The Huskies Ran All Over UCLA

The Huskies finally got an early game and made the most of it.  Sure, it severely cut down on our tailgating time, but it allowed for an evening of getting started on season 2 of Stranger Things, so I’ll take it!

UCLA’s defense is pretty bad, but their run defense is the God damn worst.  Of course, when does that ever matter for shit?  I remember people saying similar things about Arizona State’s defense, and look at how that game turned out.  And yet, it came to pass:  the Huskies ran for 333 yards on a whopping 58 carries, with 5 touchdowns, en route to a 44-23 victory (though it wasn’t as close as all that; the Bruins got a couple late touchdowns to make it respectable).

In the process, Jake Browning was 8/11 for 98 yards and a particularly bad INT.  The less said about his game, the better, I reckon.

I would like to point out that Browning’s season is alarmingly pedestrian.  His yards per game, average yards per attempt, and touchdowns are all down from last year, and I dunno.  He just doesn’t look great.  He doesn’t look like he’s progressed at all from last year.  Is this just who he is?  Do we not have another level to look forward to?

It’s not like these Husky teams the last couple years are perfect; they’re flawed just as all college football teams are flawed in one way or another.  But, I would argue the defenses in 2016 & 2017 have been as deep and talented as they get, CERTAINLY championship-calibre.  When you see the Huskies struggle, it’s almost exclusively on offense, and that starts with the quarterback.

On Saturday, it didn’t really matter, because the running game was efficient and ruthless.  But, when teams are able to bottle us up – like that game against ASU, and against Alabama and USC last year – you hope to see your quarterback take his game to another level.  You could argue, particularly this season, that with only Dante Pettis (and, to a lesser extent, Myles Gaskin), there aren’t a lot of weapons.  No one is picking him up and making a big play.  But, I could just as easily flip that around:  great quarterbacks are supposed to make everyone else around them better.  And, quite frankly, I don’t think Jake Browning does that.  I think he NEEDS guys like John Ross and Dante Pettis to be good.  Which makes me dread next season (when Pettis is in the NFL) like you wouldn’t believe.

This team is always going to be IN their games, every single one, because of the elite defense.  But, it’s only going to go as far as Jake Browning takes them.  And, I’ll just say this:  I’m starting to have my doubts.

Washington stayed right where they were in both polls, 12th in the AP, 11th in the Coaches.  Of the 1-loss teams who have a realistic shot at the playoffs, the Huskies are right there among the lowest.  That’s with TCU and Penn State suffering their first defeats over the weekend, I might add (the Huskies are behind TCU in the AP, but somehow ahead of them in the Coaches).  Obviously, there’s still a lot of football left to play, and the Huskies will nevertheless need a lot of help – in addition to running the table – to get back into contention for the College Football Playoff, but I think it speaks volumes that the Huskies could throttle UCLA like they did, on top of having a couple of previously-undefeated teams lose, and not move up in the polls.  All the Husky fans and whatnot are going to cling for dear life to this notion that a 1-loss Husky team could make the playoffs (because what else are we going to write about), but it’s over.

I’ll keep an eye on it, but I won’t obsess over it like last year.  My mission is to win the Pac-12 in back-to-back seasons.  At the moment, we’re tied with Stanford with the lone conference loss, and wouldn’t you know it?  We face them head-to-head in a couple weeks!

Beyond that, the Huskies are favored by an obscene amount over Oregon this Saturday.  Utah is suddenly last in the Pac-12 South.  And the Apple Cup doesn’t look as exciting now that the Cougs have lost two games in three weeks (to Cal and Arizona, both on the road).  On top of that, I guess there’s some sort of quarterback controversy?  Even though the guy they pulled Luke Falk for had 4 interceptions?  I don’t get it either.

So, yeah, it’s Stanford in two weeks or bust.  And, if we somehow win that one, it’ll be the winner of the USC/Arizona game in the Pac-12 Championship Game.  Oh hey, remember that notion about ASU maybe playing for the conference title?  Yeah, they just got killed at home against USC, so that pipe dream is over.

What an all-around bummer.

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