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!

Husky Football Has A New Schedule, Again, If Football Ends Up Happening

As expected, the Pac-12 also eliminated all non-conference games. The plan they’ve put in place is to have every team play ten games against exclusively Pac-12 opponents (the same nine opponents that were featured on your schedule heading into all of this, plus one additional team selected seemingly at random). Anyway, without further ado, here’s Washington’s 2020 schedule (spoiler alert: UCLA is the team they added to bring it to ten games):

  • September 26th – Stanford
  • October 3rd – Arizona
  • October 10th – @ Cal
  • October 24th – Oregon State
  • October 31st – @ Oregon
  • November 6th (Friday) – Colorado
  • November 14th – @ Utah
  • November 21st – UCLA
  • November 27th (Friday) – @ WSU
  • December 5th – @ USC

Even though there’s still just the one BYE week built in, the conference assures everyone that there’s plenty of opportunities to reschedule games if the shit hits the fan (there is, for instance, an off-week for the entire conference between the December 5th games and the Pac-12 Championship Game on December 18th).

Kind of a rough finish, with three of our final four games on the road (and four of our last six, starting with highly-rated Oregon), but I like the schedule, all things considered. With the uncertainty surrounding everything, and with a new head coach & offensive coordinator, not to mention a new starting quarterback, I like that we’re front-loaded with lots of home games against teams who are expected to be pretty easy fodder. If we can jump out to a hot start and steal that game down in Eugene, one would expect the Huskies to start to gel as a unit for a potentially-strong back-half finish.

Of course, that uncertainty I speak of isn’t just COVID-related. Apparently, there’s a significant portion of Pac-12 football players who are threatening to hold out unless their demands are met. These demands include reasonable things like confirming proper health & safety protocols are outlined and followed through on, ensuring scholarships are honored if players decide to opt out due to health concerns, and quite frankly, not being punished for retaining an agent, earning money for their own likenesses/images, or just earning money PERIOD. I mean, everyone loves to tout the free market and capitalism and all of that, yet we have these kids who are creating billions of dollars in wealth for universities and the NCAA as an entity, and they’re not allowed to sell autographs or even get jobs all in the name of getting a “free education”? How many of these kids are even able to eventually profit off of that education? A minuscule number of these players will go on to the NFL (an even smaller percentage will go on to be multi-millionaires from that endeavor); what about the rest?

The NCAA has been so backward-thinking for so long. If they hadn’t dug in their heels so hard and just conceeded some things – just let them earn fucking money in legitimate ways, so there’s not all of this sneaking around (which leads to getting caught, getting punished, and sanctions for both the players in questions and their schools) – we wouldn’t be in this position now. Granted, there’s no way 50% of all revenue is going to the players; some of their other demands are pretty unlikely to be met as well. But, negotiations always start out far apart before a consensus is made. The point is, the NCAA could’ve had it easy if they hadn’t been so strict about these kids being considered amateurs; they could’ve just let the kids earn money on the side. Now, they’re going to HAVE to share in the revenue they generate, which is going to cost them so much more.

The timing is unfortunate, obviously, because training camp is supposed to start soon. But, then again, the timing is perfect if you want decisive action from the conference and the NCAA as a whole. Hold their feet to the fire, make a dent in this corrupt system, and then seriously let’s play some football. You don’t have to change the entire system in one offseason. Keep chipping away at it until we get to a point where neither side is happy (instead of only the players being the ones feeling screwed over all the time).

I guess my biggest question – which will presumably come out in the upcoming days and weeks – is how united are the players? And, how willing will the schools be to use their significant leverage against guys who hold out? The optics would be bad, obviously, if programs started pulling (or even threatening to pull) scholarships (we’re looking at you, new WSU head coach guy!). But, presumably universities could argue that there are thousands upon thousands of football players who would LOVE to have those spots on bigtime college football teams.

Another question that looms pretty large is: will players from other conferences join the movement? The SEC presumably has the lion’s share of the very best football players in the game today; you’d think, if nothing else, they’d be interested in some of that revenue sharing. If the SEC players got involved, then we’d really be talking about something, because those fans are RABID for their college football! If SEC games were threatened, some action might really be taken!

That’s what has to be tough about all of this: unity. These are young kids, most of whom aren’t necessarily mature enough to understand all of the ins and outs of this. Naturally, they’re being led by adults who, surely, also have their own interests at heart; so, while they might be good people helping student athletes, there’s no way they won’t also benefit from these kids in some way to further their careers. College football careers are short, by design; new kids are coming in every year. Maybe the NCAA takes a hit for a year to nip this sort of thing in the bud, just to make a point that they’re not going to cave on this issue.

At which point, it stands to reason, someone has to come in with an alternative option for big time football players (and basketball players, for that matter) who don’t want to go to school for a few years before going pro (or lesser-touted kids who just don’t want to go to school period). There can’t be this monopoly – orchestrated by the professional leagues and the NCAA – controlling these kids’ lives, where the only other option is to sit out of their sports entirely.

I, of course, just want to watch college football, in whatever shape or form it ends up taking when the dust settles. Once again, I implore cooler heads to prevail so we can focus on what’s going on on the field, and not so much all of this other stuff.

And, to fans – or outsiders who don’t give a shit about college football, but want to throw their opinions around – who are crushing these kids and keep throwing out the tired argument that their free educations are payment-enough, wake the fuck up. You are losing this argument, it’s only a matter of time. It’s interesting to me, once again, the same people touting a free market and the value of capitalism are against these players – who are predominantly Black – from getting their small slice of the pie. Oh, I’m sure “you’re not racist” and “some of your best friends” are whoever, but you know your true colors are showing.

Answer these questions:

  • Do you work for the NCAA?
  • Do you work for a university?
  • Are your lives affected in any way by these players earning a living while going to college and playing for the teams you ostensibly root for?
  • Or are you just resentful because your lives didn’t turn out the way you’d hoped, and you’re taking out your frustration by harboring these ugly beliefs in the hopes that you’ll sound smarter than you really are, while your ultimate goal is to make those you’re arguing with just as miserable as you are?

So many things people get angry about on the Internet don’t actually have any impact on their lives whatsoever. Instead of being mad all the time, shit man, get a hobby or something! Take up knitting, buy a punching bag, take a VCR Repair class! Or, you can do what I do: start a little-read sports blog and berate people into thinking the way you do.

Wait, where was I going with this?

Oh yeah, Husky football! It’s coming back maybe!

The Big Ten Is Eliminating Non-Conference Games; Is The Pac-12 Soon To Follow?

On the heels of the Ivy League suspending all fall sports, the Big Ten has opted to eliminate all of their 2020 non-conference games. Presumably, this will lead to a shortened season (maybe just 8-10 games?) with drastically reduced travel and hopefully a safer experience for everyone involved (not to mention more flexibility built into that schedule, in case there are any necessary delays due to COVID flare-ups).

This is obviously significant for the Washington Huskies because our first game of the season was to be hosting Michigan. I, for one, am glad the Big Ten did this. The whole point of scheduling a Home-And-Home series with a major national school like Michigan is to get eyeballs on the TV screen and asses in the seats. Washington’s home slate this year was pretty meager – with all the best conference games (Oregon, Utah, USC, Wazzu) all taking place on the road – so under normal circumstances, we REALLY could’ve used a massive sellout in the opener against the Wolverines. But, with COVID, there wasn’t going to be anyone in the stands for that game anyway (in all likelihood, there won’t be anyone in the stands for ANY of the games this year), so it would’ve been a total waste (on top of which, presumably when fans are allowed to resume going to games in 2021, only Michigan’s stadium will get the pleasure of a sellout against the Huskies in this 2-game series).

This way – I would hope – the Huskies can reschedule Michigan for 2022 or 2023 and take full advantage of the name recognition that comes with. Plus, by that time, I would hope things are more settled with the new coaching staff (and at the quarterback position), so not only will we see a financial boost, but the cache of playing Michigan (and BEATING Michigan) should drastically improve our standing in national rankings.

I would expect the Pac-12 will follow suit shortly. The longer this COVID thing drags out, the more people ignore the recommendations from the CDC, and the more spikes we see around the country, the worse it looks for professional and amateur sports in 2020. I had hoped by the time football season rolled around, we would’ve been in a better position to at least have games with a minimal number of people in the stands, but even that is looking like a bridge too far.

People are already starting to doubt there’s going to be any football whatsoever this fall. I can’t really blame you for feeling that way! It’s frankly pretty asinine how nonchalantly people are treating this thing. Even if you don’t believe COVID is a big deal – which, in the grand scheme of things, it probably isn’t – don’t you want things returning to some semblance of normal? Don’t you want to stop fighting the same fight about masks and social distancing? Don’t you want sports back, and your favorite businesses to stay IN business, and to keep your jobs? You might not give a shit about the elderly or the infirmed – and you’re well within your rights to be a bunch of irrational pricks – but in your own self-interests, don’t you want all of this to be over? So, why not play along? Why not condescend to all of us mask-wearing, social-distancing libtards out there for a while until we get a vaccine and are able to move the fuck on with our lives? Then, when it’s all over, I promise, you can crow to your heart’s delight about how right you were! When I get football back, you can cuss me out up, down, and sideways!

I’m Excited & Nervous About The Huskies Adding Transfer Quarterback Kevin Thomson

Writing about Husky Football twice in the same week, and it’s not even football season yet? I feel like a real college football … head.

As I wrote about before, the Huskies are coming off of two consecutive highly-rated recruiting classes (2019 & 2020) and as such are considered to be among the favorites to win the Pac-12 this season. Of course, 1-A among biggest question marks would be: who’s going to start at quarterback? The guy who’s never started a college football game, the other guy who’s never started a college football game, or the incoming True Freshman who’s – say it with me now – never started a college football game?

No one really believed the Huskies were going to stand pat with Jacob Sirmon, Dylan Morris, and Ethan Garbers, though the dream scenario was trying to entice that USC transfer to come here (J.T. Daniels ended up going to Georgia, because SEC). Enter Kevin Thomson.

Thomson was the Big Sky Conference’s Offensive Player of the Year in 2019, when he threw for 3,216 yards and 27 TDs (against only 8 INTs), with an additional 619 yards rushing and 12 more TDs on the ground for Sacramento State. It’s truly an impressive resume … for a small school in the Big Sky; so take that with about a thousand grains of salt.

Graduate transfers are a unique proposition. They’ve got the experience you like to see (especially if you’re a program that has none at the position), but you always have to wonder why they’re transferring in the first place. Russell Wilson was famously a grad transfer, but I feel like he’s the exception. He – along with Gardner Minshew for the Cougs – are probably the ideal of what you’d like to see when you acquire one of these players, but look at what we’re talking about here: a future NFL Hall of Famer, and another NFLer who played for a Mike Leach system that was built for players like Minshew to succeed at an elite level.

I’m sure over the vast landscape of grad transfer quarterbacks, you’ve got all kinds, from those elite success stories, all the way down to complete washouts who never played a down for their new school. I feel like the majority of these guys are like Thomson, who played the bulk of their college careers for a smaller school, and are looking to get a taste of the big time to see what they’re made of.

The Huskies are saying the right things, of course. He isn’t guaranteed the starting job by any means, as it will be a four-man competition as we head into the season. But, you can see why people might be excited about Thomson. The experience disparity between him and the others alone gives him a significant advantage as it is, but considering COVID-19 eliminated all spring practices – and has severely hampered what we’re able to do for any sort of training camp this summer – you have to figure Thomson is all but a lock.

The cool part of this is – if he works out – then we’ve got a legitimately better chance to win a lot of games this fall. The knock against Thomson is his accuracy – which has yet to get over 60% in any of his seasons – but I wonder about the talent level around him. With Pac-12 players on the roster to throw to (and to block for him), we could see that number improve. I also LOVE a dual-threat quarterback – especially in college – where protection often breaks down regardless of how talented the offensive lines are (lack of rushing ability seriously hampered Browning and Eason – and as a result, the entire Husky offense – in recent years, in spite of really good O-Lines in front of them).

The other cool part of this is – even if he doesn’t work out – then that means whoever does end up winning the starting job will be that much better and hopefully result in the Huskies winning even more games. I’ll never throw advanced competition out of bed for eating crackers!

The downside is, these moves often lead to one or more quarterbacks transferring from the program, and the three above guys I mentioned who were already on the roster are all highly-rated prospects (with a 5-star QB joining the Huskies in 2021 who looks to be a strong candidate to be a multi-year starter from Day One). You’d hate to see someone leave the program – who might go on to a quality college career – for a one-year rental in a grad transfer. But, the fun thing is: it’s all in their hands. If you want to be the starter, go out and win the job. It’s that simple.

I would’ve put the Huskies’ chances at winning the Pac-12 at MAYBE 10% before this week, given their schedule and the level of competition around the conference. I think this move legitimately improves our chances. And, if we hear good things about Thomson as the competition gets going, you’ll be looking at one rabid Dawg fan when the calendar flips to September!

I mean, let’s be real, you’re going to hear from a rabid Dawg fan regardless because I’m a consummate homer and will have talked myself into ongoing Husky domination between now and then, regardless of whatever news I read. Is it sane? Probably not. Will I be getting my hopes up for later disappointment? Well, I’m a sports fan, so what else is new?

The Huskies Need 2020 To Go Well

I’m not shy about saying this: I don’t follow college recruiting on anything more than a cursory level. I read some articles in the Seattle Times, I see things pop up on Twitter once in a while, and over time names start looking familiar as potential future stars for my beloved Huskies.

Since 2016, the Huskies have been the best program the Pac-12 has had to offer. Two conference titles in the last four seasons, with a College Football Playoff berth to boot (the last time a Pac-12 school made it into the final four in football). If you look at recruitment rankings, however, the Huskies have steadily rated behind Oregon. Of course, rankings aren’t everything; the Huskies’ program is proof enough that coaching and development have just as much – if not more – to do with how well your team performs on the field. Nevertheless, as we see with the SEC (and various other power programs around the United States), recruiting – over time – matters most. Consistently bringing in the very best players year-in and year-out will set your program up for indefinite greatness.

In both the 2019 and 2020 classes, it’s been Oregon and Washington (in that order) in the top two of conference recruitment rankings. That’s the primary reason why both schools are favored to win the Pac-12 North, in spite of the fact that both are replacing quarterbacks who left for the NFL. Since the Ducks are coming off of an overwhelmingly powerful 2019 season – where they went 12-2 and won the Rose Bowl – they’re the overwhelming favorites to repeat in that endeavor. The Huskies, on the other hand, feel like considerable long shots, not the least of which because we’re breaking in a brand new head coach.

All of this is preamble to my main concern: recruiting for the 2021 class. It’s by no means a done deal, of course; and as has been noted elsewhere, there could be even more movement as players opt to switch their commitments coming out of the pandemic. I’m not panicking – I’m confident we’ll find the Huskies in the top quartile in conference recruitment rankings when it’s all said and done – but as it stands now, we’re lagging WAY behind the likes of Oregon (yet again) as well as USC (another favorite to win the Pac-12 in 2020), with the primary bright spot being 5-star quarterback Sam Huard that’s keeping this class afloat.

Again, I don’t know all the names, but I keep seeing news items of Husky targets choosing to go elsewhere. I’m sure that’s normal, and I’m overreacting, but this feels different to me. It feels like a lot of highly-rated recruits are taking a Wait & See approach with the Huskies. Waiting to see if Jimmy Lake can keep the run of success going that we saw under Chris Petersen.

Which makes the 2020 season so very important. You could argue the next two years – in conjunction – will provide a more fair assessment, but regardless the time is now! We’re coming off of two recruiting classes in the Top Two in the conference; that needs to translate into a lot of success right out of the gate, or I’ll be worried about the state of the program going forward. Middle-of-the-road finishes, with expected growing pains from a new head coach, are not going to keep the momentum going in the right direction. Not with the steady progress we’re seeing down in Cal, the expected return to power of Stanford (who seemingly always manages to poach a top player or two from the state of Washington every year based on their high academic reputation), and the excitement of a new potentially-great coach over in WSU (a program that made great strides under Mike Leach and hopes to parlay that into perpetuating its own momentum).

There’s a great opportunity for the Huskies at the same time. If the concern is we’ll fall on our face and find the program lost in the woods during the 2020’s, the potential is that we’ll come out of the gate on fire and REALLY impress future recruits by showing out under a BRUTAL schedule. I still can’t get over how difficult this schedule is – with all of our most difficult games coming on the road – but that means any number of upsets could vault our esteem in the eyes of the college football nation up many levels. Jimmy Lake has the pressure of following a legend, of helming a premiere west coast football program, and a worldwide pandemic on his shoulders as he leads this team. If he does well, that could slingshot the Huskies into a whole new stratosphere for the next decade!

According To Vegas, The Huskies Are Apparently The Third-Likeliest Team To Win The Pac-12

That seems high, right? We’re talking about a team with a new head coach, new offensive and defensive coordinators, and a new quarterback whose first college start will be whenever he steps onto the field on September 5th (assuming football is being played that day, of course).

Of course, there’s something to be said for what continuity we do have: Chris Petersen retired and a lot of guys just moved up one level within the organization (including Jimmy Lake, our new head coach). There’s also something to be said for addition by subtraction: Bush Hamdan being fired is almost definitely a plus, regardless of WHO takes his place. And, sure, I’ll buy that there’s a solid core of guys on this team that’s held over from last year; it’s not all about who’s under center in college football, not by a long shot.

The Huskies’ odds are 7/2, according to the William Hill sportsbook. That’s behind only Oregon (11/5) and USC (5/2), two teams who figure to be pretty great once again in 2020. They were 8-1 and 7-2 respectively in conference last year; the Huskies were a disappointing 4-5.

I don’t know if there’s ANY scenario where I’d be comfortable with the Huskies being rated this highly, but I’ll tell you this much: I don’t like these odds when we’re talking about extremely limited pre-season training camp/practice time! Of the three quarterbacks who have yet to start a college football game, I’d like them to compete a LITTLE bit before we hit the ground running against Michigan in the first week of the season!

Going forward, we’re talking about just the three games’ worth of warm-up before we go on the road to face prohibitive favorite Oregon. We also have to play last year’s Pac-12 South champions in the Utah Utes, this year’s Pac-12 South favorites USC, and a VERY strong Pac-12 North sleeper in Cal … ALL on the road. I could see us losing every single one of those games if things don’t pan out! That doesn’t even factor in going on the road in the Apple Cup, to face a Cougs team that’s absolutely STARVING to beat the Huskies for the first time since 2012!

To round out the betting odds, we’ve got:

  • Utah (5/1)
  • Arizona State (10/1)
  • Washington State (15/1)
  • UCLA (18/1)
  • Cal (18/1)
  • Arizona (25/1)
  • Stanford (30/1)
  • Oregon State (75/1)
  • Colorado (150/1)

If I had to risk the Taylor Family Farm once again on these longer shots, sign me up for Cal in a heartbeat. Utah strikes me as a fool’s errand. I don’t know if I buy ASU as a true contender (though, in the Pac-12 South, you never know). I also wouldn’t sleep on WSU. Feels like a longer shot than Cal, but ALL of their toughest games are at home, plus they somehow avoided USC on their schedule.

Regardless, unless the odds go way down, I don’t think I’d be comfortable putting any money on the Huskies as it stands now.

The Pac-12 Can’t Afford To Not Play Football

These are obviously uncertain times and as such, things can change at a moment’s notice. It’s not even Memorial Day yet, but with all the COVID Times fun we’re enduring, we’re already starting to talk about the fall sports landscape even though spring and summer sports are still on indefinite hiatus.

Keeping up with all the latest announcements feels pretty futile when there’s no teeth to anything. California is already talking about their universities teaching exclusively online this fall, but who knows what will happen in the next three months? There’s so much time between now and then that it feels pointless to get all up in arms about anything anyone says today.

Nevertheless, there’s enough chatter about the potential for football NOT coming back this fall, that it’s starting to bug me a little bit. There’s even word that – while the SEC and presumably other major football conferences are Full Steam Ahead on football being played in 2020 – the Pac-12 might sit out this year. And with that, all sorts of consequences that will only damage the conference for years – maybe even decades – to come.

The Pac-12 didn’t need this or any other coronavirus to reveal how much of a disadvantage it’s at when compared to the other major college football conferences (especially the SEC). The Pac-12 has been trending steadily and precipitously downward every year for AT LEAST the last decade, if not the last 20 years, in both football AND basketball (the two biggest money-making sports in all of college athletics). The western United States has been out-played, out-coached, and out-recruited by schools east of the Rocky Mountains for the longest time now, and there was really no end in sight before all this started. But, if the Pac-12 decides to forego football, forget it! It’s all over! You might as well lump us in with the Sun Belt and get it over with!

If every other major college football conference opts to proceed with live games, I don’t see any way where we’ll be able to hold our recruits to their scholarships. Of course, if there’s no sports, would the schools even be able to afford to honor those scholarships? We know they could, because these universities are loaded; but WILL they? That’s uncertain. Regardless, we’re talking about a conference that’s already recruiting at a lower level, now losing what quality players they had left over from SEC and Big 10 schools that didn’t necessarily want them. We’re talking about four years’ worth of eligibility from the best guys we could get, potentially never playing for the Pac-12 schools that landed them. How do you replace that?

Furthermore, how do you replace the lack of experience and improvement that can only come with game play, among the players who stick around? Maybe it’ll be a negligible difference, but not in the eyes of voters who determine poll rankings, and ultimately College Football Playoff rankings. Again, these are voters who ALREADY had diminishing opinions of Pac-12 programs before all of this started.

Then, there’s the loss of television revenue. Presumably schools would have to pay that money back. That’s an already-inferior amount compared to the other major conferences – again, like the SEC – who have better packages, better timeslots with higher national visibility. We’re talking about a conference in the Pac-12 that was already behind the 8-ball, now falling further and further behind in the financial arms race that is major college football.

It all adds up to a disaster scenario that I don’t know if the Pac-12 would ever be able to recover from. Will we ever legitimately compete for a National Championship again? Hell, will we ever even make the playoffs again? Unless they expand the field, and guarantee every major conference gets at least one entrant, I think that’s a valid concern!

You know how a lot of companies who were already struggling in the pre-COVID Times are now filing for bankruptcy or otherwise going out of business because all the problems they faced before have been accelerated by the pandemic? You could make the argument that the Pac-12 is in the same boat as JC Penney, Neiman Marcus, J. Crew, and a number of other prominent corporations who are failing at a rapid pace.

So, for the love of God, don’t make it even EASIER for the rest of college football! Do what you have to do! Play in empty stadia! Pay for increased testing and other safety precautions! Whatever it takes, just make sure there’s football on Saturdays this fall!

I say that selfishly – because I love the Huskies more than life itself, and desperately want to have football in my life this fall – and I say that as a fan, generally, of Pac-12 football, who only wants this conference to succeed and return to its past glories in every decade through the early 2000’s.

Is Being A Fair-Weather Fan A Bad Thing?

I think it was on this week’s Brock & Salk podcast where they were talking about the XFL in Seattle, and whether the awesome turnout for the game last week is meaningful or not. Were they there because they’re hardcore football fans who can’t get enough? Or, were they there because it’s a new shiny thing, and if the Dragons start losing a bunch of games, the novelty will wear off and we’ll see dismal attendance numbers?

Which got me to thinking: who in their right mind would go watch the Dragons in person if they were fucking terrible?

But, you always see people at games, regardless of how bad the team is! Even when the Mariners were losing 90+ games last year, you’d still see people in the stands on a 40-degree rainy Tuesday night in May. I think those people would tell you: it’s not about how good or bad they are, it’s about supporting the team. Which I find difficult to understand. Like, we owe them for all the good times we used to have? We honestly don’t owe them anything! We pay for the stadia, we pay for tickets, we pay for concessions, we pay for souvenirs, we pay for the cable that pays for the channel that they broadcast on (if they broadcast on cable; sometimes the team even owns the channel – Mariners – and it’s like we’re paying them directly again!). I think the least they can do is put out a compelling product to watch and spend our money on.

To which someone might argue: if we don’t support the team financially, they might decide to relocate the club. Which, yeah, owners are fuckheads. But, I would counter that it’s easier said than done. Building leases go for decades and they’re hard to get out of (though, as the Sonics proved, not impossible). Besides that, teams always find a way to make money one way or another. Obviously, the best way to make money is to win, but you can cut corners and make creative advertising deals and all sorts of things.

The point is: don’t feel bad about the bottom line of sports teams. You support them your way, and I’ll support them my way.

Which way that is, obviously, depends on the sport. I’ll watch every Seahawks game, no matter how terrible they are, because there’s only 16 per regular season (for now). But, for the Mariners, it’s going to be pretty infrequent in 2020, for instance. First, I need to have the ability (I can’t be asleep, getting ready for the next work day). Second, I need to have nothing else better to do (which, usually … no I don’t have much else better to do). Third, ideally there will be an urgent reason to watch (like if a highly-touted prospect is making his debut, or if there looks to be a fun matchup lined up). That’s really just to watch the game from the opening pitch. Usually, my go-to is to watch something else, follow along with the action on Twitter, and turn it to the game when it looks like the game is getting good.

There are 162 regular season games. If they’re losing nearly 2/3 of them, that’s a lot of disappointment to suffer in a 6-month span! I can’t, in good conscience, put myself through that.

With Husky Basketball, now, WOOF. My family and I watched the game last Saturday on mute on our little TV while the boxing match was going on the big TV, but otherwise I can’t even be bothered. It’s been the same fucking story since conference play started: play well, hang in there, then fuck it all up in the last five minutes. Why would I pay to go see that live when I’ve seen that fucking show a million times already?

See, we’re told it’s bad to be a fair-weather fan, but you know what I like? Fair weather! You want to go sit out in the rain for three hours getting dumped on, shivering and huddling together for warmth? I want to go out in the sunshine! Little bit of cloud cover, nice cool breeze, the birds are chirping. 70 degrees (and honestly, that might even be too warm). Fair Weather Steven, that’s what all my friends always call me! I have zero other untoward nicknames.

I think these hardcore fans like to feel better about themselves, so they denigrate us fair-weather fans as if it’s a bad thing to have other interests. I mean, shit, I have a whole blog devoted to the Seattle sports scene – so I’d say I’m fanlier than most – but go fuck yourself if you think I’m paying to go to a game to watch a bunch of losers … unless it’s with my friends, a few tallboys of Coors Banquet, and in the sole exercise of mocking those losers we’re there to watch.

If you’re taking it much more seriously than that, then congratulations, you’re the king of the fans. Here’s your crown, it’s made of bobblehead dolls and t-shirts fresh from the cannon.

Of course, I say that, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve stood screaming in Husky Stadium while another team is just ramming it down our fucking throats. That’s the thing about sports fandom, it makes no sense. There’s no rhyme or reason. I can belittle the Dragons, the Mariners, and even the Husky basketball team; but when it comes to Husky football, I’m entirely fucking humorless. The fact that I went to ANY game in 2008, let alone multiple games, should confirm that I’m – if nothing else – king of the hypocrites.

My crown is made of empty Mike’s Hard Lemonade bottles and torn up Amazon boxes.