The Huskies Won The Apple Cup, Await Their Bowl Fate

I’ll be the first to admit that I had the wrong read on this game.  I thought the Cougs would do a better job stacking up against the run (especially after Dante Pettis was lost for the game so early on) and force Jake Browning to beat them with a bunch of scrubs through the air.  And, quite frankly, I thought they’d be able to move the ball better than they have the last four times they’ve played in this game.

What I underestimated was that Husky front, and their ability to get pressure with just three guys, time and time and time again.  What I OVER-estimated was the Cougars’ coaching staff’s ability to make adjustments, or shit, just learn from prior mistakes!

You see a three-man front coming after your quarterback, and it doesn’t occur to you to run the ball?  Not counting quarterback scrambles, the Cougs ran it 6 times in that game.  Are you JOKING me?  Why not more screen passes?  I get all the dump-offs, I get that the Huskies would give you everything underneath, so why are you holding onto the ball for so long, looking or the deep pass?  RUN THE BALL!  Run the ball to keep the Huskies off the field.  Run the ball to force the defense to come up towards the line of scrimmage.  Run the ball to get the play-action working.  Run the ball until they stop you, and THEN do what you came here to do in the passing game!

If I was a Cougars fan, I’d be furious.  Thankfully, I ended up at the right school.

As I said up top, and last week, I didn’t have a lot of confidence in this one.  I thought if the Huskies were ever primed for a let-down, it would’ve been right here.  The Cougs had everything to play for and the Huskies had their pride.  Then, almost immediately, Pettis and Lavon Coleman – both playing in their final games in Husky Stadium – were lost to injury, and my confidence in a Husky victory fell even further.  But, it turns out, that Husky talent will win the day more often than not.  Two of your top three offensive weapons go down (on top of all the other offensive weapons that went down earlier this season)?  Next man up gets the job done.

In this case, the Huskies rode Myles Gaskin.  Hard.  25 carries, 192 yards, and 4 TDs.  That puts him at 208 carries, 1,282 yards and 19 TDs on the season with a game left to play.  When you tack on his 18 receptions for 228 yards and 3 TDs in the passing game, you’re talking about one of the finest seasons from a skill position player in Husky football history!  Where would this team be without Myles Gaskin?  He’s a Junior, but will almost certainly go to the NFL next year, and boy has he earned it!

He made up for another pointless day for Jake Browning, who was 11/17 for 93 yards, while adding a goalline TD run.  It’s yet another one of those games where you can’t really judge the quarterback because he wasn’t asked to do anything other than hand the ball off.  I guess kudos to him for not audibling out of those called runs.

No receiver really stepped up, as what few passes he threw, he spread them around pretty good.  The belief is Pettis will be back for the bowl game, so fingers crossed.

Really, though, you have to give equal time to the defense.  They forced Falk into 3 interceptions and a fumble, as he managed 369 yards through the air, but it took him 55 attempts to do it.  I would never kill the Cougs for not making a quarterback change in this game; Falk has been one of the best QBs in school history, if not THE best.  I hang this loss on the coaching staff, all things considered.

Vita Vea and Co. were all over the place.  Vea is an absolute destroyer of worlds, he’s been amazing to watch this season, and throughout his Husky career.  It’s crazy that he ended up with only 2 tackles and half a sack on the stat sheet, but he was ALL over the place, in Falk’s face with consistent bull rushes on nearly every play, often allowing other Huskies around him to clean the play up.

Props to Senior cornerback Ezekiel Turner, JoJo McIntosh, and Ben Burr-Kirven for their interceptions.  I also wanted to shout out Byron Murphy for his lockdown presence in the defensive backfield, with 3 credited passes defended and 5 tackles, including a nifty tackle for loss.  The guys who end up coming back next year will be fun to watch.

And thus wraps up the regular season.  The Huskies finished 10-2, and thanks to the loss to Stanford, the Cardinal gets to play USC in the Pac-12 Championship Game.  I don’t know how much this season will be remembered, in the grand scheme of the Husky football program, but if it is, it’s going to be remembered for that fucking loss to ASU.  I will never come close to understanding how we let that one get away from us, preventing us from another crack at a conference title and probably a Final Four bid.

One forgotten tidbit is this:  maybe the non-conference schedule WASN’T such a cupcake festival!  If you look at the Top 25 College Football Playoff Rankings, Fresno State is down there at #25, having just knocked off Boise State in their regular season finale.  They turn right back around – this time on the road – to play Boise State in the Mountain West Championship Game, so they could very well fall right back out of the Top 25, but just knowing that they’re right there!  That’s not nothing!  One would have to think, had the Huskies beaten ASU, then beaten USC in the Pac-12 Championship Game, we’d be talking about a 1-loss Husky team that’s beaten three Top 25 teams.  Is that enough to get you into the Final Four?  I guess we’ll never know.

What’s left is this:  the Huskies are currently ranked 13th.  Stanford is 12th, and assuming they lose to USC, you have to think the Huskies jump ahead of them.  The other biggie is TCU – currently 11th – has to play Oklahoma.  If TCU loses, that’s a third loss for them, and I would hope the Huskies would also jump ahead of them.  And, I know it’s a longshot, but Ohio State is 8th and they play the undefeated Wisconsin Badgers.  Even though Wisconsin hasn’t played anyone, if they can somehow beat the Buckeyes, that would give them three losses.

The point is, the top four teams will play in the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl.  After that, there are another four major bowls who will mostly accept at-large teams, or teams otherwise in the Top 12.  Assuming, at the very least, that Stanford loses, that should give the Huskies a shot.  Assuming Stanford and TCU lose, that should give the Huskies a better shot.  And so on and so forth.

Now, it was pointed out that last year Colorado was ranked 10th and ended up in the Alamo Bowl, as opposed to one of the 6 major bowls, but it should also be pointed out that USC was ranked ahead of Colorado, and there’s just no way that three Pac-12 teams were going to make it.

The big trouble-spot for the Huskies is Central Florida.  UCF plays Memphis in the American Athletic Conference.  UCF is undefeated and currently ranked 14th, one spot below the Huskies.  Now, ideally, UCF will lose, and the point will be moot.  But, if they win (Memphis is currently 20th), I have to wonder if they’ll be given a spot in one of the 6 major bowls.  It’s definitely possible, and maybe even likely!

Ultimately, it sucks being in this position.  It sucks to have largely the same team as a year ago, and not even playing for a conference title.  It sucks that that ASU loss is looming so large over the entire season, when they ended up firing their head coach before their bowl game!

At the same time, this is not a championship Husky team.  Ironically, had things gone differently, it’s almost certain that we wouldn’t have had to play Alabama in the playoffs.  But, I mean, do you really want to play the team that BEAT Bama?

There are too many flaws, particularly on offense, for this Husky team to overcome.  Sure, the defense probably could’ve hung in there like they did against Bama last year, but that’s not enough.

Still, it would’ve been nice to go back-to-back.

I’m Not So Sure About This Year’s Apple Cup

I normally throw up a Seahawks preview on Fridays, but they’re playing the 49ers, we’re apparently NOT going to see the start of the Jimmy Garoppolo Era, and so I couldn’t care any less.  Therefore, I’m gonna take a look at tomorrow’s Apple Cup.

So, this game is a pretty big deal!  In the Pac-12 South, USC has predictably run away with it and has secured its spot in the Pac-12 Championship Game.  In the Pac-12 North, there are currently three teams with 2 conference losses:  Stanford, Washington, and Washington State.  Stanford, at 7-2, is finished with conference play, and by virtue of having beaten Washington, has effectively eliminated the Huskies from an opportunity at winning the conference.

The Cougs, however, by virtue of having beaten Stanford, only needs to win the Apple Cup this weekend to secure its spot in the conference title game.

In short:  Huskies win tomorrow, Stanford moves on; Cougars win tomorrow, Cougars move on.

So, yeah, in one sense, the Huskies have nothing to play for.  But, it’s still a football game, it’s the final game a lot of these players (particularly the seniors) will play at home, and while there isn’t much satisfaction to be gleaned from playing spoiler, it would still be pretty funny to dash the hopes of Cougars everywhere.

Ultimately, though, I just don’t know how much I can get up for this one.  First and foremost, we’re just two weeks removed from the Cardinal ruining our season.  In a hypothetical universe where the Huskies are still a 1-loss team, I have to imagine we’d be on the outside looking in on a College Football Playoffs Top 4, but we’d still be right there in the conversation.  Top 7, top 8 at the worst, with various rivalry games and conference championship games left to play.  In this scenario, if the Huskies win the Apple Cup, then beat a very good USC team … you never know.  Anything could happen!

So, like I said, we’re just two weeks removed from Stanford taking all of that excitement away from us … and now if we beat the Cougs we’d be HELPING them to a conference title game appearance.  I mean, FUCK those guys!  If I’m being perfectly honest, I would RATHER have the Cougs in the Pac-12 title game than Stanford.  Shit man, the more I think about how many road games I’ve attended in their crappy fucking stadium – all of them DEVASTATING losses – and the more I think about all the quality offensive linemen they’ve stolen from our backyard because they’re the “Harvard of the West Coast” or whatever bullshit moniker they’re rolling with to try to make their overrated school look better; the more I think about their obnoxious head coach (a deciple of the even MORE obnoxious Jim Harbaugh, I might add), the more I want the Huskies to tank this game tomorrow and let the Cougs stroll to a Pac-12 North championship.

It’s tough.  A real catch-22.  Because it’s not like I can just put my allegiances aside for three hours!  The upside of a Husky defeat is we get to screw Stanford, who screwed us first, so it’s the perfect revenge.  The upside of a Husky victory is, what?  Continued dominance over our in-state little brother school?  I get to lord our superiority over my Cougar friends?  Where’s the fun in that?  That’s more of a Stanford thing to do, anyway!  I’d be becoming everything I hate!

Plus, I mean, come on, we’re the Washington Huskies, IT GOES WITHOUT SAYING we’re better than the Cougs!  We don’t need to win one measly little Apple Cup in a meaningless season to prove that!  On the flipside, if they were to beat us, just imagine how much they’ll get to crow about it.  They’ll get all big for their britches, and it’ll be all the sweeter when we smack their asses down next year.

As for my prediction, I will say that while I would prefer to be in their position (having something to play for), I do like that the pressure is all on the Cougs.  They’re on the road, where they’ve been significantly worse this season, and they’ve got to beat a still-very-good Husky team to get to where they want to go.  But, honestly, beyond the psychological and home-field advantages, I think the edge is all in Wazzu’s favor.

Wazzu has the better quarterback; Jake Browning has not only not progressed this year, he’s actually RE-gressed.  While Luke Falk has been benched a couple times, I would argue that adversity has made him a better, sharper player.  Jake Browning, after winning the job as a true Freshman, has never had ANYONE nipping at his heels to steal his job, which makes me really wonder if he’s grown complacent.  I think Falk will be on his game from the get-go.  He’s a Senior, he’s played everywhere, and I don’t think this environment will be too big for him.

Wazzu, I would argue, also has the better defense, which is really saying something.  The Cougs have been pretty remarkable on defense since Mike Leach took over, which is not something I ever would’ve expected.  I remember his Texas Tech days where both teams would score 30+ points pretty regularly.  At Washington State, his defenses have been pretty stout … with the exception of when playing in the Apple Cup.  To wit:

  • 2012 – Huskies scored 28
  • 2013 – Huskies scored 27
  • 2014 – Huskies scored 31
  • 2015 – Huskies scored 45
  • 2016 – Huskies scored 45

But, something tells me this year’s Huskies won’t be putting up points in bunches like in years past.  Browning, as I noted, has regressed.  The offensive line isn’t the strength we all expected it to be.  None of the receivers outside of Dante Pettis have shown up to play this year.  And, if the Huskies can’t get their running game going, it will be a LONG day.  The Cougs also have one of the best D-Linemen in all of college football, probably the only other interior player to rival Vita Vea in sheer strength and explosiveness.  The Huskies, by contrast, are supremely banged up on defense – particularly in the secondary – and have given up 30 points in back-to-back weeks to the likes of Stanford and Utah (not exactly the most overwhelming offenses in the Pac-12).  Things are trending downward for this unit, and I just don’t trust them against a passing attack like Wazzu’s, who feast on quick throws.  I can see the Cougs converting a ton of third/fourth downs (just like Stanford and Utah) and tiring out this Husky unit.

Sure, the Huskies have the edge in Special Teams, and probably the run game, but I think it’s easy enough to neutralize both.  Kick away from Pettis; kick it out of bounds if you have to!  Done.  Line up Hercules Mata’afa on the interior of the D-Line and let him go to town on our over-matched guards; that should settle Myles Gaskin’s hash pretty good.

In short, do I think the Huskies can make it 5 Apple Cups in a row?  No.  I know Vegas loves the Huskies, and I know the analytics love the Huskies, but I just don’t see it.  If you sat me down in a sportsbook right now, pointed a gun to my head, and told me to bet my family’s farm, I’d put the deed on the Cougs and I wouldn’t even ask for points.

So, good news Dawg fans!  As I’m frequently wrong in my gut-assessments, this should be a no-brainer Husky victory!  All I know is, I’ve watched a lot of football in my day, and I know when one team is clearly better than the other.  I think, this time, the Cougs are just plain better, and they have plenty of talent (on top of motivation) to win this game pretty handily.

Come Saturday evening, I’ll either be happy because the Huskies won, or I’ll be happy because Stanford can go fuck itself.  This is shaping up to be a nice little day!

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.

Looking Ahead To The Washington Huskies’ 2017 Football Schedule

The 2014 Huskies were largely a Sark-based team in Coach Pete’s first season; we enjoyed a Sark-esque record when all was said and done.  The 2015 Huskies were a real transition team, as more of Coach Pete’s players got on the field and the team as a whole became further acclimated to his way of doing things.  In a lot of ways, 2015 looked like a bit of a step back, but it was entirely necessary to get the program to where it was in 2016, which was a huge step forward.

I can’t say enough good things about the 2016 Huskies, it was the most fun I’ve had following this team since 2000, and was almost certainly the best Husky team I’ve ever seen (keeping in mind that I was never a fan of the university during the Don James glory years).  The 2016 Huskies were truly one of the best four football teams of the year and were rewarded as such with an invite to the College Football Playoff.  Sadly, we were turned away by the buzzsaw that was the Alabama Crimson Tide, which only goes to reinforce the fact that we need to build up this program to become that type of buzzsaw.

So, what do we have to look forward to in 2017?  Will the Huskies become that buzzsaw?  Probably a little early in the process to say yes, but I think more than anything you just want to see them continue to take steps forward.

You can look at what we lost and have sort of a Glass Half Empty outlook.  John Ross was drafted 9th overall.  Sure, we’ve still got Dante Pettis, who looks ready to ascend to the #1 receiver spot on this team, but he’s no John Ross.  That’s no knock against him, necessarily, because NOBODY is John Ross.  That kind of speed is once in a generation.  When you tack on Ross’ route running, versatility, and ability to make a catch in traffic, he was really the total package and may be the best receiver we’ve ever had in the program.  So, you can look at the wide receiver position and say, “Yeah, there’s a decline there compared to last year.”

Then, obviously, you’ve got Kevin King, Budda Baker, and Sidney Jones all snapped up before the end of the second round.  Our two starting cornerbacks and our starting safety, gone.  I know the Huskies recruited the secondary pretty well, with lots of highly-rated guys set to step into starting roles, but we just won’t know how good those players are until we see them in game action.

Go on and on down the list of guys we graduated.  Just a ton of talent walking out the door.  In many ways, 2017 will be yet another transitional season.  But, obviously different from how 2015 was a transitional year.  This isn’t going from one head coach to another; this is essentially an evaluation of Coach Pete’s ability to constantly refurbish the depth of this team on the fly.  Guys are going to graduate, guys are going to leave for the NFL after their Junior years; the mark of a truly great head coach is how he’s able to recruit guys who can jump in there and replace those former starters.  I’m talking about recruiting Freshmen who are good enough to play right away, as well as guys who grow into starting-calibre players within a year or two at the most.  It’s about always having the next wave of superstars champing at the bit.  It’s about allowing the linemen and other undersized guys to grow and mature in the program so eventually they can be impact players.  And so on and so forth.

Coach Sark and his team of recruiters were able to land some real whales for this school, but I don’t know if they were on the same level as Coach Pete and Co.  Sark seemed to be more interested in recruiting the glamour positions; Coach Pete seems to be more interested in building up all positions, eliminating as many weaknesses as possible.

In that respect, yes, the 2017 Huskies might have fewer studs than they did in 2016, but it’s entirely possible that the overall quality of the team is improved, from 1 to 90, or however many players you’re allowed to have in college.

All of this comes with the caveat that injury luck is always the most important factor with any sports team.

The offensive line should be a real strength for the Huskies, more than any other year I can remember.  The Huskies return the most experienced line in the conference, which should help our stud running backs – Coleman and Gaskin, among many of the younger guys looking to make names for themselves – as well as, obviously, our quarterback.

If there’s a questionmark, it’s Jake Browning.  Is he healthy?  Will he BE healthy when the season starts?  I’ll never question his ability to study and work on his craft, but given his relative lack of size, can he STAY healthy for the long haul?  He’s obviously a tough kid, playing on a shoulder that required surgery, but I don’t know if he’ll grow into a Heisman contender if he can’t stay on the field and at close to 100%.

If Browning isn’t healthy, how good are the guys behind him?  The Huskies have recruited some pretty highly-rated quarterbacks recently, but are they too raw to step in this early into their careers?  Will our season be totally derailed if Browning is limited?

Wide receiver is the position I’m most excited about.  Obviously, I love Pettis and Chico McClatcher.  But, I’ve also been hearing rumblings about some of these receivers who haven’t had a lot of playing time thus far.  Recent recruits ready to make their marks.  Should be interesting; hope they’ll get a lot of time to work with Browning on their timing and whatnot.

Along the D-Line, in spite of the loss of Elijah Qualls, there is still a significant amount of returning talent.  Indeed, this unit should prove to be the strongest of the entire defense, and will likely have to get home with even more regularity than they did in 2016 (which they did at a pretty high clip) to help compensate for potential challenges in the back end.

Taylor Rapp, at safety, figures to be a force, and maybe the defensive MVP in 2017.  We’ll need him to make that next step to superstar status if we want to maintain our defensive dominance in the Pac-12.  He looked every bit as good as anyone I’ve seen towards the end of last season, so I’m pretty confident he’ll get the job done.

Bottom line is, the 2017 Huskies will be very good.  Where they end up will largely depend on the schedule they play.

Last year, the Huskies were continuously killed for their weak schedule.  It was the primary reason why people felt they had legitimate arguments against them making the College Football Playoff.  I never bought into that, and if you’re like me – and wanted to throw your remote through the television every time some national pundit knocked the Huskies for this – GET READY FOR MORE OF THE SAME.  Because, holy Jesus, does the 2017 schedule look like the creamiest cream puff wrapped in a cloud of cotton candy.

For the second year in a row, we kick off our season against Rutgers.  It was a Home & Home series that was scheduled way back when Rutgers had a good football team, and you can’t very well just chop them off the schedule without facing a huge penalty.  So, here we are.  This time, on the road, which I suppose makes the game marginally more difficult, but my guess is Rutgers is once again going to be one of the worst teams in the Big 10.

The Huskies round out their non-conference schedule with home games against Montana (an FBS school) and Fresno State (who had all of 1 win in 2016).  The Huskies could sit Browning for all three of those games and still easily walk away 3-0.

Every year, every Pac-12 school plays 9 conference games.  I don’t know if this still sets us apart or not (I believe the SEC only plays 8 conference games, but they might be moving up to 9 or at least talking about it), but I think it’s a great argument when it comes to comparing our schools to those conferences who play 8 or less.  I mean, let’s face it, every conference has their duds.  And you can talk about Washington’s weak non-conference schedule all you want, but every power school schedules their share of powderpuffs.  Regardless of how good or bad your in-conference opponent is, it’s still an in-conference opponent, and those games are more difficult and ultimately mean more.

Anyway, this year, the Huskies catch 5 home conference games and 4 road conference games (it alternates every year).  Their conference schedule kicks off with 2 road games, though – at Colorado and at Oregon State – which means we get 5 of our final 7 games at home.  Colorado should be a lot worse than they were last year, as the 2016 Buffaloes were very senior-heavy, and I highly doubt they recruit nearly as well as we do, so I can’t imagine the guys they’ve got coming up through the ranks are going to be as good as the guys they had last year.  Oregon State is still in rebuilding mode (as they are seemingly every year), so I can’t imagine it’ll take much of an effort to get to 5-0 with this schedule.

Then, there’s a home game against Cal, who is working in a new head coach and ostensibly a new offensive system, so I can’t imagine that’s going to be a very close game.  We follow that up with a road game against ASU, who I’m pretty sure we haven’t beaten on their home turf in over a decade.  They were pretty sorry last year, and figure to be better this year; this could be a sneaky-tough game for the Huskies (who will have played 3 of 4 on the road when they’re finished with this one).  I could see the Huskies winning this one in ugly fashion to get to 7-0.

That leads us to the real heart of the 2017 schedule.  This year, we avoid USC and Arizona.  By all accounts, USC is poised to be the top ranked Pac-12 team, at least going into the season.  They might have the next #1 overall draft pick at the quarterback position in Sam Darnold, which is moderately terrifying.  Obviously, that means even our conference schedule sees a huge downgrade in the eyes of the national pundits, by virtue of not playing the so-called best team in the Pac-12.  And, say what you want about Arizona, but they’ve notoriously been a tricky team for us to play most years, and they return one of the more experienced offensive lines to boot.  I wouldn’t be shocked to see them as a “surprise” team in the conference.

Getting back to the heart of the schedule, we follow up all those road games (and a BYE week tacked onto the end of it) with back-to-back home contests against UCLA and Oregon.  UCLA is up there with Utah among the second tier teams in the Pac-12 South.  They strike me as very much of an unknown, as they seem to recruit well every year, but ultimately produce poor results on the field.  I’m sure they’ll give the Huskies everything they can, and I’d be seriously disappointed if we lost this one.  Ditto Oregon, although they’re in something of a rebuild mode as well (albeit, starting with a much stronger base than OSU).  I just think Washington has more talent than Oregon, period.  As such, I see no reason why we won’t be 9-0 heading into what will likely be the most important game of the regular season.

At Stanford, Friday, November 10th, at 7:30pm on Fox Sports 1.  The Cardinal fell from their perch as one of the top teams in the conference last year, and they obviously lost a lot of talent to graduation/the NFL Draft, so they’ll be breaking in a lot of key positions heading into 2017.  They have a real bugger of a schedule through their own first 9 games of the season, with road games against USC, Utah, and Washington State, as well as home games against UCLA and Oregon.  So, when I call this game on November 10th the “most important”, I really mean it’s the most important to the Washington Huskies, as it’s the one true landmine in an otherwise reasonable slate of football games.

I fully anticipate Stanford to have anywhere from 1-3 losses by the time they host the Huskies, but this is also a well-coached football team, who recruits like gangbusters.  What does that mean?  Well, even if they’re not competing for a Rose Bowl berth (which, for the record, I’m not necessarily taking off the table, as it’s entirely possible they are up there fighting for the Pac-12 North yet again), this is still a team that notoriously gets better as the season goes along.  When you play Stanford, I think you’d much rather face them early in the season.  Facing them in mid-November is sort of my worst nightmare, particularly with a schedule like this, where there doesn’t appear to be many tough games leading into this one.  On paper, I think the Huskies are better than the Cardinal, but with this game being on the road, against a quality team, anything can happen.  Let’s face it, I never would’ve thought the Huskies could’ve lost at home to USC last year, and look at what happened.

There’s a very reasonable chance that the game against Stanford is our last chance to make a big positive impression on the College Football Playoff Committee.  Hell, it might be our ONLY chance, but that’s neither here nor there.  After that, we wrap up the season with home games against Utah and Washington State.  I think everyone is really sleeping on these two teams.  Utah is always tough and really makes you earn every win against them.  They could easily upset a team like USC and find themselves in the thick of things by the time they come to Seattle.  And, as for the Cougs, they’ve definitely been written off after last year, losing two bullshit games early in the season, followed by their final three games (including the Holiday Bowl).  While I agree that the Huskies very much SHOULD beat the Cougars, it’s still the Apple Cup, and weird things can always crop up.  The Cougs obviously have Falk back, and if he can stay healthy, he’ll always give them a chance to win.  And, their defense has always been underrated while over-producing under Mike Leach.  So, you know, while these last two games aren’t necessarily as flashy as the road game against Stanford, we could still be talking about a couple of ranked teams when all is said and done.

The bottom line is, this is a 12-game schedule in which the Huskies could very easily run the table.  There will obviously be challenges along the way, but I’ll just say that it wouldn’t necessarily be a shock to the system like it was last year.  Odds are, the Huskies will likely lose 1 game.  I’d say the odds are equal that they’d lose 2 games as they are to the Huskies winning them all, if that makes any sense.  1 loss SHOULD mean that the Huskies play in the Pac-12 Championship Game.  And, assuming the Huskies face the Trojans in that game, we’re looking at a game that would not only get us into the Rose Bowl, but would get us back to the College Football Playoff.

I’ll say this, just to get it out of the way:  any combination of scenarios where the Huskies finish with 1 loss, and that 1 loss is in the Pac-12 Championship Game, the Huskies absolutely will not make the College Football Playoff – even if the Pac-12 South champion has more losses, and ultimately gets passed over as well.  I’m a firm believer that the only way the Huskies are able to compensate for that schedule is if they beat an awesome team in the conference title game, a la last year.  And even then, who knows?

A lot of this depends on what happens in the other conferences.  What happens if there are two 1-loss teams in the SEC?  Or an undefeated team and a 1-loss Alabama team?  On top of whatever the Big 10 throws in there, Clemson, and the Oklahoma schools.

One thing the Huskies really have going for them is that they should start the season highly ranked.  Top 10 or Top 15 at the worst.  Now, imagine that team running the table through the regular season, then beating USC in the conference championship game!  We might get to pick where we play in the College Football Playoff!

All of that is a long way off, of course.  But, it’s still fun to think about as this baseball season drags on.  I very much need football back in my life.

Huskies Dominate In Apple Cup, Win Pac-12 North

I’m going to save my insanity about the College Football Playoffs until after they announce the updated rankings.  In the meantime, let’s just enjoy this, huh?  The Huskies are BACK, baby!

What an incredible feeling.  I know it’s not over yet, and we’ve got one more major hurdle before we win the conference title, but for all intents and purposes we’re at least co-champions in the regular season, which is a far cry from where we were just 8 years ago.

That 2008 season, where the Huskies went 0-9 in conference (including losing the worst Apple Cup I’ve ever seen in my life) and 0-12 overall, was a big part of the reason for this blog even existing.  Then, we brought Sark in, he got us going on the right track, and we built upon that tenfold with Coach Pete.  It’s been quite the journey, but now here we are, hopefully around for an extended run of greatness.

Of course, if we lose to Colorado on Friday, we’ll probably get saddled with an inferior opponent in the Alamo Bowl, leaving nothing but regret in our wake, so let’s try real hard to win this conference championship!

The Cuogs, last Friday, posed no challenge.  We jumped out to a 28-3 lead after one quarter, and from that point, it was just one long game of keep-away en route to a 45-17 victory.  Browning got back on track, completing 21/29 for 292 yards and 3 TDs (vs. 0 picks).  Lavon Coleman was the rushing star, even though he only ran for 82 yards on 10 carries, he was able to plunge a couple across the goalline.  Gaskin had 50 yards and a TD of his own.  Dante Pettis caught 3 balls for 86 yards and 2 TDs, and John Ross chipped in 8 catches for 80 yards, a TD, and 37 yards rushing on 2 carries.  Don’t forget Chico McClatcher’s 6 catches for 80 yards.  And, big ups to Pettis for completing another pass for 50 yards on a trick play (the fact that we went to that well a second time, and it didn’t work, sure drew the ire of the announcers for some reason; as if there can be TOO MANY trick plays in a football game!).

On the flipside, we held Luke Falk to 269 yards and 1 TD against 3 INTs.  As a team, they ran for 65 yards.  Budda Baker had another outstanding game (including 2 tackles for loss and a pick); D.J. Beavers had a monster game in his own right with a pick of his own, as well as a fumble recovery.  We weren’t able to get a ton of pressure – only 2 sacks on the day – but we were sound in every other aspect of the game.  When you’re up 25 after one quarter, it’s not like you need to send blitzes every other down.

As noted above, we play Colorado this Friday in Santa Clara for the Pac-12 Championship.  The Buffaloes also went 8-1 in conference, with their only loss coming to USC during their resurgence, so consider both of us pretty lucky we don’t have to face the Trojans again this year.  Colorado’s other loss came in their non-conference schedule, when they went to Michigan and got pounded.  The Buffaloes run and pass the ball pretty well, but they might actually be better on defense than they are on offense.

This will be a game of the two best secondaries in the conference, and among the two best secondaries in all of college football.  Overall, though, I don’t think we’re talking about a defense that’s anywhere near as good as what USC is packing, so it would be a bit of a surprise if we weren’t able to move the ball on them.  The question here is:  will the big play be available to us?  I’d like to go back and see how many of our scoring drives featured a play of at least 35 yards, because I have a feeling the percentage is pretty high compared to the national average.  Fortunately, Browning is one of the more accurate passers, so if we have to play the dink & dunk game, we can do that.  He did just pull himself out of a 2-week funk though, so let’s hope he comes out on fire like he did against Wazzu.

Of course, I don’t have to tell you what’s on the line if we win this game.  Rose Bowl at the VERY worst.  You might not be able to tell just from reading this post, but I’m trying to pump myself up and not be disappointed if the Huskies are iced out of the College Football Playoffs.  The Rose Bowl is a helluva consolation prize!  And, if I can swing it, I plan on going there to see it all in person.

But, that doesn’t mean we can’t hope for more.  Let’s go Dawgs.  One more win and then let the chips fall where they may.

The Washington Husky Hype Train Is Pulling Into The Hype Station For A Whole Lotta Hype Ass Kicking!

The last time I wrote about the Dawgs, we were just getting into the early part of pre-season prognosticating.  Website rankings and other media types were venturing out onto their ledges with predictions, and there were the Washington Huskies, smack dab in the sweet spot of critical darlinghood.

And let’s face it!  We’re fucking adorable!  We’re the cutest baby at a gathering of hormonal pregnant ladies; just try and not pinch our cheeks while letting out a collective AWWWW!  You can’t resist!

Now, shit is getting real.  The AP has us ranked 14th in the nation; the coaches have us 18th.  Regardless, without having played a down of football, we’re a consensus Top 20 team in America.  It’s not an achievement by any means, but it’s something nice to look at as we reflect upon how far we’ve come.

This time last year, the Huskies were picked to be among the dregs of the Pac-12.  I had them pegged for 4 wins, and I think a lot of media types had the same.  Obviously, the team out-played expectations, netting 6 regular season wins and a 7th in the bowl game.  You have to wonder how things would’ve worked out in another universe where Sark’s alcoholism didn’t implode the Trojans, and where Luke Falk didn’t injure himself before the Apple Cup, but that’s neither here nor there, because aside from the Stanford game, the Huskies were IN all of their games.  They battled!  Sure, they gagged away a few winnable games, against the Bears, Utes, and especially the Sun Devils, but that’s part of the process.  That’s breaking in a bunch of young players at key positions.

You can see by the way the Huskies finished out the 2015 season, though, that they were significantly better than when they started.  Had the Huskies of December played in those games back in September, October, and early November, we’re probably talking about a 9-win or 10-win team.

Well, here we are.  2016.  We’re short a few Sark-era guys, but for the most part we’re intact.  It’s Year Three for Coach Pete, which means it’s the first year of his tenure where he’s playing more of His Kinda Guys than the previous regime’s.  This is where all of those Top 25 recruiting classes come to fruition.

Sophomore quarterback & running back, with a full year’s experience, a full year’s health, and a full offseason’s worth of training in the program.

4 out of 5 returning offensive linemen – and quality linemen to boot.  This is going to be, hands down, the best offensive line we’ve seen since the Rick Neuheisel era (all praise to Jim Lambright).

If there’s a knock, you could say the receiving corps was depleted with the losses of Jaydon Mickens and Joshua Perkins.  But, with John Ross returning, the sky is really the limit for this entire offensive unit.

And that’s not even factoring into the equation a defense that could be Top 10 in the nation.  A defensive line super stout against the run, a linebacking unit returning most of its starters, and a secondary that might be the best in the nation.

When you add it all up, tack on how well regarded Chris Petersen is as a coach, and how this might be one of the easiest schedules in major college football, and it’s not hard to count to double-digit wins, with an outside chance of contending for the entire Pac-12 North.

As it stands, Stanford is the consensus top-ranked Pac-12 team.  But, they’re breaking in a new starting quarterback AND they’re facing an absolute murderer’s row in the first half of their schedule.  They kick off at home against K-State, then it’s USC (20th), @ UCLA (16th), @ UW (14th), WSU (unranked, but pretty damn good), and @ Notre Dame (10th).  Suffice it to say, when they finish that stretch 3-3, they won’t be ranked in the Top 10 anymore.

In the same range as Washington, we have UCLA – who many are picking as the best in the Pac-12 South.  Well, fortunately for us, we won’t have to play them until the Pac-12 Championship Game.  So, that’s a huge plus.

We do have to play USC, but we get them at home, in mid-November, after beating them down in L.A. last year.  I’d say that’s another good sign for the good guys.

All told, our schedule features only 3 pre-season ranked teams:  Stanford, USC, and Oregon.  We get two of those games at home, and only have to travel to Eugene for the other.  We all know Oregon is a paper tiger this year anyway.  THE. STREAK. WILL. END. NOW.

The non-conference schedule is full of cupcakes, which is nice.  Get off to an easy 3-0 start while we work the kinks out.  Maybe one of those games is a little too close for comfort, allowing Coach Pete to get everyone focused without it actually costing us a game.  That sets us up for what I’m going to call a scary trap game down in Arizona.  The Wildcats are getting pegged to be near the bottom of the conference, around the .500 range, but I could easily see this game being overlooked, as the very next week we host Stanford, followed by a game down in Oregon.

If we somehow get past Arizona, I think we’ll be able to take out Stanford in a fired-up Friday night atmosphere.  That will carry us through to Oregon – which, again, paper tigers – before a mid-October BYE week to reflect on our 6-0 start and our Top 10 placement in the rankings.  At that point, people will be talking about the Huskies in the same breath as people talk about the College Football Playoff, and quite frankly, by that point, we might be the Pac-12’s last hope!

We come out of the BYE week with a home game against the Beavers, which again is a nice, soft landing, before probably the Game of the Year.  On the road.  At Utah.

Now, make no mistake, if I decide to pull it back here and be rational for a second, the Huskies could EASILY lose to any and all of our first three Pac-12 opponents.  But, where’s the fun in that?

For the purposes of this prediction post, I’m saying the Huskies start out the season 7-0 and in the Top 10 in all of college football.  And, I think it’s in Utah where our run of good fortune ends.

But, we’re set up nicely for a bounce-back game down in Cal, whose previous quarterback – you may recall – was recently drafted #1 overall by the Rams.  That sets us up for back-to-back home games against the Trojans and Sun Devils.  I’m not really impressed by either of those teams, and see no reason why the Huskies shouldn’t take care of business.  That gets us to 10-1 and a showdown in Pullman in the Apple Cup.

If 10-1 doesn’t already win us the Pac-12 North, that will only be because the Washington State Cougars – with an equally as creampuffy non-conference schedule, as well as a Pac-12 schedule that sees them avoid Utah & USC – are 9-2 at the time.

THAT’S RIGHT!  I’m predicting that the Apple Cup will decide the winner of the Pac-12 North!

And, I’m also predicting that the Huskies will win that game, beat the Bruins in the Pac-12 Championship Game, for the right to play in their first Rose Bowl since 2000.

The Huskies are back, baby!  This season is going to be magical!  Mark it!

Huskies Dominated Latest Apple Cup

Part of me wonders what the game would’ve been like had Luke Falk been healthy.  The way things shaped up, you like to say that the Huskies still would’ve won pretty handily, but I dunno.  I think it would’ve been much more competitive.  I don’t think you can necessarily count on all the turnovers happening the way they did, in this hypothetical alternate universe.  I just know, for the sake of the Huskies’ season – now bowl eligible at 6-6 – I’m not disappointed in Falk missing the game and sparing my Huskies any potential disaster.

Besides, there will be plenty of time for that in the coming years.  We have yet to see the first of Falk vs. Browning, and when we do, I predict it’ll be a sight to behold.

The Husky defense was the real star of this game, at one point returning turnovers for touchdowns on back-to-back plays.  They forced the Cougs into 7 turnovers overall, which really sucked the life out of them, as they did, in fact, move the ball pretty well for the most part.  Not well enough, obviously, to make things interesting, and their backup quarterback was a huge step down in every respect.  But, you know, what do they care?  They’ve got 8 wins, should have Falk back soon, and are going to a better bowl game (at least, in the rankings).

For the Dawgs, Browning had an efficient, if unspectacular game.  The running game really powered us through, with phenom Myles Gaskin leading the way with 138 yards and 2 TDs.  And, even though the numbers don’t look amazing, Jaydon Mickens was all over the place once again.  He hasn’t really had what one would consider a record-breaking career as a Husky, but he’s been as steady and dependable as they come.  With his hands, his speed, his route-running, and his shiftiness, I could see him putting in a good Combine and a great Pro Day, en route to a late-round draft pick in next year’s draft.  Whichever team gets him (likely for a song, given he’s not the tallest or the fastest guy in the world) is going to quickly realize they’ve got something special.  Who knows?  Maybe the Seahawks sneak him onto the practice squad, to eventually replace someone like Jermaine Kearse.

We won’t know until after next weekend’s slate of conference championship games where the Huskies will be playing, but just knowing that we WILL be playing makes this season of transition a rousing success.  WAY more enjoyable than the 2014 version, even though that team won 8 games.

Husky Football Needs To Win Out To Get To A Bowl Game

That Arizona State game was a tough one to watch.  The Huskies sprinted out to a 17-0 lead on the road – in a place where they haven’t won since dinosaurs roamed the Earth – and proceeded to give it all away to the tune of 27-unanswered.  We out-gained them in yards, we had a slight time of possession edge, we beat them up in first downs, our true freshman quarterback had a 405-yard passing day … it all seemed to be going our way, except for the 4 turnovers we gave away to their 0.

I’m not gonna lie to you, that would’ve been a good monkey to get off our backs.  A win there would have all-but-assured our being bowl eligible – assuming a win against the inept Oregon State Beavers this weekend – but instead things are in serious doubt.

Before we look ahead, I’d just like to talk about how frustrating things are with this team.  It’s not to the point where I’m down on the program, per se.  I think the direction of the program is trending mightily upward.  We’re IN most of these games!  We barely lost on the road against a ranked Boise State team in the opener (a feat that looked much better at the time than it does now, but that’s neither here nor there); we lost by one score against Cal and Oregon (maybe a bounce here or there turns the tables); we hung in there against a very tough Utah team (we can only speculate how that game would’ve ended had it been officiated properly); we beat a ranked USC team on the road (and practically drove their head coach to ruin) and thrashed what appeared to be a solid Arizona team (bowl eligible, in spite of their unimpressive conference record).  If a few things end up differently, who knows?  Maybe it’s the Huskies competing for a shot at the Pac-12 title game.  Even taking things as they happened, though, you still have to like how things are shaping up in the immediate years to come.

Which is why it would be so very unfortunate if this team didn’t get a crack at a bowl game.  You want that extra game and all of those extra practices when you’ve got a young, talented team like this.  You want as much time as you can get with the coaches, to work on improving technique and whatnot.  At 4-6, the Huskies have to win out.  The game at Oregon State feels like a sure thing (the Beavers are 0-7 in conference and 2-8 overall; clearly the worst team in the conference), though it has a chance to be one of the tougher games we play.  For the Beavers, this game against the Huskies is probably their last chance to get a conference win (they’re at home, and their final game is in Eugene against the superior Ducks), so I’m sure they’re going to be fighting tooth and nail to notch a victory against the Dawgs.

Should the Huskies get past the Beavers this weekend, we return home for the Apple Cup on the Friday after Thanksgiving.  The Cougs are already bowl eligible, with their 7-3 record.  And, while they’re mathematically eliminated from participating in the Pac-12 Championship Game, they still have a chance to win 10 games for the first time since 2003, which would be huge for a program that hasn’t had a winning record since that very same season.  Tack on the fact that they’ve lost the last two Apple Cups (and 5 of the last 6), there’s no shortage of reasons for why they’ll be up for this game.  I’ve been dreading this game since before the season even started, as Luke Falk looked like a future superstar in waiting.  With over 4,000 yards passing already (with 2 games to go), he’s made good on that promise.  Needing to win this game to make a bowl is my worst nightmare come to life.  I just hope our defense has what it takes.

First thing’s first, gotta beat the Beavers.  It shouldn’t be a problem, but then again, there’s a reason why they don’t play these games on computers.

Husky Football Starts Tonight At Boise State

The Broncos are ranked in the top 25 in both polls; the Huskies are not.  That’s pretty much what you need to know about the game tonight.

Not a lot of people very high on the Washington Husky football team this year.  I think too much is made of all the defensive studs who left after last year.  Yeah, Shaq and Kikaha and Peters and Shelton were all great, but that defense as a whole last year was pretty underwhelming.  If the 2015 Huskies are bad, it won’t necessarily be exclusively the fault of the defense.

As usual, it comes down to quarterback play.  This year, we’ll be without Cyler Miles.  Say what you will about him, but if he were healthy and in a football frame of mind, he’d be the clear best option.  Now, does that mean he’d be any good?  Or that he has very much upside?  I don’t think so.  If you feel like this Husky team is in more of a rebuilding mode for 2015 regardless of whether or not Miles was going to be here, then it’s probably for the best that he’s not.  Let’s see who else we have on the roster; let’s see if – by season’s end – we haven’t found a star in our midst.

The 3-way battle – between Junior, Jeff Lindquist; Redshirt Freshman, K.J. Carta-Samuels; and True Freshman, Jake Browning – has all boiled down to tonight.  The coaches haven’t named a starter, but it would appear Browning is going to get the first crack at it.  I still don’t fully believe the team is going to stick to just one quarterback, as I think at least two will get regular play.  Browning is probably the better passer and quarterback overall, but he’s straight out of high school.  Ultimately, the move to burn his redshirt will probably be a huge mistake.  I tend to agree with the concept that true freshmen should never play bigtime college football; ALL of them should be given a year to adapt to college life, and get bigger and stronger.  The concern is really twofold though, when you’re talking about a highly touted talent like Browning.  The most likely scenario is:  he struggles, he loses his confidence, he gets injured, or some combination of the three.  The flipside of that is:  maybe he succeeds and ends up as this team’s starting quarterback for 3-4 years, but maybe he’s not quite as great as he could be, and when we get to the end of his college career – right as he’d be about to explode as one of the best players in the conference – he’s forced into turning pro before we get a chance at having him play his very best ball.

Obviously, that second scenario is a good problem to have, because it likely means we’ve had a successful 3-4 years.  But, I think we can all agree – however this turns out – 5th Year Senior Jake Browning would be a much better player than 4th Year Senior Jake Browning.

If you want my prediction, I think Browning does start tonight, and I think he does struggle during his true freshman campaign.  I also think he gets hit with the injury bug, because there’s no way I’m ever going to trust a Husky offensive line until they finally prove it to me.  The O-Line has been an issue for at least a decade now, and while help should be on the horizon with some of the better recruits we’ve gotten under Coach Pete, I don’t anticipate the O-Line being much of a strength in 2015.  Even if Browning doesn’t get injured, I still believe Lindquist will have his share of reps.  Maybe he comes in for a drive or two per game.  Maybe he has a sub package where we can utilize his running ability and/or cannon arm.

Either way, though, I don’t expect 2015 to be a banner year for the quarterback position.  Which is why I tend to believe this Husky team is going to struggle.  A lot.

At the moment, the Huskies have six ranked teams on their schedule – Boise St., USC, Oregon, Stanford, Arizona, and Arizona St.  That doesn’t include a very tough Utah team, an improving California team, a road game against Oregon State, and an Apple Cup against what I feel will be an explosive Washington State team.  As it stands right now, the Huskies are favored to win 4 games, and two of those games are against non-conference duds.  Most of the betting public has the Huskies winning anywhere from 4-5 games; I think five wins might be pretty generous.  I can envision a scenario where the Huskies get beat by the entire Pac-12 and finish last in the conference (unfortunately, no Colorado on the schedule this year).

Did I mention John Ross is out for the year, and we haven’t even played a game?

I don’t see much of any hope for this team making a bowl game, but if they do, it starts tonight.  The Huskies will have to run the table in the non-conference schedule, and follow that up with a home win against the Bears.  That puts us at 4-0, which is where we’ll need to be, because I guarantee we’re going to lose at least the next three games (@ USC, home vs. Oregon, @ Stanford).  We follow that stretch with two home games against Arizona and Utah; we have to win 1 of those 2.  That should give us 2 quality wins, which sets us up for getting pounded down at Arizona State, followed by winning the last two, at Oregon State and vs. Washington State.  That gets us to 7 wins, and 7 wins probably gets us a bowl.  If these Huskies are like the Husky teams of the last five years, that’s exactly what they’ll do and it’ll be like Sark never left (except, I guess there’s now more booze for the rest of us to share).

But, I hardly see that happening.  For this team to be reasonably good, we’re going to need steady play from our receivers.  Mickens is going to have to be a true #1 receiver, and Pettis will need to take a step up after a promising Freshman season.

We’re going to need to lean HEAVILY on our running game.  One of Coleman, Cooper, or Washington will have to step up and be a huge force for this team.

The defense will need to not be a wet paper bag.  Gonna have to find a way to bend & not break.  The secondary has a lot of talent, but who knows if the front seven is going to get enough push to let them do their thing?

And the quarterback is going to need to be more than just a game manager who avoids turnovers.  Make no mistake, he will NEED to avoid turnovers, but he also better be someone who’s got that clutchness gene.  This isn’t going to be a Husky team that rampages through the conference.  If this team is going to win games, it’s going to win CLOSE games.

Gun to my head:  I’m going with the majority and saying the Huskies win 4 games.  I think we’re for sure going to lose tonight, and I have a bad feeling it’s going to be by a lot of points.  I think half our wins come from the non-conference duds, our third win probably comes from either Cal or Utah, and our last win happens at Oregon State (here’s to hoping they’re a total trainwreck and keep us from being last).  For what it’s worth, I think the Cougars beat us in the Apple Cup and I think Luke Falk ends up being the next Ryan Leaf (in other words, a good thing for the Cougs, and a very bad thing for whoever drafts him #2 overall in the NFL).

In Coach Pete We Trust?  Maybe in 2016.