Myles Gaskin Is Returning For His Senior Season

2018 was always going to be an interesting season for the Huskies.  Jake Browning’s senior year, lots of talent sticking around on defense, Pettis leaving for the draft (meaning the wide receiver group was totally up for grabs), and Lavon Coleman graduating.  When you were under the assumption – as I was – that Myles Gaskin was going to leave for the NFL after his Junior year, that meant the running back room was up for grabs too.  Salvon Ahmed, obviously, had the inside track after his solid Freshman year in 2017, but we were destined to see a lot of new faces back there, until we landed on a 2-man or 3-man regular rotation.

Instead, Gaskin is back!  He’s back as the team’s unquestioned starter, he’s set to break just about every single rushing record in Washington football history, and it gives us Husky fans one less thing to worry about when it comes to this offense in 2018.

Obviously, with Coleman gone, Ahmed’s role is set to increase, and you figure the next-best back will get some of those old Ahmed touches from 2017 (assuming Ahmed doesn’t convert to receiver or something).  The Huskies have been recruiting some highly ranked running backs under Coach Pete, so I’ll still be interested to see the new crop start to get their looks.

I would also think Gaskin’s usage doesn’t change much.  He’s not going to suddenly become a workhorse.  He’ll still lead the way, but I wouldn’t expect the team to ride him to death.

It’s interesting, though, because it looked like he did everything he could do in college.  Under normal circumstances, he would’ve been gone in a heartbeat.  But, this year, there’s a glut of running backs coming out of college, and apparently he was given a 4th round grade by people who study this stuff.  Which, if you’ve heard about pre-draft grades, you know how those can vary (just see Chris Polk’s fall).  4th round is probably a best-case scenario this year, with a very real possibility that it’s more like a 5th or 6th round reality.

There’s the risk though.  You risk coming out early and disappearing in the draft, or you risk playing another season, getting injured, regressing a little bit, but maybe coming out in a draft with fewer quality running backs.  I dunno.  If you love college and are committed to getting your degree, then I think that’s a real factor as well.  Hell, I LOVED college, I never would’ve left if it was monetarily feasible.

So, good news for Husky fans, though a little bit of a bummer for Gaskin.  Here’s hoping he just blows everyone away in 2018 and gets his draft stock to soar!

The Huskies Lost The Fiesta Bowl

The score was 35-28, yet it never really felt all that close.  That’s because the defense gave up a combined 14 for 18 in 3rd/4th down conversions.  That ultimately led our defense – the backbone of this team – to surrender 545 yards of total offense.  They did it through the air, with 342 yards passing, and on the ground, with the other 203 (including 137 yards and 2 TDs from Saquon Barkley, who could’ve had a ton more if he hadn’t split series with the other backs).

It was quite the demoralizing day for the defense, and yet there we were, down 7 points in the fourth quarter.  I was pleasantly surprised by the Husky offense.  Through most of the first half, I was ready to jump on here and lambaste the whole unit, particularly Jake Browning, for once again not showing up in a big game.  But, he really turned his game around and kept us in it.  I was proud of the fight our offense showed, against a very tough, very stout Penn State defense.

The Huskies were down two scores early, before a wide receiver pass led to our first TD.  Then, right before halftime, we took advantage of a turnover to go into the second half only down 28-14.  We pulled to within 7 on the first drive of the second half, and it looked like the tide was starting to turn.  But, they returned the favor on the very next drive to make it a 2-score game again.  Myles Gaskin blew through their defense on a 69-yard scamper in the fourth quarter to bring it back to within 7, and this was it.  This was the game.  For once, if we could just stop them on a 3 & Out, we might have had a chance.  Instead, they converted three straight third downs to chew through the clock.  They got down into field goal range and on a 3rd & 2, ran or a yard, and looked like they were gonna go for it on 4th down until a false start penalty moved them back.  There, with under a minute to go, on the Washington 28 yard line, they missed the put-away field goal.

But, with under 30 seconds to go and no time outs, it would’ve taken a miracle.  Three straight incompletions to start our final drive surely didn’t help.  Then, on fourth down, a hook-and-ladder had Dante Pettis running up the sideline and into Penn State territory with 5 seconds to go.  A chance for a Hail Mary perhaps?!  Except, he had no idea how much time was left on the clock, and tried lateraling to an offensive lineman in the middle of the field.  It was recovered by the defense, and that was that.  I’m not mad, but I’m bummed I didn’t at least get to see our Hail Mary attempt.  I mean, this IS college, you never know what’ll happen.

A tough end to a tough season.  I wish a lot of it had gone differently, but this way it almost seems fitting.  With our top notch recruiting class – and many more yet to come – I agree this is just the beginning of something special.  Before too long, we’re going to be winning these major New Years 6 bowl games, and the rest of the country will have to take notice!

A Big Week For Husky Football

This Saturday, 1pm, we’ve got the Fiesta Bowl!  Washington vs. Penn State.  The shock of all shocks being that Penn State bounced back so quickly from their pedophile scandal, and quite frankly are better than ever.  Or, at the very least, better than they’ve been since the 1980s.

In a watered down field of crappy bowl games so far this year, the Fiesta Bowl has the potential to be the best.  Two great offenses, two great defenses, pretty evenly matched all the way around.  I’d give Washington a slight edge defensively and Penn State the edge offensively.  That offensive edge lies squarely on the passing game, because I think these teams are pretty evenly matched at the running back position, even though Saquon Barkley is the big name and the future first round draft pick.  Myles Gaskin actually has more yards and more touchdowns, as well as a better average yards per attempt.  You start to wonder if the wrong guy got all the national attention, but they start to separate themselves in the receiving game, where Barkley has 47 receptions to Gaskin’s 18, and 594 yards vs. 228 (similar yards per catch and exact same number of TDs).  This is a little surprising, considering Gaskin is a very good pass catcher, and considering Washington has clearly had more trouble finding adequate receiving help under Dante Pettis.  But, it is what it is; I think both of these backs have tremendous pro potential at the next level, and I think Gaskin can make up a lot of ground at the combine if he puts in the work.

Speaking of receivers, as I mentioned it’s basically Pettis and nobody else.  It sounds like Hunter Bryant is back practicing and might end up playing, which would be a pretty huge boost if he’s indeed healthy, otherwise I honestly don’t know what’s going on here.  My boy Will Dissly always tends to find himself wide open a couple times a game for big gainers, so hopefully we can count on that.  The Nittany Lions, on the other hand, appear to have a much more balanced crop of receivers.  One guy has 51 receptions to lead the team, two other guys lead the team in yardage with 48 receptions each, while Barkley has his 47 catches.  In all, 5 guys have over 400 yards receiving apiece; on the Huskies, only Pettis beats that mark.

Defensively, they don’t get much better.  The Huskies give up 5.9 yards per pass attempt; Penn State gives up 6.0; both are in the top 12 in college football.  Washington gives up 185.1 passing yards per game, Penn State gives up 210.2.  Washington leads the nation in fewest rushing yards per attempt at 2.6; Penn State gives up only 3.4 (good for 14th).  Likewise, Washington leads the nation in fewest rushing yards per game at 92.3; Penn State is 17th at 119.2.  Overall, Washington is 5th in total yards per game, Penn State is 20th.  Hence the defensive EDGE to Washington, but I wouldn’t say it’s overwhelming.

Let’s compare schedules.  Penn State played three teams who ended the season in the Top 25:  Ohio State, Michigan State, and Northwestern.  They lost to Ohio State and Michigan State, on the road, in a couple of close games.  I wouldn’t write home about their non-conference schedule; the best team they faced was Pitt, who finished the season 5-7 (they also played the mighty Akron Zips of the Mid-American Conference and Georgia State Panthers of the Sun Belt).  As for the Huskies, obviously a lot has been made of their schedule this year.  They played two teams who ended the season in the Top 25:  Stanford and Washington State, losing to Stanford on the road.  I will say, however, that Fresno State briefly found itself in the Top 25 before losing their conference championship game to Boise State, and after their Hawaii Bowl victory over Houston, finished the season 10-4 and may very well creep back into the Top 25, so be on the lookout for that.  The obvious black mark on Washington’s record is the loss to Arizona State, who are 7-5, fired their head coach, and play NC State tomorrow.  I’m sick of obsessing about that game, so let’s move on.

In the end, this game is going to boil down to what most football games boil down to:  quarterback play.  Senior quarterback Trace McSorley (who has the kind of quarterback name that’s destined to hold a clipboard at the next level), has from the raw numbers out-played Junior quarterback Jake Browning.  McSorley has 3,228 yards and 26 TDs vs. Browning’s 2,544 yards and 18 TDs.  Yet, the yards per attempt are right about even (8.4 for McSorley vs. 8.3 for Browning) and the passer ratings are right about even (153.6 for McSorley vs. 154.3 for Browning).  Much like the dual threat of Saquon Barkley, McSorley is also a dual threat, and generates his edge over Browning with his legs (431 yards and 11 TDs vs. Browning’s 40 yards and 6 TDs).  So, it’ll be really interesting to see how the Husky defense takes to the challenge of not only a quarterback who runs well and throws well, but a running back who runs well and catches well.  By this logic alone, Penn State’s defense has the MUCH easier job.

If I had to bet the family farm, I think Penn State wins this one.  The only way Washington has a chance is if they keep their running game chugging along.  If this turns into a battle of Jake Browning vs. the world – like last year’s Peach Bowl – I think Washington will get slaughtered.  But, if we can get Gaskin going, churn through a lot of long drives, and get the job done in the red zone, we certainly have a chance.

I can envision Penn State running away with it in a blowout; I can envision Penn State winning a close one.  I can also envision some scenarios where Washington wins a close one; but I just can’t see how Washington blows them out.  If they do, so be it, and I will have vastly underestimated the Huskies once again.  Also, don’t take this to mean that I’m rooting against the Dawgs; I want nothing more than to ram it down their throats and finish the season in the Top 10 once again, with some good, solid momentum heading into the 2018 season.

I just don’t think I could handle losing two major bowl games in back to back years, so getting my hopes up too high seems like a mistake.


In other Husky news, we pulled in the best recruiting class of the entire Pac-12 conference!  Lots of 4-star commits, including two quarterbacks (one of which will surely take over for Jake Browning after the 2018 season), and three wide receivers (which is desperately needed, so hopefully they can play right away).  I’m not going to get into the particulars, as these are high school kids and I absolutely don’t follow the high school game (I barely follow the college game), but we’re talking about a possible Top 10 recruiting class in the entire nation when it’s all said and done.  We’re talking about players who have been coveted by the very best teams in the country.  We’re talking about building upon a foundation of a team that’s already in the Top 10.

The sky is the limit for the Washington Huskies!  Now, let’s go out and take care of business down in Arizona!

The Huskies Are Going To The Fiesta Bowl!

There was a bit of extra good news this weekend, as a lot of things broke right for the Huskies as they watched other teams play for conference titles.  Stanford predictably lost to USC, because they suck and didn’t actually belong there in the first place because they’re clearly the third-best team in the Pac-12 and you won’t convince me otherwise.  TCU also got their asses kicked by Oklahoma, which knocked them down a peg or three.  There was concern that with TCU being so close to the Cotton Bowl, the Huskies would lose their spot to them, but it turns out the Cotton Bowl wanted nothing to do with either of those teams, as they have a really cool matchup of USC vs. Ohio State.

Which left the Fiesta Bowl, who has a tremendous matchup in its own right:  the Washington Huskies vs. Penn State.

I’ll get into the matchup a little bit more the week of the game, which is on Saturday, December 30th at 1pm (day drinking, ho!).  But, I’ll say for right now that I’m super excited that the Huskies got into one of the Big 6 bowl games, and I’m super excited for the opportunity to finish in the Top 10 in the country for back-to-back seasons (the first time since 1990/1991).

The Final Four ended up being:

  1. Clemson
  2. Oklahoma
  3. Georgia
  4. Alabama

Which, I think is appropriate.  Only a school like Alabama could render a school like Ohio State with the status of Little Brother.  Honestly, this is the best possible outcome for what REALLY needs to happen, which is an 8-team playoff, involving all five Power Conference champions, plus 3 at-large teams.  Of course, if Washington was in Ohio State’s shoes, I’d be livid beyond belief, but the Huskies had no business being in the playoffs this year, so I’m fine with it.  There are enough Ohio State fans out there – and enough outraged Big 10 fans in general – that hopefully this will lead to substantial change in the system.

It’s absurd how college football can get so many things right, but they always struggle when it comes to crowning a legitimate national champion.  I don’t get how this is so hard.

Getting back to the final four, I’ll just say this:  if you throw out schedules and just closed your eyes and imagined the four best teams in college football, those would be the four teams I’d choose.  Alabama is better than Ohio State.  And, frankly, I agree with the committee, you can’t lose by 31 points to a 7-5 Iowa team and expect to be ranked ahead of an Alabama team that only lost to a very good Auburn team.  I get it that most teams have a bad game; hell, the Huskies lost to fucking Arizona State (which I still can’t wrap my brain around), but we still held it to within a score!  31 points!  Get out of here!

I’m less than thrilled at the very legitimate prospects of a Georgia vs. Alabama championship game, because the SEC and all their fans are already insufferable enough.  Now, we’ve got to hear them crow about how we should all just make the SEC champion the national champion and do away with bowl games altogether.

Of course, the flipside of that is Clemson going for a third straight appearance in the National Championship game.  As it is, we’re already confronted with the rubber match of their series against Alabama (Bama won it all in 2015, Clemson won it all in 2016) in the Sugar Bowl.  So, regardless of who wins that one, we’re still faced with more of the same.

And, as for Oklahoma, I’m sorry, but their quarterback is a douche, their defense is a joke, and you couldn’t pay me to root for a team from that state after they stole our basketball team.

In other words, I guess go Georgia?  It might be the lesser of three evils, but I also can’t help but be annoyed that they stole our Twitter hashtag #GodAwgs.

I would argue that the most entertaining non-playoff games will indeed be the Cotton and Fiesta bowls.  I like that we’ve got the Big 10/Pac-12 rivalry going.  I like that the Cotton Bowl features the two snubbed conference champions (so I would hope they’re both bitter and inspired to kick some ass).  And, I like that the Fiesta Bowl features a couple of 10-win teams who were locked out of their conference championship games.  I could see a team like Ohio State being disappointed and passionless; but I think Penn State and Washington will be pretty fired up.  For one, there was a very good chance Washington would’ve been relegated to the Alamo Bowl, so this has to be a thrill (and a fine consolation for a team with playoff aspirations of their own heading into the season).  And, on the Penn State side, I bet they’re still pretty sore about the fact that Washington took their place in the playoffs last year (even though Washington totally deserved its playoff spot and were a pretty worthy foe for an impossibly good Alabama team).  This game won’t necessarily decide who was more deserving LAST year, but it’s still as compelling of a matchup as you’ll find this bowl season.

And, of course, you can’t discount the fact that the Pac-12 conference benefits from having two teams in these six major bowl games.  Here’s the breakdown, by conference:

  • SEC – 3 teams (Georgia, Alabama, Auburn)
  • Big 10 – 3 teams (Ohio State, Penn State, Wisconsin)
  • Pac-12 – 2 teams (USC, Washington)
  • ACC – 2 teams (Clemson, Miami)
  • AAC – 1 team (Central Florida)
  • Big-12 – 1 team (Oklahoma)

In the end, it’s everything I could’ve asked for.  And, where did Stanford end up?  Why, in the Alamo Bowl, of course!  With nearby TCU ready and waiting to kick some nerd ass!

The Huskies Won The Apple Cup, Await Their Bowl Fate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Washington Huskies Won’t Be Pac-12 Champions In 2017

That’s not a prediction, that’s just a fact.  Even if the impossible were to happen and Stanford were to blow a home game against Cal (2-5 in conference) this Saturday, and the Huskies somehow found a way to win out (the Apple Cup is suddenly looming as a huge embarrassing failure on the horizon), there is no fucking way in Hell that the Huskies are going to beat the USC Trojans in the Pac-12 Championship Game, so give it up!

That game on Friday was pretty hard to watch.  It was literally IMPOSSIBLE for me to watch the entire first quarter, because I’m in Tacoma with a cable provider that doesn’t have Fox Sports 2, nor do they have an online portal that will allow you to log on to Fox Sports Go, so I was stuck watching Truck Racing.  Because that’s where we are as a conference.  The Pac-12 is the laughingstock of all major conferences, and that’s BEFORE the fucked up TV package we’ve been saddled with.  Do you think people in Alabama – as much as they probably LOVE to watch truck racing – would for one second think it’s okay to have the Crimson Tide pre-empted by ANYTHING?  No.  Nor would any other fanbase in the SEC, Big 10, Big-12, or even the ACC.  What a fucking crock of shit.  Larry Scott is the most inept conference head I’ve ever seen.

Some people have decided to take it a step further and blame the conference for even having games on Friday nights to begin with, but I don’t know if I’m willing to go out on that ledge with you.  It’s unfortunate that it had to be a road game, I’ll give you that.  You’d think – knowing what you knew heading into the season, that Washington was to be one of the two or three best teams in the conference, and one of your best bets to make the College Football Playoffs – that if/when they chose Washington to play on a Friday, it would’ve been in Seattle.  But, I mean, I’m not going to blame the loss on having one less day to prepare.

I mean, shit, the Huskies had plenty of time to prepare for ASU and still lost.

If this Washington team was worth a damn, they would’ve beaten both the Sun Devils AND the Cardinal.  But, they’re not, so they didn’t.

It was pretty clear-cut why the Dawgs lost to ASU; the offense couldn’t do a damn thing.  You might think it’s pretty clear-cut why we lost to Stanford; allowing them to convert 11/19 3rd/4th downs, which allowed them to dominate time of possession (36:05), and ultimately dominate on the scoreboard (30-22, becoming the first team to put up 30 against the Huskies since the bowl game in 2015).

But, I’m not going to blame the defense.  Nah.  They’ve carried this team for the last two years.  They’ve also been pretty decimated by injuries, particularly in the secondary.  So, they get a pass from me.

I’m putting this one squarely BACK on the offense.  Because, there were plays to be made and points to be had, and we left ’em right there on the field.  And, I’ll do you one better:  I don’t think Jake Browning has what it takes to lead this team when the chips are down.

He’s going to end up with every Husky passing record by the time he hangs ’em up.  It’s a foregone conclusion that he’ll be back for his Senior season, because it’s a foregone conclusion that he’s strictly a college quarterback and won’t have what it takes to make it in the NFL.  He’ll get drafted on Day 3, hold a clipboard for a while, and eventually try to make it in the CFL before giving it up to be a coach or something.  He will also have built his entire Washington career upon the back of his 2016 season, when all he needed to do was lob it up to John Ross and Dante Pettis and let them do all the work.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:  great quarterbacks make the players around them better.  It’s my argument that Browning only looks good when he’s got talented receivers doing all the work, and when you run into a year like 2017 – when Ross is gone, all the defensive attention is on Pettis, and there isn’t anyone else worth a damn to step up into that #2 receiver role – Browning looks as average and ordinary as some of the very worst Husky quarterbacks we’ve been forced to watch through the years.  Holds the ball too long, throws late, throws off target, lacking in anticipation, lacking in proper arm strength, unable to lead his receivers with sufficient regularity, I could go on and on.

A better quarterback could have brought the Huskies back in that game against Stanford.  Hell, a better quarterback wouldn’t have had us in that position in the first place!  It’s pretty clear to me that if the Huskies aren’t rushing for 300 yards, they’re not going to beat the good teams.

And, what’s worse is:  we have to sit through another year of this.

So, with the conference championship off the table, I guess we turn our attention towards playing spoiler.  God dammit, who saw this coming a month ago, when we were still 6-0 and flying high in the national rankings?  One thing’s for certain:  I won’t be following the Huskies to the Sun Bowl this December.

Oregon? More Like BOREgon!

We like to have fun.

When you spend the better part of seven hours tailgating, playing lots of beer pong, eating lots of food, watching lots of football on a TV out of the back of a van, huddled around a fire and shooting the shit with friends, time tends to get away from you.  As such, first quarters of football games tend to get missed.  By the time we got into the stadium, and up to our 300-level seats, most of the first quarter had already passed.

And I wouldn’t say we were missing it, Bob!

Oregon put together what sounded like a pretty impressive opening-game drive:  15 plays, 62 yards, which resulted in a field goal.  That 3-0 lead (followed by a missed field goal on Washington’s opening drive) would be the high point of Oregon’s day, as the Huskies put up 38-unanswered to make this one a laugher.

The Ducks managed 278 yards of offense, only 31 through the air.  Sure, they were able to open up some holes here and there, but their quarterback wasn’t up to the task of making this game even remotely interesting.

My only real concern in this one was how the Husky offense looked.  The running game was there, naturally.  A total of 247 yards on 39 carries.  Both Myles Gaskin and Salvon Ahmed had terrific games, going for 123 yards and a TD, and 84 yards and a TD respectively.  Dante Pettis got his, with 4 catches for 87 yards and a TD, as well as his 9th career punt return for a touchdown to set an NCAA record.  And, even Jake Browning had a quietly efficient game, going 11/19 for 204 yards, with 2 TDs and 1 INT.  Again, though, when you win a game by five touchdowns, you don’t really need to do a whole lot as a quarterback.

So, yeah, the offense was fine.  Couldn’t quite get into the 40s, but I’m not going to harp on it too much.

What we should all be talking about is how amazing this defense is, because fuckin’ A is it the best!

  • #1 in total yards with 2,168 (Alabama is #2 with 2,194)
  • #1 in yards per game with 241 (Alabama is #2 with 244)
  • #3 in total passing yards with 1,348 (Michigan is #1 with 1,285)
  • #2 in passing yards per game with 149.8 (Michigan is #1 with 142.8)
  • #6 in total rushing yards with 820 (TCU is #1 with 627)
  • #6 in rushing yards per game with 91.1 (TCU is #1 with 69.7)
  • #2 in points allowed with 100 (Alabama is #1 with 88)
  • #2 in points per game with 11.1 (Alabama is #1 with 9.8)

It’s just unbelievable!  We lose guys to the NFL/graduation, we lose even more guys to injury, and here we are still kicking ass and taking names.  Granted, Oregon isn’t anything special, and they do tend to shut down if you put a good defense in front of them, but that’s still a team capable of piling up yards and points with the best of ’em when they’re on.

With Stanford losing to Wazzu, that gives Washington a full game edge in the Pac-12 North.  Of course, we would lose that edge if we lose to either of those two teams (who we play in the next three weeks; at Stanford this Friday & vs. Wazzu the Saturday after Thanksgiving), but we’re right there in the driver’s seat.  With USC beating Arizona, all they have to do is avoid catastrophe when they go up against the dregs of the Pac-12 South (Colorado and UCLA) the next two weeks and they’ll be right there waiting for us in the Pac-12 Championship Game (with a BYE week in between, no less).

In the grander scheme of things, Ohio State, Oklahoma State, and Penn State all lost.  The Huskies are now 9th in the AP Poll and 8th in the Coaches Poll.  I don’t know what that means for the College Football Playoff poll, but I see that TCU is going up against Oklahoma this weekend, as well as Miami going up against Notre Dame.  So, if we take care of business, that’s two more teams (at least) we figure to leapfrog.

I’ll admit, though, I’m pretty nervous about this Stanford game.  It’s our final road game of the regular season, it’s on a Friday night (where kooky things tend to happen), and we haven’t won a game in Stanford since 2007 (Jim Harbaugh’s first year with the Cardinal, when they finished 4-8).  Believe you me, I’m going to be pretty keyed up for this one.

After that, it looks like pretty smooth sailing.  Utah is a mess this year, and Wazzu doesn’t look NEARLY as good away from Martin Stadium.

One more hurdle.  Let’s go Dawgs!

Tell Me Again How “Washington Just Needs To Win Out To Get A Playoff Berth”

The first College Football Playoff Rankings came out this week, and Washington is 12th.  They’re obviously the highest-ranking Pac-12 team, because the Pac-12 is a fucking disaster this year.  And yet, all I read about from Husky loyalists is how we’ve got as good a shot as anyone of making the College Football Playoffs if we just win out.  The help will come.

Well, let’s just get right down to it, because there’s a lot of nonsense to work through.

Start with the SEC.  Georgia and Alabama don’t play one another in the regular season, but appear to be on a collision course to meet in the SEC title game.  So, let’s assume that happens:  boom, there’s at least one spot in the Final Four, going to the winner of that game (let’s hold off, for now, on what happens to any 1-loss conference championship game losers).

That’s easy enough, right?  Three more spots to go.

Third in the rankings is Notre Dame, with a 7-1 record, whose only loss was a 1-point affair to the aforementioned very-good Georgia Bulldogs.  They play at Miami and at Stanford as their most difficult remaining games.  Beating an undefeated Miami team would certainly help the Huskies (the Hurricanes are currently 10th and looking for a spot in the ACC title game).  If Notre Dame wins out – even without the value of a conference championship, since they have no conference – they’re in.  Their schedule is much too impressive, and their brand is much too popular, to keep out.

So, I guess, pray Notre Dame loses a second game.

Let’s go to the ACC, as there’s rumblings this conference could be left out.  Well, right now, Clemson is ranked 4th, but as we all know that means nothing.  If the season ended today, Clemson wouldn’t even be in their own conference title game, which would probably eliminate them from contention.  Of course, all they have to do is go on the road to beat NC State, which seems like a slam dunk, right?  After that, their schedule is trash, so this week is really for their season; they’ll coast into the ACC title game.  At which point, if they win that, they’re golden, lock them in.  If they lose to an undefeated Miami team (or even a 1-loss Miami team, for that matter) I would think the Hurricanes would take their spot in the final four.  They will CERTAINLY have a better argument for making it over a 1-loss Washington team.

So, I guess pray NC State beats Clemson, and all hell breaks loose to the point where the conference champion has 2 losses?

The Big-12 is heavily represented in the rankings, with Oklahoma 5th, TCU 8th, Oklahoma State 11th, and Iowa State 15th.  Three of those teams are currently ranked ahead of Washington, and if any one of them wins out (they all have 1 loss at the moment), that team will get a spot in the Final Four.  The curious case of Iowa State is that they have 2 losses, but only 1 in the Big-12.  Yet, they’re actually leading in the conference because they handed both TCU and Oklahoma their only defeats of the season.  They play OK State in a couple weeks in a knockout game for the loser; but if Iowa State wins that one, and ends up winning the conference title game, they could be trouble.  Or, they could effectively eliminate the Big-12 from playoff contention once again.

So, I guess pray Iowa State makes some noise and the conference champ has 2 losses.

That brings us to the vaunted Big 10.  Ohio State and Penn State are 6th & 7th; Wisconsin is 9th.  Ohio State and Penn State both have 1 loss; Wisconsin is undefeated.  Ohio State just beat Penn State, giving them the inside track for the conference title game; their only tough matchup going forward is at home against Michigan State.  It would be VERY shocking if the Buckeyes lost again.  Assuming that’s the case, that knocks out Penn State.  Wisconsin sits there on the other side of the Big 10, with the weakest fucking schedule I’ve ever seen.  They’ll walk into the conference title game.  If they win out, even with their garbage schedule, you can’t keep them out of the playoffs.  If Ohio State wins out, they’re in.

So … actually, I don’t think there’s any way the Big 10 blows this; it’ll be either Ohio State or Wisconsin.

Do you see where I’m getting at here?  We have the SEC champ, we have a 1-loss Notre Dame team, we have Clemson almost certainly winning out, we have the Big-12 cannibalizing one another (still with a shot that Oklahoma wins out to take the reins), and we have the Big 10 champ.  That’s FIVE potential teams (4 champs & Notre Dame) all rated ahead of a potential 1-loss Washington team.  Then, you have to consider a 1-loss SEC loser.

Honestly, a scenario where Washington makes it looks pretty implausible, and that’s assuming we even win out!  That game down in Stanford is never a picnic, and say what you will about USC (who can all but wrap up their spot in the Pac-12 title game with a win over Arizona this weekend), but they handled us – particularly our passing game – pretty well last year.

That’s why I’m setting my sights a little more conservatively.  Just a little!  As we all know, the Sugar Bowl and Rose Bowl will gobble up the Final Four teams this year, meaning if we do end up as Pac-12 champions, we won’t get our rightful spot down in Pasadena.  But, that leaves open the other bowls:  Peach, Cotton, and Fiesta (I believe the Orange is reserved, but that might open back up depending on how the playoff rankings shake out).  I wouldn’t think we’d go back to the Peach Bowl for a second consecutive year, which leaves the Cotton and Fiesta Bowls.  Could be fun!  Lower stakes, get to face a team we probably hardly ever get to play, televised on a Friday or Saturday which allows for maximum drinking and partying.  Let’s go THERE!

And, quite frankly, let’s get to a major bowl game that we can WIN!

The Huskies Ran All Over UCLA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What an all-around bummer.