Sept. 29, 2000
EUGENE, Ore. - When No. 6 Washington comes to Autzen Stadium, it will be the third time in four weeks that Oregon has faced a team ranked in the top 10, a challenge coach Mike Bellotti says might be unprecedented.
Asked what that means for his Ducks, Bellotti replied: "I don't think very much about it. We proved last week that rankings don't mean very much at this time of the season."
Oregon (3-1, 1-0 Pac-10) went from unranked to No. 20 after beating UCLA 29-10 last weekend, when the Bruins were holding the No. 6 slot now occupied by the Huskies.
Washington has had its best start since 1992 at 3-0, but the Huskies did not play last week and must hit the road for their conference opener at Oregon, undefeated at home in 17 games - the longest home streak in the Pac-10.
"Oregon is a very talented football team that proved itself without any question against UCLA," Washington coach Rich Neuheisel said. "They are extremely well-coached."
Neuheisel, who came to Washington from Colorado after the 1998 season, won last season's game against Oregon but also beat the Ducks twice before he left Boulder. Oregon lost to Neuheisel and Colorado in the 1996 Cotton Bowl and the 1998 Aloha Bowl.
This year, Neuheisel says the Oregon-Washington game could decide who's going to the Rose Bowl.
"It's our Pac-10 opener and although it's early in the Pac-10 race, it certainly has implications down the road," Neuheisel said. "We need to take care of business if we expect to be a team that is in the race in November."
The Huskies are led by Marques Tuiasosopo, who completed 17 of 21 passes against Oregon in Washington's 34-20 victory last season.
The 6-foot-2, 225-pound senior also leads the Huskies in rushing this year and ranks 12th in the nation in total offense with 271.3 yards per game.
"He is so dangerous, so fast, so strong, and he's become a much more consistent and better passer," Bellotti said.
"He brings it all to the table," added Oregon linebacker Matt Smith. "He's like having another running back on the field."
Tuiasosopo says he will concentrate on avoiding mistakes, like the two interceptions he threw in Washington's 17-14 victory over Colorado two weeks ago.
"I like to throw the football, that's something I love to do," the Washington quarterback said. "Running the football is something I don't mind doing."
The Huskies will face a strong Oregon running game led by junior college transfer Maurice Morris, who made his Pac-10 debut last week against UCLA by scoring two touchdowns and rushing for 139 yards. He also caught two passes for 22 yards.
"He has the full complement of weapons," Neuheisel said of Morris. "He broke a lot of tackles and showed great speed. If we can hold him to around 80 to 100 yards and keep from giving up the big plays to their receivers, then we will be in good shape."
The Ducks will start Joey Harrington at quarterback, Bellotti said, adding that it's a tough choice with backup A.J. Feeley healthy again after straining his abdominal muscles.
"I've talked a lot about the fact that we have two great quarterbacks who push each other," Bellotti said. "But that's a positive motivation for Joey because he and A.J. work very closely together, and they support each other."
Harrington, meanwhile, says he's looking forward to greeting the Huskies before a home crowd expected to top 45,000.
"When they come into our house, they're going to be in for a dogfight," Harrington said. "We owe them for last year. Everybody will be fired up and ready to go."
By WILLIAM McCALL
Associated Press Writer