Saturday’s outcome will have major Pac-12 North Division implications.
The No. 17 Oregon Ducks are 1 ½ games from standing on top of the North division and a victory over the No. 7 Washington Huskies would put the UO back in the race for a Pac-12 title and trip to the Rose Bowl.
So you are saying there is a chance? Yes, I am. If the Ducks win the conference title, most likely their loss to Stanford and weak non-conference schedule would keep them out of the College Football Playoff, and put them in the 105th Rose Bowl against a Big Ten opponent on Jan. 1, 2019.
Here is what would need to happen:
-Oregon (4-1, 1-1 Pac-12) beats Washington (5-1, 3-0) on Saturday
-Oregon wins out in conference play
-Oregon beats the Pac-12 South Division winner in the title game
-Stanford loses another game.
The first three conditions are in the Ducks’ control. The fourth condition, Stanford losing another game, is completely possible. The Cardinal lost 40-21 to Utah last Saturday, and have a tough schedule ahead. Stanford plays at Washington and face potential upset games against Cal and Washington State.
The Huskies lead the Pac-12 North and are still College Football Playoff contenders. A win against Oregon would give UW the inside track to the Pac-12 Championship game on Nov. 30. The Huskies would still have a shot at the Pac-12 title if they lose to Oregon, but that would most likely eliminate them from consideration for a College Football Playoff berth.
The Huskies have won five straight following the season-opening loss to Auburn. Last Saturday, UW escaped Pasadena with a closer-than-expected 31-24 victory over UCLA, while Oregon rested up on its bye week.
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Saturday will be a showdown between the Pac-12’s best offense (Oregon) and best defense (Washington).
“It’s as important as it gets,” UO coach Mario Cristobal said. “The intensity of a rivalry like this is through the roof, it’s off the charts. You could talk about it, write about it, explain it, and it still doesn’t capture the true fire and intensity, the true passion that goes behind something like this."
It’s the first time since 2013 that both teams are ranked when meeting. That has occurred five times previously, and Oregon currently leads 4-1 in those situations, including the 45-24 win in 2013. Oregon played at Washington in 2014 with both teams sitting at 5-1. The Ducks were No. 9 while the Huskies were unranked.
Oregon’s offense leads the conference and ranks 12th nationally with 45.6 points per game. The Ducks are also getting it done on third down, leading the conference and ranking 10th in the nation with a 52.1 conversion percentage.
In contrast, Washington (5-1, 3-0 Pac-12) leads the conference in scoring defense, allowing only 13.7 points per game. They have not allowed more than 35 points in 50 games.
Looking at the Pac-12 Conference, it seems like, for the most part, any given game is a toss up. This game is no different. The “Border War” result will provide us with a more definitive measurement of where Oregon stands.
[Ducks' message to fans: Make Autzen the loudest it has ever been]
Saturday is Oregon’s shot at a signature win and upsetting its rival at home. Last time the Huskies were in Autzen Stadium, Washington thumped Oregon, 70-21. Duck fans will remember Washington quarterback Jake Browning pointing at Oregon linebacker Jimmy Swain as he rushed into the end zone for a 1-yard TD on the opening drive.
Pac-12 title hopes on the line, Top-20 matchup with a rival, Eugene forecast of 75 degrees and sunny… Can you ask for anything better?