After knocking off Stanford for the first time in four seasons, the Washington Huskies are looking toward getting another monkey off their backs.
The No. 2 Oregon Ducks.
Washington moved into the AP poll at No. 23 after a 17-13 win over the then-No. 8 Cardinal on Thursday night. Washington's defense showed a tenacity that has been missing for the better part of the last decade in the win, holding Stanford's power rushing attack to just 65 yards a week after the Cardinal ran for 202 yards in a 21-14 win over USC.
Next up is a trip to Autzen Stadium and an opponent that hasn't been kind to the Huskies. Oregon has won the last eight meetings between the two teams by an average of 25 points a game.
Being ranked hasn't been kind to Washington in recent years either. The last two times the Huskies were in the Top 25, they suffered blowout losses to Stanford, including a 65-21 loss last season.
"This is a different team than we've had in the past," coach Steve Sarkisian said. "I think teams in the past we had guys who had lived through a whole bunch of adversity in the past and all that. We've got the majority of this roster is here with the expectation that we are going to win a championship in their time here and that's what their focus is."
The Huskies played Oregon tough in the first half each of the last two years before the Ducks ran away in the second half. The tempo of Oregon's offense wore down the Washington defense and opened up big play opportunities for the Ducks.
"They run really good football plays. But the reality of it is those plays become even better when you are wrong on defense and you make mistakes, and you get out of your gap and maybe you are a little bit fatigued, and maybe you don't get the call and communicate as well with the guy next to you," Sarkisian said.
Sarkisian feels the Huskies are better equipped to handle the Ducks from a depth standpoint this year. In his fourth year as head coach, Sarkisian believes they have recruited more speed on defense to counter the athleticism of Oregon's skill players. The hope is the added depth allows them to be in the game with a chance to win in the fourth quarter.
Improved tackling was a key to Washington's victory over Stanford. The team has put an emphasis on better tackling this year, with practices being more physical and players having more contact. It's a trend the Huskies will need to continue if they hope to knock off a top-10 team for the second straight week.
"We felt like that was something we needed to do from a team standpoint," Sarkisian said. "If we were going to be able to defend the run. If we wanted to run the football the way we were capable of and ultimately tackle that way, you have to practice it. You can't just expect to show up on Saturdays and expect to become a really good tackling team."
While both Oregon and Stanford rely on their running games, the styles couldn't be more different. Stanford uses multiple tight ends and runs power schemes to take advantage of the Cardinal's size. Oregon is all about speed.
"They are different in how they do it but at the end of the day they both believe in running the football and utilizing play-action pass," Sarkisian said.