The stage is set for what could be the biggest game in the history of the rivalry between Oregon and Washington.
The No. 8 Ducks and No. 7 Huskies will meet on Oct. 14 (12:30 p.m., ABC) for the first time as top 10 teams. But before they face off, both 5-0 teams have a bye week to self-assess, improve and get healthier.
“We’re not going to bye week; we’re going to work week,” Oregon coach Dan Lanning said. “Our guys know what our goals are, what we have to accomplish. A lot of the teams are gonna relax this week, we’re gonna get better. We started exactly how we expect to start.
“We’re about to go play a real opponent there. Those guys are playing good ball up North. So we gotta bring our best. It’s going to be one of our great preparations. We got some really tough teams down the road so we got to continue to build and play our best ball moving forward.”
The stakes have never been so high in this rivalry. A historic final meeting in the Pac-12 of two of the top offenses in college football, led by two of the leading candidates for the Heisman trophy, with the winner taking a massive edge in the race for a spot in the conference championship game.
Lanning again presented a message of playing the game, rather than the occasion, as the Ducks opened the week.
“It’s about the 20-mile march consistently,” Lanning said. “On Monday, we can’t go out there and march 60 miles. We want to march 20 miles and be consistent with our approach. Find something we can get better at. Aim small, miss small. We’re going to pick small details that we can improve schematically, individually, for each person on our team. And then we’re gonna try to figure out how to take away other team’s strengths.”
Oregon (5-0, 2-0 Pac-12) has made a lot of improvements, at least statistically, compared to a year ago and so too has Washington (5-0, 2-0). But neither has faced an opponent as talented and prolific as they’re about to see from the other.
Add last year’s 37-34 Washington win, in which Oregon led with 3:54 to go but Bo Nix got hurt, UW scored a game-tying touchdown and an ill-fated fourth down for UO proved to be the difference, and the 115th installment of the rivalry should be an all-time clash.
“It’s going to be an all-out battle,” Nix said. “It’s going to be an all-out brawl. Especially after last year and especially how both teams have started this year. I’m extremely excited about it. I know they are too. For us it’s the next thing. It’s the next 20 miles of our march. How can we go about it? How can we do as efficiently as good as we can do it?
“This is a big week for us. Everybody is going to be excited but you got to keep the main thing the main thing; you got to go out there and play 11-on-11 and you’ve got to execute when your number is called. At the end of the day I believe in games like this it’s who can execute the longest, who can execute for four quarters because it’s going to come down to a play a or two and which side is going to make it. It’s up to us to make sure we put ourselves in position to make those plays.”