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Huskies/Ducks Matchup Could Be Crossroads for Both Programs

Saturday, October 17, 2015

 

It’s that time of year again, when the Pac-12’s most bitter rivalry takes the stage.  A rivalry where so much vitriol flows that a cutesy nickname has never been proposed or adopted.  Neither side of fans has any use for one.  

The last 11 years have been entirely one-sided, and while the faces change each year, the results have not: chest-swelling wins for the Oregon Ducks, frustrating losses for the Washington Huskies.  But this year, there is the hint of something different in the air.  Both teams seem to be at the cusp of what could be a great transition for their respective programs.  Thus far, Oregon has had an unprecedented run of success and national recognition for a decade.  Washington has never made it back to the standard they established in years past: one of Rose Bowls and conference dominance.

In Seattle, the days of greatness may have occurred fifteen or twenty-plus years ago, but that does nothing to dim the ingrained expectations of Husky fans.  And if the sky is truly falling in Eugene, which many of the world wide webs' loudest Duck fans would have you believe, then they will know in the coming years what it's like to pine for a program's glory days, as Husky fans have come to know all too well.  But at this point this sort of talk is premature.  

A Husky win this Saturday would be the clearest signal that times are changing.  After 11 consecutive defeats, a victory over the Ducks has come to resemble a desert mirage: a reprieve from long and merciless suffering that shimmers like a dream briefly, but hangs blurry and out of reach before disappearing completely, somewhere in the third quarter.  A Husky win has become so improbable, it often seems only a drastic re-ordering of the cosmos could disrupt this pattern.

Many Husky fans will admit they were short on patience last year, Chris Peterson's first, as the nagging feeling that he would noticeably improve on Steve Sarkisian’s accomplishments came naturally.  It didn’t work out that way.  UW never won when they weren’t expected to.  And a bowl loss to Oklahoma State at the season's end, with the team starting the game utterly without purpose or vigor, did nothing to assuage concerns.  But the road bumps that occurred now seem as evidence that Peterson's vision and philosophy cannot allow compromise, nor can it be mandated onto players who never bought in to begin with.  

Sarkisian, to his credit, had "signature" wins most every year, with the first coming against his mentor Pete Carroll and the #3 Trojans in just his third game at the helm in Montlake. These wins did much to placate Husky fans, who were still dumbfounded over the programs recent wretched state.  Chris Peterson had no such victories in his first season.

But if something truly great is to be built, it must take the time that deliberate work demands.  On Peterson's adherence to his own philosophy, no clearer message could be sent than the removal of star DB Marcus Peters midway through the season.  Peterson is certainly a "character" guy.  And with the benefit of hindsight, it’s easy to admit that Sarkisian was never going to be the one to take UW back to the top of the Pac-12, even if he hadn't had his eye on USC all the while.  

The question over whether Peterson can win in a Power Conference has dogged him for years, long before his jump to the Pac-12.  He has the power to end this discussion.  A win over USC looks a little less glossy in light of Sarkisian's dismissal 4 days later.  A win over Oregon, whatever type of season the Ducks are having, won't come with any "yeah, buts" on this side of the Columbia.

It is perhaps more important for Chris Peterson to win this game than it ever was for Steve Sarkisian to beat Oregon in any of his five years.  Largely because Oregon is now beatable, as Utah and in-state rivals WSU showed in Eugene.  It's a fair bet that the Ducks get up a bit more for the Dawgs then the Cougars, but for the first time in a very long time, Husky fans believe that the Ducks can be bested.  Peterson cannot let this chance slip through his fingers.

UW is starting true freshmen at quarterback and running back, and several young players on an offensive line that for years has been unremarkable. The absence of All-Americans Shaq Thompson, Danny Shelton and Hau’oli Kikaha on defense, which seemed so ominous 9 months ago, wasn't noticeable in the solid performance against the prolific USC offense a week ago.  It is still too early to award any olive wreaths to Peterson, but these are the types of strides achieved through good coaches coaching up their players.  And this is what Husky fans have been wanting and needing to see.

Oregon's rise to prominence coincided with Washington's sinking to the cellar of college football.  Is it possible that another reciprocal reversal of fortunes is underway?  Opinions on both sides will surely be solidified at the end of this season.  And the result of Saturday's matchup will have much to do with how Duck and Husky fans view the current state of their programs.

GoLocalPDX partner Oregon Sports News: Since 2011, Oregon Sports News has provided entertaining, hard-hitting local sports news & commentary every weekday. To read more from this author, check out Oregon Sports News by clicking here.

 

Related Slideshow: Oregon’s Top Pac-12 College Football Players

Here are some of the Oregon players who have managed to make it into the 2014 Top Pac-12 Players List.

Prev Next

#22 Byron Marshall

College: University of Oregon

Position: Running Back

In 2013 he had 168 carries, 14 touchdowns, 13 catches, 155 receiving yards, and 1,038 rushing yards.  It’s no wonder he makes it as #22 on this list.  Not only do these stats make him a player to watch, but also a player with a lot of potential to climb the rankings.

 

Photo Credit: Scott Enyeart (Own Work) Live Link (Image Cropped)

Prev Next

#19 Isaac Seumalo

College: Oregon State University

Position: Offensive Lineman

This Offensive Lineman managed to block QB Sean Mannion who set the Pac-12 single-season record with 4,662 yards passing.  With his abilities to block in the manner of which he did makes him a prime candidate to possibly win the Rimington Trophy, Outland Trophy, and/or Rotary Lombardi Award.

 

Photo Credit: Karl Maasdam (Own Work) (Image Cropped) Courtesy Oregon State University

Prev Next

#10 Hroniss Grasu

College: University of Oregon

Position: Center

As a junior in 2013 he became one of three Oregon native players to be named All-Pac-12 two seasons in a row.  He has managed to lead the offensive line to the conference’s number 1 rushing attack.  Entering his final year at U of O, Grasu has started all 40 games of his career at UO making him one of the Duck’s greatest players.

 

Photo Credit: Daniel Hartwig (Own Work) Live Link (Image Cropped)

Prev Next

#6 Sean Mannion

College: Oregon State University

Position: Quarterback

Ranking here for breaking the Pac-12 single-season record with 4,662 yards thrown, 35 touchdowns, and 15 interceptions, this is a player the NFL is watching closely. Already sitting at #10 on the conference’s all-time passing list, it’s going to be a breeze for him to pass Matt Barkley’s record of 12,327 yards thrown.

 

Photo Credit: Karl Maasdam (Own Work) (Image Cropped) Courtesy Oregon State University

Prev Next

#4 Ifo Ekpre-Olomu

College: University of Oregon

Position: Cornerback

In 2013 he was the second Ducks player to have 84 tackles with 3 interceptions, and 9 passes defended.  He is a force to be reckoned with.  It has been unanimous that he is to be the 2014 Preseason All-American.  It’s also been hinted that he may not last too long in the 2015 NFL draft.

 

Photo Credit: Daniel Hartwig (Own Work) Live Link (Image Cropped)

Prev Next

#1 Marcus Mariota

College: University of Oregon

Position: Quarterback

With stats such as completing 63.5% of his passes with 3,665 yards, 31 touchdowns, only 4 interceptions, rushing a total of 715 yards with 9 touchdowns, this makes him a hot candidate for the NFL.  He has managed to make U of O one of the Pac-12 favorite college teams as well as a national title contender.  He has also set a U of O single-season record throwing 4,380 total yards and set a Pac-12 record by attempting to throw 353 consecutive passes without interception.  He is also in the running to win the Heisman Trophy as a 1A option.

 

Photo Credit: Scott Enyeart (Own Work) Live Link (Image Cropped)

 
 

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