By JOHN SLEEPER
SEATTLE – If Washington has any hope of beating out Oregon for the Pacific-10 Conference title, it will have to root for something that doesn’t happen very often in November.
An Oregon loss.
The seventh-ranked Ducks (5-0 in the Pac-10, 7-1 overall) lead the conference by a game over the No. 8 Huskies and No. 14 Oregon State, with three left in the season. History, if it means anything, suggests a one-game lead is all Oregon needs.
The Ducks are 16-2 in November in the past six seasons, 13-2 under coach Mike Bellotti. Bellotti credits conditioning as the major reason.
“From an injury standpoint, we’ve been pretty healthy,” he said. “We’ve been able to get people back from injury.”
The trouble is, Oregon is banged up right now.
It was feared that defensive end Saul Patu tore knee ligaments against Arizona State Saturday, but a magnetic resonance imaging test was negative. He is questionable to play Saturday against Washington State. More serious is defensive lineman Jason Nickolau, who has a torn knee ligament.
Tailback Maurice Morris has sore ribs, but is practicing this week. Cornerback Richard Bauman (shoulder), roverback Ryan Mitchell (ankle) and linebacker Garrett Sabol (knee) have missed practice this week.
In the final three weeks, the Ducks are at Washington State, have a home game against Cal and are at Oregon State, the most dangerous game of the three.
Washington and Oregon State need to win their remaining three games for a three-way tie atop the standings, presuming Oregon wins its next two. A three-way tie puts Washington as the conference champion, despite a defeat to Oregon Sept. 30.
Why? All three teams will have been 1-1 against each other. In the next tiebreaker, non-conference games, Washington and Oregon State are 3-0, while Oregon is 2-1, with a loss at Wisconsin. Washington beat Oregon State 33-30 on Oct. 7, which breaks the tie between the Huskies and Beavers.
Should there be a two-way tie between Oregon and Washington, the Ducks win out because of the head-to-head tie-breaker.
Of course, all is moot should either Washington and Oregon State lose and Oregon remains perfect.
And the Ducks have been pretty close to perfect in November.
Fans who wish to send Williams and his family their thoughts may do so by filling out an e-mail form. FansOnly, Washington’s Web content manager, has set up a message board that will allow Williams and his family the opportunity to view the messages.
Williams injured his spinal cord Saturday in the Huskies’ 31-28 victory over Stanford. He remains in the intensive care unit at Stanford Medical Center. The extent of the injury is not yet known.
Stanford Medical Center officials have asked that no letters be sent to Williams. While he is intensive care, he is unable to receive either. Instead, send letters to: Curtis Williams, c/o Washington Football Office, Box 354070, University of Washigton, Seattle, WA 98195.
All correspondence will be delivered to the Williams family on a weekly basis.
McLaughlin will play two seasons for Washington, then go on a 2-year mission for the Mormon church. During that time, McLaughlin said, the Huskies will bring in a junior college punter. McLaughlin then will return to Washington to close out his career.
McLaughlin is the eighth player to verbally commit to Washington this season. None are official until they send in a letter of intent in early February.