The Husky Football Season Just Disintegrated

Exactly a week ago, I was on here lamenting the loss to Stanford, but there was still an opportunity to achieve everything we wanted from this season: beat Oregon, win the Pac-12 North, play USC for the conference title, and earn a berth in one of the major New Years bowl games (probably the Fiesta).

Then, like, pretty much that same day, everything went to complete and utter shit. The Husky football team – seemingly out of nowhere – suffered a rash of COVID-related diagnoses which – combined with the required contact tracing of people who could be possibly infected by those who were already infected – meant that our game against the Ducks had to be canceled. The downside, obviously, was missing an opportunity to prove we’re better than them.

The upside, it turned out, meant that with our 3-1 record (against Oregon’s 3-2 record), we officially WON the Pac-12 North. There’s obviously a huge asterisk, since we didn’t play the Ducks; but, you know, they had every opportunity to NOT lose two games and failed in that charge, so fuck them.

That briefly set the stage for this Friday, where Washington would travel to USC to play in the Pac-12 Championship Game (with the Oregon vs. Colorado game also scheduled to be played in Southern California – on Saturday – so they could be in the area if a replacement team was needed). Officially, the Huskies had until sometime Thursday to see if we could cobble together a team to take the field. But, an announcement was scheduled for the early afternoon yesterday, which I took to be the terrible sign that it was.

Apparently, the Huskies don’t have the 53 healthy players required by the conference to play. They don’t even have ONE viable offensive lineman! So, that’s that. The Washington Huskies’ regular season ends with a 3-1 record, and the Oregon Ducks take our place. I guess it was nice of us to give them the extra few days to prepare, though I’m sure that came with pressure from the conference to make the call a few days early.

This is just a collosal disappointment. If we can get our shit together over the next few weeks, there’s a chance we can play in a bowl game, but that’s a poor consolation prize. In a way, though, it’s perfectly fitting; nothing about this year turned out the way we expected, so why should this be any different? It kind of feels like a miracle that we got the games we got. But, it’s still frustrating to get so close to playing for a conference title, only to have the opportunity ripped away by forces outside of your control. I know it leaves me with a really empty feeling. Yet another thing I was looking forward to, turned to rubble.

This year’s starting to get to me, you guys.

The Huskies Shit The Bed, But Still Have A Chance To Win The Conference

This was almost a carbon copy of the Utah game, which is very distressing. The offense just couldn’t get anything going in the first half yet again! Even worse, the running game averaged a paltry 3.4 yards per carry over 34 attempts (when Stanford, coming in, was giving up 200+ yards per game).

But, most alarming was the Husky defense, who generated ZERO stops in the first half, en route to giving up a 24-3 halftime lead. Down 21 points at half for the second week in a row, it was a valiant effort to make another heroic comeback, but unfortunately the defense just didn’t have it. We gave up one second-half TD drive early, then let Stanford run out the final 8 minutes of the football game because we were totally unable to get off the field on third down. Bingo, bango, bongo, that’s how you fuck up what should have been a sure thing.

Stanford had 191 rushing yards and a 4.8 yards-per-carry average, along with three rushing touchdowns. We should have expected this would be their strategy and it sucks that they were so successful (especially with Oregon on deck, who has been an elite rushing team year-in and year-out). But, what was worse was the fact that their quarterback had such great success against our secondary. 252 yards on 20/30 passing, averaging 8.4 yards per attempt! He was fitting balls into the slightest of windows, both in short yardage situations and deep downfield! We were somehow just a half-second late on making plays on these balls, and it was SUPER frustrating!

Dylan Morris was once again unflappable in the face of long odds. His day was made that much more difficult by a number of his top targets being out for this one, including Puka Nacua and Terrell Bynum. There weren’t any TD passes in this one, but no INTs either. Morris threw for 254 yards (11 yards per attempt) and led the Huskies on scoring drives every time we held the ball in the first half. If it weren’t for a tough holding penalty late, we would’ve gone 4/4 on touchdown drives in the second half. And MAYBE – if we’d nailed the 2-point conversion on that hypothetical fourth TD – we would’ve tied the game and forced Stanford into some different play-calling on their eventual clock-killing monster of a final drive. Tough to say. I wish I lived in that alternate universe to see how THAT game would’ve turned out.

Anyway, it’s reasonable to say the Huskies aren’t quite as dominant as I thought. One performance like that against the Utes is something you can wave off because we won. But, two games in a row? That’s cause for real concern. If we play like that against the Ducks, not only will we lose, but we might lose BIG!

I still believe the Huskies are good enough to beat the Ducks, but it’s going to take a full four-quarter effort to get the job done. That means we need the offense to get off to a better start, we need the defense to plug up the running game, and we need to harass the quarterback on third downs so they’re not fucking 10 for 13 on conversions like Stanford was (not to mention 2 for 2 on fourth down)!

The good news is: the Ducks aren’t nearly as good as we thought they’d be heading into the season. They lost for the second week in a row – this time at Cal, after losing at Oregon State previously – and were held to just 17 points. That, of course, makes our loss to Stanford all the more frustrating, because had we won, we would’ve guaranteed a spot in the Pac-12 Championship Game (rendering this upcoming game meaningless).

Ultimately, it’s probably better this way. As a Husky, we don’t need ANY reason to get up for a game against the loathsome Ducks. But, with something truly important on the line, it would make a victory all the sweeter (of course, it would make a defeat all the more depressing, but that’s neither here nor there).

I don’t have a great feel for how this game is going to go. Gun to my head, I see us struggling to contain their run game. I see them in a lot of 2nd & Short and 3rd & Short situations; frankly, I see them popping for some big plays as well. With how bad our front seven has been at filling gaps and generating losses on running plays, I don’t know if we’re going to force Oregon to punt all that often. That means we need to generate turnovers, and it means we need to keep pace on offense as well. I don’t doubt we can get an interception or a fumble here and there, but in the end I don’t think it will be enough. I think we’re going to struggle on offense – with maybe some garbage time yards/points late. But, I’m seeing something in the realm of 33 to 24, Oregon over Washington.

I hope I’m wrong! I hope we’ve been able to tweak some things on defense to fix what’s been ailing us pretty much all season. I hope Oregon continues to scuffle on both sides of the ball and we go in there and roll all over them! I hope we head into the Pac-12 Championship Game with just the one loss and prove all the doubters wrong by killing whoever makes it out of the Pac-12 South. I’ll tell you this much: the winner of Washington at Oregon WILL be the Pac-12 Champion when the season ends, because these ARE the two best teams in the entire conference. Colorado and USC can go suck an egg!

The Huskies Giveth & The Huskies Taketh Away

You don’t get to see games like the one against the Utes last Saturday very often. It takes a special confluence of circumstances that necessitates having an elite defense … that just so happens to shit the bed for an entire half of football. Now, just saying that – without knowing any of the details of the game – you might think the Huskies got off to a great start, and then blew it. But, that’s what makes this such a rare occurrence! This was the exact opposite!

Defenses don’t normally get stronger as the game goes along. Having to react to the play-calling and tempo of an offense alone is exhausting, let alone all of the actual effort it takes to try to prevent them from scoring (when, not for nothing, almost all the rules are tilted in the offense’s favor). That’s why you often see teams scoring at a higher rate in the final two minutes of a close game; that’s when defenses are most gassed.

It takes a special sort of fortitude to bow up like that after looking so bad for an entire half of football. Utah took a 21-0 lead at the break, and they REALLY dictated everything to the Huskies. I thought the most uncharacteristic thing about this game was how many tackles the Dawgs missed in the first half.

The Utah running game was especially stout, finishing the day with 215 yards on 41 carries and 2 touchdowns. The Huskies didn’t have an answer for it in the first half, forcing a fumble (off a sack) on the very first drive of the game and a punt early in the second quarter. But, otherwise, the Utes marched at will, and it was a little embarrassing!

On top of which, the Husky offense seemed to sleepwalk throughout. Dylan Morris was far from great in this one, throwing 3 picks (albeit, one of them was a hail mary at the end of the first half). The first one was particularly Carson Wentz-esque! Just RIGHT to the defender, like he was the one running the route. And, to make matters worse, the running game never got going (only 88 yards on 26 carries, with a TD).

I fully expected – with all the stars they lost to graduation and the NFL last year – that the Utes would be pushovers. But, that’s a solid program, and they are VERY physical along both their offensive and defensive lines. If there was ever a blueprint on how to beat the Huskies, the Utes unlocked it: run the ball physically on offense and stack the box against us and force our inexperienced quarterback to try and beat you with his arm.

What I never would’ve expected – in just his third college start – was Morris doing just that. While the interceptions were unfortunate (and hopefully an anomaly), he did finish 23/38 for 272 yards and 2 TDs. Tight end Cade Otton was the best player on either offense, catching 8 balls for 108 yards and both of the airborne touchdowns (including the game winner with 36 seconds remaining). Puka Nacua also had some big catches in this one to keep drives alive (finishing with 6 for 67).

I’m sure Jake Browning had a few come-from-behind victories in his 4-year career as a Husky, but he’s certainly not known as someone who regularly pulled our asses out of the fire. Indeed, I would argue we haven’t had a quarterback like that since Marques Tuiasosopo. I’m not saying Morris is the second coming in that regard, but it’s a good sign that this early on in his college career, the moment wasn’t too big for him.

For as bad as the first half was, the second half was a trip! The Huskies got the ball and drove right down the field to cut the lead to two scores. Then, Elijah Molden picked off Jake Bentley, which led to the Huskies getting a short field. Unfortunately, we couldn’t convert – having to settle for a field goal – but by then you could sort of feel something special starting to build. The Utes were stuffed on fourth down on the Husky-side of midfield, and three plays later it was 21-17 (and we were still in the third quarter at that point!).

Things got straight up weird after that. The Utes finally figured out how to move the ball, driving it deep into Husky territory. Then, Kyler Gordon forced a fumble that was recovered by Zion Tupuola-Fetui, and we all thought this was it! Not only would the Huskies complete the comeback, but perhaps the rout would be on from here!

Not so fast, though. The teams traded punts, then what appeared to be a back-breaking third interception by Morris gave the ball to the Utes at the 50 with just under 7 minutes remaining. This could’ve ended things, but the defense stepped up once again to force a 3 & Out and a punt down to the Washington 12 yard line. With four and a half minutes to go, that’s when Morris stepped up for the biggest drive of his life. 88 yards on 12 plays, with a couple of huge third down conversions (including a 3rd & 10 play that went for 14 yards to Nacua), methodically marching down the field, culminating in a 16-yard TD to Otton. Three plays later, Trent McDuffie picked off Bentley for a second time to end it.

What else can you say about ZTF, by the way? He had all three Husky sacks in this one, to win his THIRD consecutive Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week Award (yes, that’s 3 for 3 on the season). He just looks like a total fucking beast along the defensive line; absolutely unstoppable! Also, that Death Row secondary held the Utes to 144 yards passing (not that they needed to do a whole lot, with the way they were able to run the ball, but still); you could tell that as soon as they NEEDED to throw the ball, they wouldn’t be able to.

That’s going to be the key going forward: keeping opposing running games in check to the point where they have to throw, and then absolutely crushing their spirits.

At 3-0, the Huskies are FINALLY ranked, hitting 22 in the College Football Playoff rankings. The Ducks lost to the Beavers, which has them 23rd now (*giggle*), but we’re somehow behind USC, who is holding steady at 20. I still contend the Huskies are the most complete – and therefore BEST – team in the Pac-12. What this game showed me is that the Utes are a lot better than I originally thought. Clearly, the Huskies have the conference’s best defense, and we might’ve just finished playing the second-best unit.

This Saturday, we’re set to host Stanford at 1pm (our fourth consecutive home game). The Cardinal apparently give up the most rushing yards in the world, so I would expect it’ll be easier to get our running backs going in this one. They sit 1-2 on the year (after having their game against WSU canceled), having just barely beaten Cal (in what will probably be the final college football game in the Bay Area in 2020 thanks to their new insane COVID restrictions). Stanford lost to Oregon and Colorado, who are two of the better-looking teams in the Pac-12, so they’ve really gotten the unlucky end of the scheduling stick this season. We’ll see if they’re really as bad as the numbers indicate, or if it’s a matter of playing really tough teams.

Either way, I expect the Huskies to win, and in much easier fashion than against Utah. Maybe that was a wake-up call. We weren’t able to do what we wanted to do, and really took a shot to the face in the first half. But, we rallied and showed what we’re made of, and I think that speaks well to the character of our players and the preparedness of our coaching staff.

Now, if we can just NOT ice our own kicker and take a horrific Delay of Game penalty before he pushes a 40-yard kick wide right, maybe we won’t have to lose our fucking minds!

The Huskies Dismantled The Wildcats & The Cougs Coug’d The Apple Cup

The Huskies won 44-27 on Saturday evening, but don’t let the score fool you. It was 37-0 after three quarters, climbing to 44-6 before a TON of Garbage Time points (against the Huskies’ backup defense) made the game look a lot closer than it was.

You really can’t say enough about, well, the starting defense at least. We had five sacks and seven tackles for loss. Zion Tupuola-Fetui had two more sacks to lead the way, Ryan Bowman had a sack, Edefuan Ulofoshio had a sack and five tackles from the linebacker spot. Elijah Molden had another strong game in coverage. Indeed, the defensive backs across the board had a fantastic night; they were as sticky as ever! The Arizona quarterback, Grant Gunnell, had – by the second half – the most despondent look I’ve ever seen on an opposing quarterback. He was getting beaten up in the pocket, he couldn’t find anyone even remotely open, and it looked like he wanted to give up and hide under a rock until the game ended. It’s to his credit that he was able to hang in there and rack up some cheap stats at the end; he finished with 259 yards passing on 27/39 with 3 touchdowns.

However, I went through and did the math: from the point where Arizona got the ball with less than a minute left in the third quarter, through the end of the game, when they scored all of their points, Gunnell was 17/23 for 219 yards. Meaning, when the game mattered most (for almost three entire quarters), he was 10/16 for 40 yards. At that point, you can kind of understand why this defense might have an opposing quarterback whimpering like a child whose sandcastle was just kicked over by a local bully.

Offensively, the Huskies absolutely steamrolled over Arizona’s defense. Dylan Morris came out firing early in the first half, ultimately throwing for 230 yards on 15/25 passing, with 2 TD’s. With such a huge lead to play with, once again Morris wasn’t asked to do a whole lot. But, I thought he looked a lot more comfortable back there. His accuracy in the short-to-intermediate range is tremendous! He’s making lots of smart decisions on when to run and when to hang in there and take a hit as he’s throwing the ball. If anything, his long-ball accuracy leaves a little to be desired (he was long on most of them, then seemed to try to over-correct and came up short, allowing those passes to be knocked away), but this is a minor quibble. I’m liking most of what I’m seeing from Morris; he’s certainly exceeded my expectations through two games.

Of course, the run game was just as elite as it was last week. As a team, the Huskies ended up running it 45 times for 233 yards and 4 touchdowns. For those keeping track, that’s a two-game total of exactly 500 yards on 96 carries (5.21 yards per carry average) with 7 touchdowns; that’s pretty insane! Richard Newton led the way with 81 yards on 8 carries (bolstered by a late 54-yard TD), but it was a team effort, with a committee of four backs sharing the ball pretty evenly. This is a DOMINANT running team, and a force to be reckoned with the rest of the way.

Before moving on, I would be remiss if I didn’t shout out some receivers. Tight end Cade Otton led the way with 7 catches for 100 yards and a TD. Puka Nacua had only 1 catch, but it went for 65 yards and a TD (the breakaway speed on that kid is top notch; I’d love to see him get the ball in space more often and see what he can do with yards after catch). Ty Jones had 2 catches for 33 yards and Terrell Bynum had 1 for 20 and another rush for 13 more yards. There were a few more drops though, that would have me pulling my hair out if I had any on my head. That needs to stop, posthaste!

There’s some bad news for all of you post-Thanksgiving Apple Cup fans: the Cougs apparently have too many COVID cases and thus not only had their game this past weekend canceled, but are also on the shelf for this Friday night’s would-be Apple Cup. That doesn’t mean there definitely won’t be an Apple Cup this season (the last year we didn’t have one was 1944); if things shake out as expected (i.e. more games get canceled due to COVID), the conference will be all too happy to reschedule it later this season. Indeed, it’s been bandied about that should the Huskies not be playing for the conference title in mid-December, the game could be shifted to that weekend, as opposed to playing whatever Pac-12 South team we would’ve played.

That leads to what will happen for the Huskies THIS weekend. There was chatter yesterday that we might get to play undefeated BYU (so, you know, it wouldn’t be the Apple Cup, but we’d still get to play the Cougars). I find this SO entertaining; there are rumors all over the map. Some outlets are saying that BYU is afraid to play a team as good as UW because they’re 9-0 and therefore in the hunt for a playoff spot. This is the first week where the College Football Playoff rankings come out, and some are saying BYU wanted to see where they stood first before agreeing to play the Huskies. Obviously, if they’re not in (or near) the top four when those rankings are released, they’ll absolutely want to play the Huskies to bolster their resume! But, if things are looking good for them, why would you risk a defeat and blow your chances?

Of course, on the BYU side, they’re officially saying all the right things. They apparently want this game against UW locked down sooner rather than later, but the Pac-12 has a rule saying we have to wait until Thursday, just in case any other Pac-12 teams have their games canceled because of an opposing COVID outbreak. Which, unfortunately, seems like it’s going to be the case.

I read, as of last night, that the Huskies are preparing to play Utah this week. The Utes are 0-1 so far, with two canceled games (they lost at home to USC this past weekend, and didn’t look particularly good doing it). Utah is scheduled to play Arizona State this weekend, but it sounds like the Sun Devils – whose last two games have been canceled – are not out of the woods of their own outbreak. Beggars can’t be choosers and all of that, but if I had my druthers I’d rather play BYU.

The Huskies didn’t quite get into the Top 25 this week, but from the “Others Receiving Votes” category, we received the most (meaning we’re effectively 26th in the AP rankings, and 29th in the Coaches Poll). So, a BYU game (8th in both polls) would’ve been HUGE from a national perspective. At this point, only Oregon (9th in the AP, 11th in Coaches) and USC (19th in the AP, 18th in Coaches) are ranked from the Pac-12. No one else is really even on the radar (though Colorado, like Washington, is 2-0). From what I’ve seen, the Pac-12 just doesn’t look great. USC is LUCKY to be 3-0 at this point, and only looked good this past weekend against Utah. Oregon struggled at home against UCLA. Cal has looked atrocious (even losing to the Beavs this past weekend). Stanford has yet to win a game. And ASU is about to have their third game taken away because of the pandemic.

Honestly, it feels like the top two teams in the conference are Oregon and Washington, which is a blessing and a curse. The Ducks should have no trouble going undefeated heading into our showdown on December 12th, and the more I’m seeing from the Huskies, the more I’m expecting us to do the same. The shame of it all is we’re still unranked; I was REALLY hoping we’d be in the Top 25 after killing the Wildcats (maybe a byproduct of how close the score ended up looking; if we’d beaten them 51-0, we might be in there right now). I know for a fact if we went on the road and escaped BYU with a victory, we’d jump right in there (and probably leapfrog USC in the process). At that point, going undefeated and winning in Oregon still might not make a difference, but it would be cool to whiff the Top 10, even in a wacky season like this one.

Regardless of who the Huskies play this weekend, there’s no doubt in my mind this is a great football team. It makes me long for what we could’ve done in a COVID-free universe, where we got to play our original schedule. Leading off with a win over the hapless Michigan Wolverines would’ve been VERY sweet, I can tell you that much.

The Huskies Actually Played A Football Game, Beating The Beavs

You ever try to stay awake, sober, for an 8pm start-time to a college football game? It’s a lot of work! Of course, I’m 195 years old and staying up until all hours of the night isn’t as easy as it used to be (particularly when you regularly wake up anywhere from 3-5am most mornings). I’m not gonna lie to you, I made it until halftime, then had to DVR the rest of the game to watch it the following morning (at 5am, which is apparently a more appropriate time to watch a football game, because again, I am an old, elderly, deceased man).

You’d think the excitement of having college football back – and specifically the team I most care about – would be enough to carry me to the finish line. But, obviously, the effects of a COVID-marred season is taking its toll. There wasn’t the usual fire in the Husky text thread Saturday night, as I think many of us feel like this season is just one long exhibition more than a real sampling of what college football has to offer. Like NFL pre-season in its level of importance.

For me, it comes down to the Pac-12 having no shot to make the college football playoffs. Why they’ve stubbornly refused to expand – if for only this one year – is beyond all reason. We get a 4-team playoff and we can choke on it, as the usual gang of idiots monopolize those spots for another season.

So, what are we playing for, then? For fun, I suppose. For something to do on Saturdays for a few weeks. Obviously, for the players to showcase their skills, particularly for those who opt to go pro after this season (I don’t know what the rules are across all conferences, but I know the Pac-12 players have the option of extending their eligibility an extra season (2020 effectively not counting) if they do want to return in 2021. I’m not against it; I’m not complaining we have the Pac-12 back in our lives. But, I’m just saying it lacks that usual juice. The Huskies could go 6-0 this year (with 7-0 formally off the table) and it won’t make a lick of difference.

On top of the lack of stakes, it’s not like we can have proper tailgates. We obviously can’t attend the games. We can’t get any road trips together with our friends. Going to a bowl game seems dicey in these times where the COVID cases are climbing.

But, it’s football, and once the game got going, I was certainly enjoying myself. It’s not normal, but it’s close enough for now.

When I went to bed at halftime, the Huskies were ahead 24-21. The final score ended up being 27-21. I can only imagine how irritated I would’ve been staying up another however many hours of real time trying to make it to the bitter end, when as it was – being able to fast forward through halftime, commercials, and all the in-game stoppages – it was already pretty boring.

The global view of this game is that I’ll take a win any way I can get it! I thought, given the circumstances (late start, cold temperature, lots of rain throughout), the Huskies looked pretty good.

Redshirt Freshman Dylan Morris got the start for the Dawgs, who I suppose was a quasi-surprise given the 4-man competition. It sounded like the senior, Kevin Thomson, was in street clothes (indicating he’s got an injury), but I find it interesting Morris got the nod over Sophomore Jacob Sirmon (who actually did see a wee bit of playing time in 2019). Jimmy Lake said Morris was the best of the bunch at limiting either mistakes or turnovers (which I consider to be the same thing, in coachspeak), so that’s something. I thought Morris looked okay, but there were a lot of frustrating drops by the wide receivers (I remember this being a theme for the Huskies last year as well), and the team didn’t have him do too much (14/24 for 141 yards).

The running game was the star of the show. The Huskies had four running backs featured (plus Morris scrambles, plus a few fullback dives, plus some wide receiver jet-sweeps); the team as a whole combined for 267 yards on 51 carries and all three touchdowns, which is pretty outstanding! In a season-opener, with a new head coach, quarterback, and offensive coordinator, I don’t think you can ask for anything more from that side of the ball. Most importantly: there were no Husky turnovers.

The Huskies split carries pretty evenly between the three main backs. Kamari Pleasant did indeed get the start and looked good (12 for 61 and a TD). Richard Newton looked like the wrecking ball we all remember him as (15 for 41). And Sean McGrew looked like an absolute revelation! He was fast, he was explosive, and he was CRIMINALLY underutilized (9 for 91 and a TD). If this were a normal season – or if it eventually morphs into something resembling a normal season – McGrew would be taking the starting job and running (!) with it. My hunch is, if he keeps averaging 10 yards per carry, the coaches will have no choice but to give him the lion’s share of the carries. But, as everyone is getting used to playing again, it might not be the worst idea to have a big rotation going, to keep everyone healthy and fresh.

Terrell Bynum was the only receiver that really stood out to me in this one (4 catches for 66 yards, and another 2 carries for 33 yards), but there will be time for this unit to shine this season. Honestly, even though the Huskies gave up a blocked punt for a touchdown after the opening drive (our prized long-snapper delivered his first college snap about 10 yards over the head of our punter, who tracked it down, tried to punt it anyway, and got absolutely clobbered for his effort), we were pretty well in control throughout, so there was never a need to abandon the run. That won’t be the case every week; at some point, we’ll learn what Dylan Morris is all about.

The defense was solid. They really only gave up 14 points (and only three sustained drives, one ending early in the fourth quarter on downs after some iffy officiating in our favor). I would say the pass defense is as advertised – limiting the Beavs to 85 yards passing on 11/24 with an INT – but the rush defense had some holes (167 yards on 34 carries) and we didn’t get to the quarterback as much as I’d like. Nevertheless, we’ll throw out some individual kudos to Edefuan Ulofoshio (led the team in tackles with 10, and 4 passes broken up), Elijah Molden (our stud DB who was all over the place in this one), Asa Turner (our interception) and Zion Tupuola-Fetui (our only two sacks!) for really standing out. There were lots of good plays across the board though, so I look forward to shouting more guys out as the season goes along!

Next week, we host Arizona at 5pm, assuming nothing goes haywire. The Wildcats lost a close one to USC at home earlier on Saturday (after having their own opening game canceled because of Utah’s COVID outbreak) and I thought they looked pretty impressive. Of course, USC might also be underwhelming, but Arizona’s big quarterback was making all sorts of plays to keep drives alive, so I’ll be interested to see how we keep him in check. He isn’t quite the runner that Arizona has had in recent seasons, but he makes up for that with a strong arm (as well as enough mobility to keep defenses somewhat honest).

My guess is his skillset plays to our defensive strengths, but I am worried about his ability to keep plays alive with his legs (either in avoiding our pass rush, or outright running for first downs to keep drives going). I didn’t see anything from Arizona’s defense that particularly scares me, but it’ll be more important for our offense to just execute, regardless of what they throw our way.

The weather might not be a whole helluva lot better than it was last week, but with the earlier start time, I would expect more points out of the Huskies. It wouldn’t shock me to see this one turn into something of a shootout. Either way, we’ll get a MUCH better sense of how good this Husky defense is, as the Wildcats’ offense should be much more balanced than Oregon State’s.

We’re Still Waiting For Husky Football

Last week ended up being a bit of a bummer when we found out the Husky game down in Cal was canceled. Apparently one of their defensive linemen tested positive for COVID and – per the stringent rules in the Berkeley area – that meant the entire position group had to quarantine for 14 days. The daily testing that the Pac-12 set up was supposed to prevent this, by catching a positive case early and pulling him out of the rotation before it could be spread to other players, but there’s apparently no getting around the local COVID rules in the Bay Area. So Cal – and presumably Stanford – is/are going to have to be perfectly COVID-free if they’re going to play ANY games this season.

It’s not like the Cal players are especially reckless, at least, not any more than any other team. Just bad luck, I guess! There have been dozens of college football games that have been canceled or postponed, so it’s not like we’re talking about an especially-rare occurrence. But, it’s unfortunate.

As has been discussed, the Pac-12 is – of course – behind the 8-ball relative to the other Power Five conferences. We have the smallest number of scheduled games, and that number is only going to dwindle the more of these outbreaks we come across. As MOST of the Pac-12 played their first games of the season on Saturday (Arizona/Utah was also postponed due to too many positive cases on Utah), if you look across the Top 25 rankings, you see teams that have already completed six, seven, even EIGHT games! Why should even a 7-0 Pac-12 champion make the final four when there are schools playing something resembling full slates of games? I think it’s pretty clear that the Pac-12 champion will have to be undefeated to even have a hope of making the playoffs; but if that team is only able to complete 5-6 games due to COVID cancellations, it makes it pretty unreasonable to expect that they MUST be included.

So, does that mean the Huskies’ championship hopes are dashed before the season even starts? Yeah, probably. Not that those hopes were ever all that reasonable to begin with. But, an impressive victory down in Cal could have maybe put us into the Top 25 (we are currently among the “others receiving votes” pile in the AP Poll, effectively ranked 30th in the nation even before we’ve played a down; with Cal also there, ranked 37th).

It’ll be interesting nevertheless, though, as I believe Cal to be our second-toughest opponent besides Oregon. Now, we start our year at home, against a VERY hapless Oregon State team, who just lost at home to the Cougs by 10 points. Washington should have no trouble handling what looks like a listless and ineffective Beavers offense (with a Freshman quarterback), and it’ll hopefully prove to be a soft landing for whoever starts at quarterback for the Dawgs.

It’s an 8pm start, which is tough for national exposure, but at this point I just want to see football! I don’t care when it’s played or who the opponent is, let’s go Huskies!

Is It A Bad Sign That The Husky Football Team Hasn’t Named A Starting Quarterback?

We got our first depth chart of the season yesterday. There are a number of familiar names at the skill positions – Kamari Pleasant the surprise starter at running back, though he’ll surely be part of a committee with Sean McGrew and Richard Newton; Puka Nacua, Terrell Bynum, Ty Jones lead the way at receiver; with Cade Otton at tight end – but for the most part what’s on everyone’s mind is the 4-way logjam at quarterback:

  • Ethan Garbers (true Freshman)
  • Dylan Morris (redshirt Freshman)
  • Jacob Sirmon (Sophomore)
  • Kevin Thomson (Senior)

They all seem to be worthy in one way or another of becoming the starting quarterback for the University of Washington, but for whatever reason it seems no one has asserted himself as the Top Dawg, so to speak. Obviously, there’s some mindgames at play here, as this forces Cal to have to try to prepare for multiple different players (with multiple different styles). Coach Lake has even gone so far as to announce that more than one could see playing time in this game, which again could simply be posturing to force Cal into doing more work than they need to. In that sense, sure, I get it; why make it easy on them?

I guess my question stems from the notion that Coach Lake is being honest. That there really is no one guy who has far-and-away dominated over everyone else. I can see why that would be concerning for Husky fans! Kevin Thomson – the graduate transfer – obviously has the most college playing experience of anyone on the roster, and it sounds like he’s also the most mobile (which could be a big help with a lot of new pieces across the offensive line, as well as breaking in a new offensive coordinator and scheme); if I were a betting man, I wouldn’t bet the entirety of the Taylor Family Farm on Thomson getting the first reps (and the most reps), but, you know, I’d probably be willing to bet a goat or two on it (yes, we have many goats on the Taylor Family Farm, sorry to brag so much). Logically, he makes the most sense, but if we take Coach Lake at his word, then that means Thomson … isn’t very good? Can’t beat out three guys who – combined – have only played a handful of snaps at the college level?

Now, the flipside of that is: one or more of those other guys have surpassed expectations and it’s an embarrassment of riches! But, come on, when is that EVER the case? Don’t shit a shitter, you guys; you know as well as I do that what he’s suggesting is Coachspeak for, “Ehh, you know, I like our guys I guess, but I just don’t trust ’em as far as I can throw ’em.”

I’ll be honest here, I can’t think of a single instance where I’ve enjoyed watching a team try to straddle two different (and healthy) quarterbacks. I mean, maybe Joe Montana and Steve Young in their primes, but what are the odds we have two surefire Hall of Famers in this group? Plus, even then, I’m sure it was annoying. I barely like shuffling running backs in and out of a game for the same reason: you need time to get settled in! At least at the college level, most of the running backs are really talented, so it’s more about offensive line play than anything. But, what’s worse than going back and forth between two ice-cold quarterbacks? Probably going back and forth between three or four ice-cold quarterbacks, but that’s neither here nor there.

I don’t have a lot of super-high hopes for this season for any number of reasons. New head coach and new offensive coordinator being at the top of my list. You need time to grow and work out the kinks; I wouldn’t think it’s likely we would contend for a conference championship even if we had a returning 3-year starter at quarterback! The only moderate reason why I MIGHT have hope is because this is such a flukey circumstance – 7-game schedule, COVID protocols and the like – and because we have a lot of returning stars on defense and at the skill positions to hopefully paper over some of the growing pains, that I believe it’s 2020 and literally anything can happen (plus, if we grow and improve over the first five games, we JUST might be ready to compete with a team like Oregon in the regular season finale).

In reality, though, assuming we lose a game or two early, I’d love to see one of our younger quarterbacks get a good run in and build some confidence heading into 2021. So, if Thomson isn’t the ace we thought he could be, he should have an EXTREMELY short leash. I don’t see any point in wasting a year of everyone’s eligibility on a guy who won’t be around after this season.

So yeah, I think it’s a bad sign we don’t officially know who the starter will be. They’re most likely ALL mediocre! Of course, if we’re all being hornswoggled, then I might be singing a different tune next week.

My Thoughts On College Football 9am Start Times, 6-Team Playoffs

I like one and hate the other, which one do you think will land on my good side?!

Since I’ve been clamoring for an increase in playoff teams, you’d think it would be the latter, BUT YOU’D BE WRONG! Jimmy Lake was interviewed recently and asked his opinion on what College Football should do to rectify the wrong that has been the Pac-12 being on the outside-looking-in on the College Football Playoffs in most years since its inception. He feels – as I do – that every Power Five champion should be guaranteed a spot. So far, so good.

But, he stops at six teams – with an independent school, a school from a smaller conference, or (most likely) another SEC team comprising that final spot – and I am firmly opposed to this. If it’s justified as a building block to an eventual eight-team playoff system, then I guess I’ll suck it up and accept it (what choice do I have otherwise?), but if we’re stuck with a six-team playoff for the long haul, that’s going to be terrible for the sport.

In this scenario, the top two seeds get first-round BYEs. Imagine Alabama and Clemson, every year (or, failing that, Alabama and Ohio State) getting an extra week to rest their players and prepare for their opponents; those games are going to be atrocious more often than not! Don’t buy for one second that these teams would be “rusty”; that’s fucking horseshit. By their ranking, they’re already better than every other team, and now they get the HUGE advantage of playing teams that just had to get mauled for four quarters the week before? Best-case scenario, you get the final scene in the movie Gladiator, but don’t forget that dude was stabbed in the side before he went out there, and he STILL ended up dying in the end (twenty year old spoiler alert). More often than not, you’re going to see the Alabamas and Clemsons of the world winning by 30+ points.

If you don’t believe me, look no further than the NFL when it had the top two teams in each conference getting a BYE. They ended up winning in the Divisional Round about 75% of the time – over the course of MANY years – and those games were usually boring blowouts! That’s in a league with considerably more parity than in college football, so do the math.

Why not just skip the six-team playoff and go back to the top two teams meeting in the championship game? Because that’s what this would be, more often than not.

It’s only fair to have an eight-team playoff for three straight weeks (or, shit, 16 teams over four weeks, but beggars can’t be choosers, I suppose). Eight teams would give you all Power Five champions, another SEC team (because of course), and the other two slots could LEGITIMATELY go to independent schools, or undefeated teams from smallish conferences. Make Alabama and Clemson play every playoff week, so it’s fair when it comes to the semifinals and finals, that both teams are equally tenderized!

As for the 9am start times, bring ’em on! To read about it from the beat writers, you’d think this was a fate worse than being tortured in a dungeon, but what do you expect from a group of alcoholic night owls? Under the guise of “Won’t Somebody PLEASE Think Of The Children?!” they’ll say how much of a hardship this is for college student athletes. Oh mercy me! You mean they have to wake up at *GASP* 5am?! What EVER will they do? Why don’t we chain them to a ship and have them row across the Pacific Ocean while we’re at it?!

Here’s the deal: as a frequent tailgater who loves getting his drink on in a University of Washington parking lot, is this ideal? No, of course not. I can’t get my swerve on in a few precious hours before gametime! If I had my druthers, every UW home game would start at 7pm and I’d be nine sheets to the wind by the time I stumbled into the stadium!

But, this is bigger than my desire to be publicly intoxicated! The Pac-12 has an image problem. We have an East Coast Bias problem. Poo-poo that all you want, but Pac-12 After Dark is entirely worthless when it can start as late as 11pm in the eastern time zone. No one who’s anyone (by that, I mean, voters for the AP and Coaches polls) is staying up until 1am to watch our little Junior Varsity football exhibition. You know when they’re watching? Noon! You know what time is noon eastern? 9am pacific!

It’s a necessary evil. And, it’s not like one team is going to have to suffer more than the rest; this would be something where the burden is shared among all the Pac-12 schools. I don’t mind it if my team has one or two of these games per season, if it gets us seen by the rest of the college football world, I’m all for it.

Of course, playing at 9am alone won’t do the job. Playing exciting football, having fun doing it, and actually WINNING games against non-conference opponents are all of utmost importance. But, you can’t deny that we’re hemorrhaging talent to the SEC and Big 10, and that’s a direct result of being seen as the most inferior of the Power Five conferences.

Also, not for nothing, but it doesn’t help our image problem when you’ve got Pac-12 coaches openly complaining about 9am starts. Cut that shit out! If you’re too much of a crybaby to play at whatever time of day they set for you, then how are you ever going to beat those other elite programs if/when you do get to the playoffs?

I love Chris Petersen, but his yearly complaints about late starts always drove me nuts. I can’t imagine how much he’d resent a 9am start time!

There Apparently Will Be Husky Football & We’ve Got A Schedule To Boot!

I never really understood the rush for the Pac-12 to cancel the 2020 season. It seems like they could’ve just postponed it and continued doing so until a solution was found, or at least until they saw how the other conferences were handling it. I seem to recall they came up with those 15-minute COVID tests pretty quickly after they made the decision to cancel the season, and find it hard to believe they didn’t know this would be possible at the time. It’s a bad look for a major conference that’s already thought of as lesser compared to its ostensible peers; one more thing for them to mismanage when they’ve already got the most inept commissioner in all of college athletics.

But, whatever, we’ve got football and that’s all that matters!

  • November 7th – @ Cal
  • November 14th – Oregon State
  • November 21st – Arizona
  • November 27th – @ Wazzu
  • December 5th – Stanford
  • December 12th – @ Oregon
  • December 18th/19th – Conference Championship Weekend

I don’t know how much strength of schedule is going to play into things, but you have to think it’s at least in consideration. The only game up for debate is the team scheduled from the opposite division – in the case for the Huskies, it’s the Arizona game – and there are two schools of thought on the matter.

One might argue that, since the Pac-12 will be playing fewer games than most other conferences, it’s important to schedule a tougher opponent for the teams who are projected to be the best, that way if they go undefeated it’ll look more impressive. But, by that logic, I think we all understand what’s at stake here: you NEED to go undefeated to expect to make the College Football Playoffs and it almost doesn’t matter how. Unless you’re in the SEC or Ohio State, that is, in which case they’re always looking for a reason to include those schools.

Regardless of my opinion on the matter, there’s little doubt that going undefeated is the most important thing in college football, because among the schools who end up tied with one loss, the Pac-12 will always be left out. And, really, there are enough good programs in each division to make our schedule strengths good enough.

It seems like the schedule-makers agree. While I would put Cal in the running this season, traditionally the best three schools in the Pac-12 North have been Washington, Oregon, and Stanford, who appear to have been gifted the easiest-looking three opponents from the Pac-12 South: Arizona, UCLA, and Colorado respectively.

Comparatively, the top three from the South are USC, Utah, and Arizona State, who have been pitted against WSU, Oregon State, and Cal. The point being, unless there’s some nightmare scenario, there WILL be at least one undefeated team in the Pac-12 this year, and hopefully there will actually be two, one from each division, to meet in the championship game on December 18th.

The Huskies have a relatively difficult road, particularly for a team that’s breaking in a new offensive coordinator, head coach, and starting quarterback. All three of our most difficult games are on the road, which is never ideal. The cream of the crop in the entire Pac-12 appeared to be Oregon before COVID, but now that they’ve had so many people leave to go pro, that’s in doubt a little bit. I think they’re still very good, and it will almost certainly be a race between the Ducks and the winner of the Washington/Cal game in the first week of the season. If the Huskies can get by Cal – which we haven’t done since 2017 – then I do think there’s a clear path for us to be undefeated by the time we get to the Apple Cup on Black Friday. If we can get by the Cougs, then I see a good likelihood of us being undefeated heading into the game at Oregon, which in an ideal universe will be a match-up of two undefeateds!

That Cal game looms pretty large, because the Golden Bears also host Oregon later in the season, but they have to go on the road to ASU, which should be exceedingly difficult. Oregon figures to have the easiest path to stay undefeated, but they weirdly struggle on the road against Wazzu (who they see in week 2), and they could easily lose on the road to Cal if they’re not careful. So, there’s a good chance that all the teams in the Pac-12 lose at least once, which will once again leave us on the outside when it comes to the playoffs.

At some point, they need to expand the playoffs to eight teams, but it doesn’t sound like this will be the year for that (even though it would be perfect, what with all the craziness that 2020 has given us). I mean, why wouldn’t sponsors want more playoff games? Haven’t we learned with March Madness that these are proven money-makers, and the more weeks we have devoted to the playoffs, the more people will watch? Am I missing something? Or am I the world’s greatest financial mind, who is LANGUISHING on this sports blog while my real talents are wasted?!

There Won’t Be Any Husky Football In 2020

Yesterday, first the Big 10, then the Pac-12 announced they’re canceling fall sports. I blame myself and I blame all of you.

I mean, clearly, no one is taking this virus seriously enough. Granted, some people are more reckless than others, but no one is doing enough and it starts at the very top (with asshole politicians who politicize a health issue rather than do everything within their power to quell this thing) and trickles all the way down (to the people who keep going to parties and motorcycle rallies and otherwise believe this is some elaborate hoax or whatever the fuck). I’m just fed the fuck up with everyone and I can’t wait until the country rushes out a vaccine that’s only partially effective and that a significant portion of the population won’t want to take anyway because who in their right mind would trust this government to do ANYTHING in the peoples’ best interests? If there was some way to charge everyone $100 and make them get a shot six times a year, then MAYBE the vaccine would be worth a damn, but if they can’t fucking profit off of the weakest and least fortunate, then what’s the motivation? This country is so fucked.

As you can see, I’m not happy about this. I ask for and receive so very little out of this life. One of my simple pleasures is getting together with my friends and tailgating before Husky games (followed by either attending those games or watching them on TV). Saturdays are the best days for sports and football is the best sport there is, because you can fuck off to your heart’s content, eat and drink whatever you want, and you’ve still got all day Sunday to relax and recover! This is an absolute and total nightmare!

Of course, there’s been a last-ditch effort by players (who want to play) and coaches (who want to coach) to get their respective conferences to at least hold off on making a decision. You know, if the season starts at the end of September, that gives you a lot of weeks still to figure out a solution that works for everyone. They feel that they can be careful, keep everyone in line, and protect the players better than if they’re left to their own devices AND there’s not the dangling carrot of football to keep them motivated to stay safe (because, obviously, since a bubble isn’t possible, they’d be left to their own devices regardless, but now they don’t have that motivation). But, obviously, it comes down to money.

The conferences will hide behind the medical until they’re blue in the face – apparently something about long-term heart issues even in healthy people who get COVID-19 – but it’s clearly a liability issue, which means it’s a money issue. College football and its respective programs don’t want to be sued into oblivion. Probably understandable, although here’s a solution: guarantee kids their FULL fucking scholarships and DON’T force kids to play who don’t want to play! At that point, whatever liability waiver should be good enough; if you can’t sue these institutions for the simple act of football – in and of itself – being a dangerous sport to one’s long-term health with concussions and whatnot, then I don’t see why COVID should be any different. But, you know, my specialty is more aligned with Bird Law, so there’s probably something I’m missing here.

Part of me also wonders if this isn’t in response to the Pac-12 players banding together to demand, you know, proper safety measures and money for their services. Instead of kowtowing to demands (and, obviously, without sufficient time to actually hammer home any sort of real agreement), it’s easier to just say, “Fuck it, let’s deal with it in the spring!”

That’s sort of the silver lining here, if there is one: football can always be played in the spring. I guess. That’s assuming this country has its collective shit together which – based on what I’ve seen … my entire fucking life – is a pretty tall fucking order.

But, if by some miracle things are better then, obviously the conference is thinking about having fans in the stands, which was never going to be realistic in the fall. Baseball teams obviously have their mega TV deals, as do the rest of the professional sports. But, the Pac-12 has Larry Scott as its commissioner, so I think the conference actually has to pay the networks to televise our games; I’ll have to double check that, but it sounds right. Certainly, there isn’t anywhere CLOSE to the type of money the SEC is raking in (which is why they’re still optimistic about playing this fall, because they’re a REAL conference with actual leadership that gives more than half a shit about the sport of football, unlike Larry Scott who’s over here talking about the world championships in handball or whatever the fuck like it’s actually something important). Of course, all the Pac-12 has is its universities with their billions of dollars in endowments, so SURELY they would never survive the loss of five home games’ worth of football tickets!

I mean, at this point I don’t even care about what this means for the college football playoffs or any of that nonsense. I just want to watch college football! And regular football and movies in actual movie fucking theaters and go bowling and go inside public buildings without worrying I’m going to somehow catch something that I’ll accidentally pass along to my retired parents. It’s fucking laughably absurd that America is the fucking worst at containing this thing when the blueprint is right fucking there! Follow the fucking science and stop listening to the asshole politicians who just want to keep everyone fucking divided all the fucking time!

Or, you know, keep being fucking creeps who are too ‘Murican to wear facemasks because SUCK ON MY FREEDOM BONER THAT’S WHY and let this virus or the next one that comes along continue to ravage our lives until the end of fucking time. God bless us everyone!