Neel: The latest chapter of Oregon vs. Washington holds more weight than you might think

Your average college football team plays 12 games a year. The good ones get 13 games, and the great ones get 14. To say that each individual contest is important is an understatement.

Rivalry games come once a year. If you’re lucky, and the school that you root for is entrenched in a passionate clash with another fanbase, then these games are arguably more important than any other on the schedule. The result of this meeting will go on to shape the next 11 months of interactions for the two regions, with one walking tall, holding reason to boast. The other will often quietly sulk and pretend that it didn’t mean as much as we all know it did.

For those reasons, this upcoming game between the No. 6 Oregon Ducks and No. 23 Washington Huskies is one of the most important games that will be played in Eugene this season. The potential ramifications are enormous.

This is a rivalry that has lacked some luster in recent years. The Ducks are currently on a three-game winning streak over the Huskies, and have won 15 of the last 17 matchups between the two, with an impressive 12-game stretch from 2004-2015.

While the play on the field hasn’t always been competitive, the heat off of the gridiron has been as entertaining as ever. The 2021 matchup between these two teams might have served just a small role in either team’s season outcome, but it certainly added fuel to the fire of Washington vs. Oregon hatred.

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For starters, you had the “academic prowess” comments from former UW head coach Jimmy Lake, where he proclaimed that Oregon isn’t a rival to the Huskies because they don’t have the same scholastic accolades as “Notre Dame, Stanford, and USC,” a trio of teams that Lake considered rivals.

It was the first “petty grenade” that was lobbed in the 2021 matchup, and though Mario Cristobal continually shrugged it off as nothing, you could tell that it made the rounds in the locker room.

(AP Photo/Stephen Brashear)

If you look at those comments as Lake putting his foot in his mouth, then the actual game between the two teams served as the Huskies’ head coach tripping over himself and face-planting into the mud.

It certainly wasn’t pretty, but Oregon ended up winning 26-16 on the road after an ill-advised decision to punt when trailing by 8 with less than 2 minutes left in the game resulted in a comical safety for Washington.

Once the clock struck zero, Cristobal grabbed that petty grenade and lobbed it back into the Huskies’ camp, landing it perfectly in Lake’s lap.

“Those (expletive) guys right there, they represent everything that’s wrong with football,” Cristobal exclaimed in a locker room celebration video captured by a number of players after the game. “So when you kick their ass, you let them know it.”

To make matters worse, Lake ended up getting suspended after the game and was eventually fired once it was revealed that he forcibly shoved a player on the sideline during the matchup.

As I alluded to earlier, the Duck faithful have been dining on that one night of travesty for the last 366 days, never missing a chance to take pleasure in the Huskies’ misery.

On Saturday evening, though, the slate will be temporarily wiped clean as the two teams meet again. Should Oregon triumph, expect more ammo to be added to the arsenal of a rabid fanbase that has grown drunk with moxie and winning over the past two decades. Should the Huskies come out on top and end the Ducks’ campaign for a College Football Playoff berth, expect years of hurt and anger to be lobbed over the fence in the form of ridicule and slander.

The Oregon Ducks are fortunate enough to have a pair of rivalry games on their schedule this year, with the Oregon State Beavers coming up at the end of the regular season as well. I will contend that this Washington game is the one that really matters, though, and the one that will hold greater weight going forward.

It’s called ‘Husky Hate Week’ in Eugene for a reason. All due respect to little brother OSU, but there isn’t a ‘Beaver Hate Week’ that is celebrated throughout the Oregon campus every year. At some point, it starts to feel like bullying and piling on.

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What makes this game so important this year is the representation of a new chapter in the rivalry. While Oregon fans got the last laugh in 2021, they were still left down in the dirt after the season came to an end with Cristobal jetting for South Beach. Now both teams enter this rivalry with a new head coach at the helm, as Dan Lanning and Kalen DeBoer prepare for their first of hopefully many duels.

It’s an outcome that will likely hold greater weight than others down the road. A win in the first meeting between these two will mean more than a win in the second meeting, or the third. I can’t tell you why, exactly, but it’s simply the case. Both fan bases are feeling as confident in their team’s ability as they have in quite some time, and the loser of this game is going to face a harsh realization that they aren’t as good as they previously thought.

My early prediction is that Oregon is going to win, and potentially by a lot. Washington has a great passing offense, but the defense needs a lot of work, and they’re going to struggle to stop Bo Nix and Kenny Dillingham. I couldn’t tell you what the final score will be, but I feel confident saying that a lot of points will be put on the board when all is said and done.

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And if Duck fans are lucky, they will be leaving Autzen Stadium with some pep in their step, knowing that there are another 360-plus days of ridicule and chastising that they can direct at their neighbors up north. Who knows, there may be some petty grenades that get lobbed around as well — the week is still young.

As we gear up for the showdown between Oregon and Washington, I encourage fans on both sides to get prepared. This game isn’t just another game, and the outcome won’t be held in the same regard as any other outcome.

This is the newest chapter of Husky Hate Week in Eugene, written by Dan Lanning and Co.

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Story originally appeared on Ducks Wire