For the third time in four years, and fourth time since 1992, Arizona State and Washington are opening their football seasons against each other.

History indicates the winner of tonight's Pac-10 showdown should be headed for at least a share of the conference title.In 1992, Washington opened its season with a 31-7 victory over the Sun Devils en route to a 9-3 record that included a Rose Bowl victory over Michigan.

In 1995, Washington beat Arizona State 23-20 and went on to tie for the Pac-10 crown.

In 1996, Arizona State defeated the Huskies 45-42 en route to an 11-0 regular season and a berth in the Rose Bowl.

This year, the eighth-ranked Sun Devils might have more at stake than the No. 18 Huskies, Washington coach Jim Lambright said, because Arizona State is a co-favorite with UCLA for the Pac-10 title and even is entertaining hopes of an undefeated season and a shot at the national title.

"We're a team that because of our youth, is somewhere in the middle," Lambright said.

Washington had 10 players drafted by the NFL off last year's team, the most of any college, but Arizona State coach Bruce Snyder scoffs at the notion that the Huskies will be much worse than they were in 1997.

"I've lived my coaching career almost entirely coaching against Washington or playing against them when I was a player at Oregon," Snyder said. "I've grown to appreciate their tradition, their emphasis that football is important.

"If they've dropped off from last year, it won't be by much. They're going to be very good," Snyder added.

The last time Brock Huard saw Sun Devil Stadium, he was a wide-eyed freshman, leading Washington to a remarkable comeback in that 45-42 loss.

It was almost two years ago to the day that Huard came off the bench in the fourth quarter to bring the Huskies back from a 42-21 deficit to a 42-42 tie before Arizona State pulled out the victory.

The Sun Devils went on to the Rose Bowl. Huard went on to become, entering his junior season, one of the best quarterbacks in the country.

"What you have is a great background and foundation for success, and he has all the natural athletic talent to be the stereotype, dropback-type passer, and that's what we're building our hopes on this year," Lambright said.