 season with a loss to an LSU squad that went on to play for the national championship, and the team’s three-game losing streak is the program’s worst since dropping consecutive contests to Arizona, UCLA, and Oregon State in 2007.
The game plan, then, seems simple: feed the reeling Oregon defense (5.92 yards and 36.2 points surrendered per game, ranking ninth and 11th in the conference) a steady diet of Myles Gaskin and Lavon Coleman runs while mixing in throws to Dante Pettis, John Ross, and Chico McClatcher. On defense, terrorize an Oregon offensive line that starts four redshirt freshmen with pressure from Vita Vea, Elijah Qualls, Greg Gaines, Joe Mathis, and Psalm Wooching while relying on an elite secondary to provide adequate downfield coverage of Oregon’s talented skill players. Easy-peasy, lemon-squeezy.
Sell: Prepare for Further Heartbreak
On paper, it looks like the Huskies should dominate this game. But as we all know, college football never goes precisely according to plan.
At 2-3, Oregon’s season is effectively over. There will be no playoff berth for the Ducks, nor will they dance with roses in their mouths after knocking off Oregon State for a ninth consecutive time. At this point, merely obtaining bowl eligibility looks to be a challenge. Simply put, this is not a situation Oregon’s recruits remotely envisioned when they signed their letters of intent.
Without the chance to make their dreams come true this season, the Ducks will instead do their damnedest to achieve the next best thing: spoiling someone else’s. And who better to aim those efforts toward than the hated Washington Huskies?
Every intangible in this game could end up favoring the Ducks. Oregon will play at home before a crowd that will no doubt be as raucous as any this season; the Huskies will have to avoid the cliché “letdown game” following a big win; and the Ducks will start true freshman and hometown hero Justin Herbert of Sheldon High School. Imagine the storyline that will play out if the struggling Ducks overcome the odds and knock off the upstart Huskies before a screaming home crowd to extend their winning streak to 13 games, and eventually 5,000 days; the headlines write themselves. (I can see it now. “What if I told you that a Dawg’s bark is no match for a Duck’s bite? ESPN’s 30 for 30 presents ‘A Baker’s Dozen: Oregon’s 13 Wins Over Washington.’”)
On Saturday, the Ducks will be backed into a corner, fighting for the win they want more than any other, and desperate to avoid becoming known as The Team That Let The Streak End. For no other reason than that, they have a chance to make the Huskies miserable.