Although the schools began playing each other in 1900, the rivalry became heated from Oregon's perspective in 1948, when Oregon and California both went undefeated in the Pacific Coast Conference. California was undefeated overall, and Oregon's only loss was at undefeated Michigan, that year's national champions, and the Ducks had seven victories in the PCC to Cal's six. The winner of the PCC, as is today with the Pac-12, played in the Rose Bowl. Oregon, led by quarterback Norm Van Brocklin and halfback John McKay, opted for a playoff game, but California declined. The tiebreaker format the PCC elected to use was that the championship team be elected by the schools. The PCC had ten member schools in 1948, six in the Northwest and four in California, so it was assumed that Oregon would be the team playing in the 1949 Rose Bowl, as even a 5-5 tie vote would be in their favor. Instead California was voted champion of the PCC, because the University of Washington had persuaded the University of Montana, then a member of the PCC, to vote for California, something that has not been forgotten by Oregon fans. (The PCC allowed a second bowl team that season and Oregon went to the Cotton Bowl, but lost 21–13 to hometown SMU in Dallas. California lost to twice-beaten Northwestern by six in the Rose.)
Within the last 60 years the rivalry has grown between the two fanbases. In 1962, Larry Hill of Oregon was tackled by Washington fans who had rushed onto the field at Husky Stadium while he was trying to catch the tie-breaking touchdown on the game's final play. In 1995, Washington head coach Jim Lambright unsuccessfully lobbied for the Huskies to be selected to play in the Cotton Bowl instead of the Ducks.Seattle Post Intelligencer columnist Bud Withers wrote that Lambright's actions "invited at least another half-century worth of bile from Oregon fans."
After winning four of six over Washington head coach Jim Lambright, the rivalry was given another boost in Oregon eyes when former Colorado head coach Rick Neuheisel became Washington's head coach in 1999. A few years earlier, at the 1996 Cotton Bowl between Oregon and Colorado, Neuheisel called for a fake punt while the Buffaloes led 32–6 with less than five minutes left. Oregon coach Mike Bellotti was also accused of turning Neuheisel in for recruiting during the dead period. The Ducks were 1–2 against the Huskies under Neuheisel, and the rivalry grew even more when Neuheisel celebrated by taking photos and jumping up and down on the "O" in the middle of the field after a win at Autzen Stadium in 2002. Two years earlier, the Ducks' victory in 2000 in Eugene spoiled an otherwise undefeated season for the Huskies, who won the Rose Bowl and finished third in the nation. The teams did not meet in 2001, the first break in the rivalry since the hiatus in 1943 and 1944 due to World War II.
Through 2014, Washington leads the series 58–44–5. The Huskies went 17–3 against Oregon from 1974–93, but since then Oregon has a 16–4 advantage. The first ten were split at five each, but since 2004, the Ducks have won eleven straight, the longest run by either in the series. The closest margin during the current Oregon streak is 17 points in 2011. The last time the victory margin was under ten points (by either side) was in 2000, when the Ducks won by seven in the Huskies' only loss of the season.