Can UnderDawgs upset Ducks?
Top-ranked Oregon is more than a five-touchdown favorite in today's game against Washington.
The University of Washington's junior defensive tackle knows that the best thing for the conference would be for the Huskies to lose to No. 1 Oregon today, clearing the way for the Ducks to make a run to the national championship game. That would boost the reputation of the conference and, more importantly, more than $1 million in the pockets of each Pac-10 school.
“I don't care,” Ta'amu said with a laugh earlier this week. “If they lose, they lose. It's still the Pac-10: conference of champions, baby.”
It might be a wise business decision for UW (3-5 overall, 2-3 in the Pac-10) to get run over by the Ducks. And the 361/2-point advantage oddsmakers are giving Oregon (8-0, 5-0) this week shows that the Huskies are expected to do just that.
They might get run over, but they won't roll over.
“We're trying to win games over here,” UW wide receiver Jermaine Kearse said when told of the implications of an Oregon loss. “That's our No. 1 goal.”
This marks the 11th time in school history UW will face the top-ranked team in the nation and the first time since No. 1 USC eked out a 27-24 win over the Huskies in 2007. The game will be televised nationally, and it's a safe bet UW will have plenty of support from small-conference unbeatens like Boise State, TCU and Utah as well as one-loss power teams like Alabama, Ohio State and Oklahoma that are trying to get back into the national championship picture.
“This is definitely a great opportunity,” Kearse said. “They're the No. 1 team in the nation, we're going there and it's just a great opportunity for us.”
The Huskies would have been a heavy underdog anyway, but the fact that quarterback Jake Locker will sit out today's game and force backup Keith Price into the starting lineup for the first time only adds to the Ducks' advantages.
Oregon has the top-ranked offense in the country, and the Ducks' zone-read system has elements that UW's 100th-ranked defense has not been able to handle this year. Oregon quarterback Darron Thomas is probably licking his lips at the rushing numbers opposing QBs have put up against the Huskies, while running back and Heisman Trophy candidate LaMichael James won't be scared of a defense that has allowed 212.1 rushing yards per game.
And considering UW gave up 937 yards and was outscored 85-14 in its last two outings, the Ducks have every reason to be dripping with confidence this afternoon.
“For us, it's a unique opportunity where we can't get stuck dwelling on what's occurred here the last couple weeks and focus on the task at hand,” Huskies head coach Steve Sarkisian said.
The seemingly endless doubters only make for a more inspired UW team.
“I, personally, like being the underdog,” linebacker Cort Dennison said. “And I know a lot of kids on our team do.
“We're obviously facing a very good team in Oregon; they're No. 1 in the country for a reason. But you can't go into a game negative and expecting to lose because then you will lose. You've always got to have that expect-to-win mentality.”
The only people who expect the Huskies to win today are the Huskies themselves. But they're not shying away from the challenge of facing the nation's top-ranked team.
“We don't have anything to lose,” Ta'amu said. “They do. They have the national championship to lose.”
And so does the Pac-10.
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