Nine is a row.
The scores haven't been terribly close. 52-21. 53-16. 44-10.
Saturday may--nay, should--mark an entire decade of dominance over that team up north. A decade that has seen the fortune of both programs go in opposite directions. Oregon's ascention to national powerhouse. Washington's downward decline into irrelevance.
It appears that decline is reversing--Washington sits at 4-1, and pushed Stanford until the end in a narrow loss that week. A better Washington is a good thing--both for college football and the state of the Oregon-Washington rivalry. The game hasn't meant a whole lot in recent year. That's not the case this year. Oregon needs the win for their national championship aspirations. Washington with a win has a plausible Rose Bowl shot. There is a reason College GameDay is in town, and this my be the biggest game in Seattle since 2000.
Washington made the switch to a no huddle offense this season, and the early returns are positive. Washington is putting up 557 yards and 37 points per game--extremely impressive numbers. It is also a very balanced offense, with 298 passing yards per game to 258 rushing yards.
That offense starts with quarterback Keith Price. Price was a star two years ago, but struggled last year as injuries on the offensive line led to trouble in keeping Price upright. However, with the offensive line healthy again, Price is again racking up the numbers: 71% completion percentage, 11 touchdowns, and only three interceptions. While not a running quarterback by any stretch, Price has good mobility and pocket awareness, and has done a good job of making plays even when under pressure.
Of course, it helps to have a good running game, and RB Bishop Sankey is one of the best in the land. Sankey is a bigger back at 5'10", 203 lbs, but has speed in spades. He averages almost six yards a carry, and is the kind of physical runner who isn't afraid to cut up the middle and take on a linebacker. he is still developing as a receiving threat, but can be counted on for about a catch a game.
UW also has three big receiving threats--WRs Kasen Williams, Jaydon Mickens, and Kevin Smith. Mickens is the possession guy, while the other two are deeper threats, and all have over 20 catches on the season. Tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins may be the best TE in the country. They are supremely confident throwing the ball to any of these guys, and having them stretch the field horizontally puts significant stresses on opposing defenses. Think of them as Oregon-lite--they're not as good as Oregon in any one area, but they're closing that gap tremendously.
However, while the offense has been really good, it's the defense that has been the biggest change in Seattle. The unit that was a total sieve under Nick Holt is giving up less than four yards per play under DC Justin Wilcox and held stanford to 279 total yards. They are finally putting together significant talent on the defensive side of the football: DT Danny Shelton, DE Josh Shirley, and LB Shaq Thompson are among the highly rated standouts on that unit. What they don't have yet is the depth, and it will be interesting to see if they wear against Oregon's tempo.
What Washington has not been good at is special teams, and it was two long Ty Montgomery kickoff returns that led directly to UW's defeat in the Stanford game.
Many long-time Oregon fans lament that recent success has led to newer fans having little interest or insight in the Oregon-Washington rivalry. That changes this week. Make no mistake what is at stake. Not merely a game, but an entire decade of Northwest dominance. Replay The Pick over and over. Let the hate flow through you.
Win the decade. Go Ducks.