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Huskies vs.Ducks: Beyond Regional Rivalry

Ted S. Warren
AP Photo
In this photo made with a fish-eye wide angle lens, Washington's Mike Criste (78) and Kevin King (20) run out of the tunnel into newly renovated Husky Stadium for an NCAA college football game against Boise State, Saturday, Aug. 31, 2013, in Seattle.

The Washington Huskies host the Oregon Ducks Saturday in a highly-anticipated game. It begins at 1 p.m. at Husky Stadium in Seattle, but fans will be gathering well before that, with cable station ESPN featuring the matchup in their weekly “College GameDay” program—a first for Washington.

KPLU sports commentator Art Thiel says this year, the game is more than just a regional rivalry; it’s a matchup between two nationally-ranked teams.  

A Whole Lot of Hype

“That’s why ESPN ‘GameDay’ is here. That’s the game that ESPN perceives is the sexiest matchup on that Saturday in college football. It’s an 18-year tradition [that’s] never been to Washington before,” Art said. “And they’re going be here Saturday morning to add to the hype, as if Washington-Oregon needed more hype.”

Right now, Oregon is ranked No. 2 in the country with a record of 5-0 while Washington is No. 16 with a 4-1 record. And what’s more, the two teams have similar offenses.

“Washington stole the offense from Oregon—the hurry-up, no-huddle variety that is very difficult to manage,” he said. “And the Ducks average 630 yards of offense per game. That’s second in the country. And Washington is fifth at 557 yards a game.”

The Ducks' Domination

The Huskies have historically dominated in the Northwest, says Art, but that began to change in the mid-‘90s.

“University of Oregon has had a great benefactor in Phil Knight of Nike, who has thrown literally hundreds of million dollars at the University of Oregon athletic program. And there’s probably no finer athletic campus in the country than Eugene. Autzen Stadium has been remodeled to become a very difficult place for visitors to win, and it’s created a tremendous athletic magnet for kids around the country to go Oregon to play, really any sport, but especially football," he said. 

The “remarkable and consistent” domination has carried over to the regional rivalry over the years, says Art. The Ducks have won nine in a row “with an average of about 5,000 points a piece.”

“Husky fans hate it. They just hate it,” said Art. “The Huskies were 0 and 12 five years ago.”

What to Expect

So what can we expect to see on Saturday? Well, Husky fans won’t exactly be happy, says Art. He says Washington’s been improving, but the team isn’t quite there yet.

“This investment in the stadium, this investment in the new offense—it’s all been geared toward this game. This is a big deal for the Husky constituency. They want to win this game desperately,” he said.

“But you can’t get good this quickly. They got beaten in Eugene last year, 52 to 21. It’s hard to make up that ground against a team this good. This is almost pupil versus mentor. Oregon knows what it’s doing. Oregon’s going to prevail in the game. The Huskies’ goal is to try to be in the game in the fourth quarter and claim a moral victory.”

Kirsten Kendrick hosts Morning Edition on KNKX and the sports interview series "Going Deep," talking with folks tied to sports in our region about what drives them — as professionals and people.
Art Thiel is a co-founder and writer for the rising sports website Sportspress Northwest. In 2003 Thiel wrote the definitive book about the Seattle Mariners, “Out of Left Field,” which became a regional bestseller. In 2009, along with Steve Rudman and KJR 950 afternoon host Mike Gastineau, Thiel authored “The Great Book of Seattle Sports Lists,” a cross between and Mad Magazine that has become mandatory reading for any sports fan who has an indoor bathroom.