It's official….Oregon has now completely replaced Washington in the Pac-10's historical pecking order.
The Pac-10 has historically been a tough conference with USC clearly at the top, Washington the clear number two, and a rotating list of contenders that rise and fall as they gain and lose strength. USC has been absolutely dominant of late in winning the conference every year from 2003-2008, but six of the ten teams have won the conference title (based on who went to the Rose Bowl) since 1990. To take it even further, every single team in the Pac-10 has won or shared the conference title at least once in the past 20 years. This isn't something that even the SEC can say with programs like Mississippi State, Vanderbilt, and Kentucky never really posing much of a threat.
Few who witnessed it could forget those Washington teams of the 1990's with their dominant defenses and laundry list of NFL draft picks. They raided California for big recruits like Napoleon Kaufman, won a National Championship, and (with help from Paul Hackett) helped to keep USC in check. While not the only factor, it is no coincidence that the rise of the current Trojan juggernaut coincides with the fall of the Washington program from their historical perch.
Enter the Ducks
The role-reversal of these two programs is startling to anyone that has observed Pac-10 football over the years:
- Oregon now has some of the best facilities in the nation. Husky Stadium is rusting into Lake Washington and football players sometimes work out elsewhere rather than sharing the weight room with volleyball players and athletes from other sports.
- Autzen Stadium is a true home-field advantage, with loud and obnoxious fans. Washington has lost 20,000 season tickets since 2003 and rarely sell out the Husky Stadium.
- Oregon has become a fixture in the Top 25. In 2008, Washington went 0-12 (the only winless team in major college football) and have not posted a winning season since 2002.
- Even Washington's own president has stated that the goal is to become what Oregon already is.
With the 47-20 crushing of USC, Oregon is now in the driver's seat and four games away from unseating USC as the conference champion. Since losing to Washington in 2003, Oregon has hammered the Huskies six times in a row by an average score of 42-17. They have also beaten USC twice in that period, and signed a number of highly-regarded California recruits…..Exactly what Washington used to do 15-20 years ago.
Will Washington ever return to their past glory? After a promising 2-1 start with a win over USC, new coach Steve Sarkisian's Huskies now sit at 3-5, needing to win three of their last four to become bowl eligible. You have to wonder if Washington can pull an Oklahoma and claw their way back to the top with the deck stacked so firmly against them, including a University President that some fans claim doesn't care. One thing appears certain though….
Washington is going to be looking up at Oregon for quite some time.