The Oregon Ducks moved from No. 8 to No. 6 in this week’s College Football Playoff rankings following last Saturday’s 49-10 rout of Colorado. To rise even higher, the Ducks likely will have to win out against three tough opponents, and potentially a fourth should they earn a place in the Pac-12 championship game.
The gauntlet starts Saturday afternoon at home in Eugene, Ore., where Autzen Stadium will be rocking when arch-rival No. 25 Washington visits.
The Ducks (8-1, 6-0 Pac-12) start a three-game stretch to end the regular season with home games against Washington and current CFP No. 13 Utah, followed by the annual in-state rivalry matchup at Oregon State.
Oregon has won 15 of the last 17 meetings with Washington, which includes three in a row, and eight of the last nine games in Eugene.
Oregon’s rise to prominence on the national scene means Washington, once the dominant program in the region, is not what it once was, although the Huskies (7-2, 4-2) have won three straight and jumped into the CFP Top 25 this week.
The rivalry is such that on Tuesday at Oregon’s practice, the Huskies’ fight song was played on repeat instead of the typical music used to get the players’ spirits up.
“This is one of those weeks that you don’t have to give any extra fuel for our players to be excited and ready to roll,” Ducks head coach Dan Lanning said this week. “They all understand the significance of this game, how important it is and they’re definitely ready to attack.”
Lanning also had to deal with speculation of him being a top candidate to return to the Southeastern Conference and head up the Auburn program, with Bryan Harsin recently fired. Lanning told reporters he is very happy at Oregon.
“The grass is not always greener. In fact, the grass is damn green in Eugene,” Lanning said. “I want to be here in Eugene for as long as Eugene will have me.”
Quarterback Bo Nix spent the week as the third player in conference history to win Offensive Player of the Week in three straight weeks, after leading Oregon over Colorado with two passing touchdowns, two rushing touchdowns and his first career receiving touchdown.
For the Huskies, quarterback Michael Penix Jr. might be the transfer with much of the attention on him were it not for Nix. Penix has set several school records this season, including the marks for single-game passing yards (516), completions (36) and total offense (529 yards).
Penix leads the nation in passing yards with 3,232. He has 23 touchdown passes to five interceptions.
Washington head coach Kalen DeBoer is in his first year guiding the program, and has come to understand how big the Washington-Oregon rivalry is for fans of both teams.
“I don’t know if there’s a speaking engagement I’ve went to where they haven’t emphasized how important it is to beat the Ducks,” DeBoer said. “It’s certainly important. It’s going to be fun, because we’ve put ourselves in a spot where it means something.”
–Field Level Media