Washington-Oregon Defines True Rivalry

Ian PetersonCorrespondent IOctober 22, 2009

SOUTH BEND, IN - OCTOBER 03: Jake Locker #10 of the Washington Huskies runs runs against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish on October 3, 2009 at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Indiana. Notre Dame defeated Washington 37-30. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

What's in a rivalry? Passion, pride, hatred, all of the most extreme emotions are on display in a good rivalry.

USC-ND, Florida-Georgia, Oklahoma-Texas, Ohio State-Michigan, there are some great cross state rivalries out there in college football.

And they are really great entertainment, but they aren't the only good ones out there.

One that flies under the radar, but holds all the intensity of the other, is the Washington-Oregon contest played every year. 

It's a newer rivalry, only really coming to the fore since the 1994 game and some of the great contests since then.

In that game, Oregon picked off Damon Huard for a 97-yard score and many on the Oregon side key that as one of the first moments on their current rise to power.

Rick Neuheisal, a coach Oregon fans loved to hate even before he came to Washington—beating Oregon controversially with Colorado—heightened the rivalry even more.

The rivalry is one of the games that both fans and players now circle on their calendar and it has the intensity of some of the best.

Perhaps it comes down to jealousy over Phil Knight's money at Oregon, or maybe it's the shadow of Washington's accomplishments—even though Oregon has won the last five games.

Maybe for Washington fans it comes down to returning things to the status quo, like from 1974 to 1993, when the Huskies only lost three times. Maybe for Oregon it is keeping the rivalry from going back there.

Some of my best friends who are Washington fans tell me that Oregon is their favorite team to beat, even more than beating the Washington State Cougars.

It's absolutely an interesting phenomenon. Talk to any Washington fan and they will tell you how terrible an Oregon Duck fan is, and vice versa for an Oregon fan.

This year's rivalry marks a new chapter, with two rookie head coaches who are new to the rivalry running the two programs.

Steve Sarkisian is in from USC, and Chip Kelly is only in his third year at Oregon from New Hampshire.

Kelly immediately took the rivalry, making some degrading comments about the way the Huskies run their practices. Sarkisian has yet to get into it.

A lot of Husky fans would love to see Sarkisian—in his first year coaching—do what Willingham could never do: beat Oregon. 

It would be an amazing year for Sarkisian, in Husky eyes, if he beats USC, Oregon, and WSU all in the same year, even if they don't make a bowl.

The Ducks have the edge in talent, and are probably the safe pick to win. The Huskies have been playing tough and have had a shot in all their games, and they will make this one tough for the Ducks.

One thing you can count on, in spite of the outcome, the spectacle will be in full force.