It’s no secret that fans from both Oregon and Washington don’t get along. For years — and whatever reasons — each team’s fan base would rather beat the other even if it meant losing every other game on the schedule.
Add in the word’s “revenge” and “championship” and the 111th meeting between the Ducks (4-1, 1-1 Pac-12) and Huskies (5-1, 3-0 Pac-12) promises to be one that joins the ranks as all-time greats.
“Intensity of rivalries like this is through the roof… it’s off the chart,” Oregon head coach Mario Cristobal said. “You can talk about it or write about it or explain it, and it still doesn’t capture the true fire and intensity, and passion that goes behind something like this."
No. 17 Oregon and No. 7 Washington will kickoff the newest chapter of their rivalry on Saturday at 12:30 p.m. PT. The game will be broadcast on ABC — giving the entire nation a chance to partake in the hatred.
Oregon enters the game in search of a defining win, one that proves the Ducks are part of the upper echelon of teams in the country. After a decade (12 games to be exact) of dominance over the Huskies, Oregon is wanting to break its recent run of bad luck.
Hoping to help turn around Oregon’s fortunes is quarterback Justin Herbert.
Herbert — a 6-foot-6 junior who is being considered as the potential top pick in the upcoming NFL draft — will be tested more than ever by a Huskies secondary that features multiple players who should be playing on Sundays.
His ability to stand tall in the pocket, deliver the ball wherever he wants and dictate the entire offense is part of what has scouts drooling over his potential.
“He’s got size, arm strength, better touch than people think. He’s athletic for a big man, he can really throw on the run,” one NFC executive told Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer. "And he’s a great kid, has off-the-charts intangibles, wants to be a doctor, he has it all squared away. He wasn’t raised to be a quarterback, but he’s from a football family… He’s only 21, so he could use an extra year. But if he’s a top-5 pick, he has to consider going.”
With Herbert at the helm, the Ducks average 503.6 yards and 45.6 points per game, both ranking top-15 in the nation. Against other top defenses in Stanford and Cal, the Ducks averaged 36.5 points as Herbert threw for 571 yards and three scores.
Washington has dominated the previous two games in the rivalry, relying on a dominant defense to outscore Oregon 108-24 in the process.
This year is no different as the Huskies have a passing defense that’s given up three scores on the season, third best in the nation. The Huskies surrender 13.7 points per game, also third best in the nation.
In 2016, the Huskies snapped their 12- game losing streak when quarterback Jake Browning totaled eight touchdowns, none more memorable than when he pointed and wagged his finger as he crossed the goaline at Oregon linebacker Jimmie Swain.
“It was pretty dumb to do,” Browning said last year when asked of the 2016 incident. “It kind of sucks that it was such a big game, and that’s what everybody talks about, is pointing. I think that was pretty selfish on my part, and I’m not going to let that happen again.”
“The wag” — as it’s been come to be known by — still upsets Washington head coach Chris Peterson. So much in fact that he has decided to bar Browning from meeting with any of the media this week ahead of Saturday’s showdown.
What makes this meeting different than any of the previous ones is that for the first time since 2013, both teams are ranked in the top-25. That type of showdown has taken place five different times and Oregon currently leads 4-1, including the 45-24 win in 2013.
Saturday’s showdown is also expected to give a lot of clarity to the race for the Pac-12 north crown.
The Ducks currently have one Pac-12 loss, suffering a heartbreaking defeat to Stanford in week four. Simply put, Oregon can’t afford to lose another conference game, especially to a team like Washington. A win by the Ducks keeps their chances alive for a spot in the Pac-12 championship game while a loss all but eliminates them.
The Huskies are undefeated in Pac-12 play but still have to face No. 19 Colorado, Stanford and 5-1 Washington State in the Apple Cup. The Huskies can afford to lose to Oregon but by doing so, won’t be in control of their own fate. A win not only gives them the inside track to Pac-12 crown, it keeps the Huskies’ slim College Football Playoff hopes alive.
While this rivalry is viewed as one of — if not — the most hated on the west coast, Peterson is making sure his team is viewing the game as just another one on their season-long march to the championship.
“I also think it seems like every week is just a huge game to us, like everyone’s got us circled and all those type of things,” Peterson said. So that’s why we just concentrate on ourselves… every week is a big week.”
On the other hand, Cristobal is making sure the Ducks know exactly what’s at stake, both in the win-loss column and what the rivalry means to their fans.
“Our players have seen and understand the history of the series… they understand how passionate both fanbases are about this — it’s critically important for both programs involved,” Cristobal said. “We don’t ever try to mask or hide or downplay the factors that go into rivalry games… it’s always going to be like that with the way we prepare and motivate our players."