The Seattle Sports 5-Year Trends

If you scroll down the right side of my home page (if you are viewing this on a laptop or PC; otherwise it’s at the very bottom of the home page on a mobile device), you’ll see a list of all the Seattle-based teams I follow, and their most recent five seasons’ worth of records. I started doing that a LONG time ago, intending to refer to that information every so often, to take a global view of the Seattle sports landscape. Which teams are on the rise? Which teams are sinking like a stone? And which teams are helplessly treading water?

It’s funny, when I devised of this concept – and then absolutely failed to follow through, until today – I thought five years in sports terms was an adequate amount of time to figure out where a team is going. But, in reality, it’s both an eternity, and no time at all. Sports teams can turn around their fortunes so fast, you might get whiplash with all the wildly disparate outcomes. One year, you might be on top of the world, then you might be among the worst teams in the game, then you’re able to snap right back into being relevant again, coming from out of nowhere.

I would put the Husky football team in this category. Through 2019, you could argue this was a team on the rise. Then, we had the COVID season, followed by a total bottoming out in 2021, with a housecleaning to follow. From there, they snapped right back into being one of the best teams in college football in 2022, only to make it to the National Championship Game in 2023. We have since been confronted with a different sort of housecleaning, unfortunately, and now this looks like a team that’s going to fall. How could it not? We reached a height we haven’t seen since the early 90’s, and we didn’t replace all that we lost with comparable talent; it’s only natural to see a drop-off.

You can also look at the Kraken and even though we don’t have five seasons’ worth of data, we have almost three. They started off bad, then they made the playoffs in year two, only to hover around .500 in year three. Young players haven’t developed into the superstars we hoped for, and everyone on the roster feels like role players. There’s probably going to be a new head coach to come, and we’ll see where we go from here.

On the flipside, you can look at the Husky basketball team and see a team that’s largely been around .500. Five straight years of stagnation, and counting. Part of that has to do with the coaching staff – which has been replaced this offseason – and part of that is the nature of college basketball nowadays. Unless you’re recruiting the best of the best high school players – who can step in and compete right away – you’re not able to develop younger guys like you used to. You just have to hope you’re poaching enough quality in the transfer portal to find the special mixture that will gel immediately.

The NFL is arguably the most volatile sport of the bunch, with teams going from worst to first all the time! And yet, the Seahawks appear to be on a steady decline. Or, at the very least, a decline followed by a flatline. They were 12-game winners (including playoffs) in 2019 and 2020. Then, we had Russell Wilson’s injury-plagued and inconsistent final year here, followed by two years of Geno Smith and some apathetic .500 ball. I can conceive of a future where this is a team on the rise again, but I think we’re going to have to endure another 9-ish win season in the interim.

The only team you could make an argument that’s a team “on the rise” is the Mariners. But, that entirely hinges on what happens in 2024. It’s a franchise with a clear plan, who underwent an obvious rebuild, and who managed to cobble together a pretty good-looking young core. 2019 was terrible. The COVID-shortened 2020 season was better than expected. The 2021 season was better still. In 2022, we finally broke the playoff drought. And, 2023 could conceivably be excused for missing the playoffs, because teams don’t always follow one straight trajectory from year to year. If we make it back to the playoffs in 2024, I think 2023 can be forgiven. At that point, some of the younger prospects still developing in the minors might be ready to take the next step. The Mariners still feel like they’re a few pieces away, and if we have to get them internally, so be it.

So, the last 5 years have been kind of a mixed bag. That’s Seattle sports for ya. Never too high, rarely too low, with lots of unexpected gut punches in between (that only become expected the longer you root for these teams).

The Huskies Hired Steve Belichick To Be The Defensive Coordinator

It’s been a tough last few weeks to be a Husky fan. There was the whole unpleasantness with the National Championship Game, the ensuing coaching carousel, and the myriad of player defections. But, it’s starting to feel like things are turning around a bit.

I’m hearing more about players coming IN rather than players leaving. Maybe not enough for the Huskies to be worth a damn in 2024, but hopefully well-equipped for a bounce-back in 2025.

I also got the chance to listen to Jedd Fisch on the radio last week, as he hopped on the Brock & Salk program. I had kind of avoided a lot of the news when he was originally hired, so this was really my first introduction to our new head coach. It’s not that I don’t believe in him; I think it’s as good of a hire as we could’ve gotten, given the circumstances. What he did in turning around the Wildcats so quickly is nothing short of DeBoer-ian. I’m sure he’s a great coach, great recruiter, and he’ll do excellent work for the University of Washington.

But, I mean, he had one foot already out the door before he even signed on the dotted line. Florida is apparently his dream job, and I’m guessing the moment that becomes available, he’ll be gone. Short of that, I’m sure with even moderate success at Washington, he’ll use it to bounce to the SEC and that’ll be that. I give it three years, tops, and only because this first year is looking to be a little down for Washington.

So, I’m not going into this situation with any delusions that Fisch is going to be here long term. College Football is what it is. It’ll be smart for the University of Washington to have people dedicated to tracking more up-and-coming head coaching candidates for when this needs to happen again.

My take-away from the Fisch radio interview is that I’m actually impressed. He does seem really forthright, even if there’s a used car salesman sort of vibe about him. He said that the whole “interview process” consisted of about a 45-minute phone call. Then, a few hours later, he received a formal offer; that was it! Compare that to what the Seahawks went through before landing on Mike Macdonald, and it’s night & day!

Fisch never once talked about Washington being the be-all, end-all. He never made any promises to be here for the duration. His biggest reason for coming here isn’t the locale or the history or even the recent success; he came to Washington because we’re going to the Big Ten next year, and it’s vitally important to be in either the Big Ten or SEC going forward, if you want to compete with the big dogs.

That’s it. His sales tactic to recruits is as follows: we’re in the Big Ten, we’re running a pro style system (so if you want to go to the NFL, best to get your feet wet here), and we’re going to be willing to play Freshmen (because that’s the only way you’re ever going to manage to KEEP your Freshman, since so many would rather enter the transfer portal than red shirt), even if it means we have to endure the growing pains. The main difference between Fisch and DeBoer appears to be Fisch’s insistence that building through high school players is preferable to trying to poach the transfer portal. Of course, at this point, DeBoer won’t have any trouble getting players any way he wants them. There’s no stopping the Alabama train.

Another feather in the Fisch cap is his connections. He has pretty extensive ties in both college and the pro ranks. That experience and network should work wonders. Which brings us to Steve Belichick, our new defensive coordinator.

Belichick has been calling plays for the New England Patriots under his dad for the last however-many years. It’s been a while. The only reason he wasn’t deemed to be the Defensive Coordinator there is because they also had Head Coach In Waiting Jerod Mayo on the defensive staff, and it appears Bill didn’t want to play favorites.

Regardless, Steve Belichick might’ve been a nepo hire originally, but I think he’s proven himself quite well. Say what you will about the Patriots since Tom Brady left, but their defense has been up to the task of at least keeping them in games. I think this is a phenomenal hire! And I can’t wait to see what it does for our recruiting going forward.

I guess you could say I’m coming around on this whole thing. I still don’t know how good the Huskies will be in 2024. There’s really two pieces to this thing: the recruiting part, and the development part. DeBoer was always known as a superior head coach who needed to work on his recruiting prowess (seems like, if you’re a great coach, and you win all the time, what more do you really need to do to sell yourself?). Fisch, on the other hand, has been lauded for his recruiting. But, he only has one 10-win season under his belt so far as a head coach. Will he have what it takes on fall Saturdays to make up for a temporarily-lacking roster? We’ll find out.

Husky Football Death Week: Kalen DeBoer, Jedd Fisch Poached

I think last week was, hands down, the worst week of my life as a Husky football fan. I mean, other than getting the Death Penalty, I don’t know how you can script a worse seven days.

It starts with us losing in the national championship game to Jim Harbaugh and Michigan of all people/teams. Not only that, but we weren’t even really competitive; we dug ourselves a huge early hole, clawed our way back to being within one score, but repeated mistakes and incompetence prevented us from overtaking them, only to fall apart in the fourth quarter and lose by multiple scores.

Then came the wave of seniors leaving (Michael Penix and the like), followed by the wave of predictable stars leaving who still had eligibility (Polk, Odunze, Johnson, and the like), followed by the wave of surprise people declaring for the draft, along with a smattering of new transfers opting to go elsewhere. Pretty standard stuff, all things considered, and nothing I wasn’t prepared for emotionally. The Huskies had spent the fall and winter going after some pretty heavy hitters in the transfer portal, so I figured while a 2024 downturn might be expected, there would also still be some hope that it wouldn’t be a total and complete collapse. With this coaching staff, maybe we find a way to claw to 9 or 10 wins next season. Something respectable, while we reload for another playoff run in a couple years.

It all started to go hopelessly south when Nick Saban announced his retirement. OF COURSE he would have to retire the same year Washington makes a surprise run for the championship, so Alabama would have his readymade replacement right there for the stealing. Name me a hotter college football coach than Kalen DeBoer; you can’t do it. Not even Deion Sanders is up there on his level.

Those days were bad, because as a Husky fan, all I’m doing is PRAYING that we go over the top with a deal that can’t be beat. Or, at the very least, would send Alabama looking elsewhere. But, it was all pointless. The same agent for DeBoer was also the agent for every other highfalutin head coaching candidate, who was able to leverage the Alabama opening to get his guys raises with their current teams. Everyone but Washington’s guy, naturally. Because he wasn’t going to be Washington’s guy anymore. Washington can go fuck themselves.

As soon as DeBoer was announced to be Nick Saban’s successor, the deluge of Huskies entering the transfer portal was as dizzying as it was depressing. Everybody you could think of suddenly wanted out, even guys who’d spent mutliple years here (like Asa Turner, over the past 5 seasons). No shock that the new incoming transfers suddenly decided to change their minds, but it was all so sudden and so relentless. We were a rickety raft made of bundled-together twigs and the college football universe just lobbed a massive cannonball right in the middle.

I don’t even remember what head coaching names were being bandied about, but it doesn’t matter, because none of them are even remotely inspiring. Ultimately, we landed on Jedd Fisch, the head coach from Arizona, who took the Wildcats to a 10-3 record with a win over Oklahoma in the Alamo Bowl.

Fisch’s only head coaching experience came in three seasons in Arizona (where he finished with a 16-21 record) and two games as interim head coach of UCLA (where he went 1-1).

The positive spin is that he took over a moribund Arizona program, endured a 1-11 first season with a bunch of terrible holdovers from the previous regime, improved to 5-7 in year two, before finally making the leap in 2023 to be the third-best team in a very good final Pac-12 conference. Making Fisch a head coach on the rise, who we’re getting at the exact perfect time to capitalize on his abilities.

The negative spin is that he lacks extensive head coaching experience. He lacks experience in running a football program, let alone one that has aspirations to be among the national elites. Anyone can luck into a double-digit win season when nobody sees you coming (and you don’t even have to play Oregon), but now you’re joining the team that finished 2023 #2 in the nation. Now you’ve got to stem the tide of suffering we’ve endured over the last week, try to retain as many players as you can, and somehow mold this team into something resembling a winner in our first season in the Big Ten.

If your glass is half full, maybe you see this as a similar outcome to what happened when we hired DeBoer. No one thought much of him coming out of Fresno State (even though, to that point, he had EXTENSIVE head coaching and program-building experience). But, if your glass is half empty (like mine), what are the odds lightning is going to strike twice? What are the odds we hire the best up-and-coming head coach two times in a row?

Also, even if we see the best case scenario come to fruition, that just means we’re going to be in this position again in two more years, when Georgia or Auburn or Florida comes sniffing around our campsite. It’s distressing that Jedd Fisch hadn’t even officially gotten the job and we were already talking about how he’d never stayed anywhere for more than two years, and is clearly always on the hunt for his next opportunity. There’s no WAY he’s sticking here long term, unless he sucks, and then we’re stuck with Mike Hopkins 2.0.

I hate all of this. I’m so disillusioned. Just when you think Washington has turned a corner. Just when you let yourself dream big, that maybe we can be the next Oregon, or Clemson, or Georgia, or Ohio State. If we can find a way to keep everything intact, this could be one of those dynasty programs that plays and recruits on a national level for the next couple decades. My biggest worry before this week was wondering what we were going to do when Ryan Grubb eventually took a job elsewhere, since he – at this point – seems overqualified to be a head coach somewhere.

Instead, Grubb announced that he had his hat in the ring, but Washington turned HIM down to be their next head coach. I’ll be honest, he would’ve been my first choice. It’s SO rare to have a competent – let alone an ELITE – offensive coordinator in college football. If we could’ve, at least, kept our offensive system intact, maybe the hit isn’t quite so hard to this program. Maybe we convince some of the portal guys to return. Maybe he partners with an up-and-coming DC and they take what he learned from DeBoer about running a program and keeps up the winning ways.

But, I understand the risk too. We JUST went through the first-time coach saga with Jimmy Lake, who was as up-and-coming as it got, only on the defensive side of the ball. I dunno, though. Is Fisch really that much of a step up from Grubb? I guess we’ll see.

Now what does this mean? We’re getting a bunch of Arizona transfers? I gotta root for a bunch of former Wildcats? Also, again, what happens in two years when these players move on and it’s time for Fisch to show what he can do on his own? Did he get lucky with his one great season down there? Or does he actually have what it takes to sustain success?

I’m not going into this next period of Husky football with a lot of hope and passion. Maybe things will change once I see how the team is being built. Maybe we’ll get some good-looking players to come in and I’ll get excited again. But, for now, I’m in a period of deep mourning.

Silly me, I had hoped DeBoer might be different. I had hoped he might want to set some roots down up here, rather than chase the easy payday down in the SEC. I had hoped he’d be interested in being the next Nick Saban for Washington, rather than following in his footsteps down there. It would mean so much more to do it for the Huskies. You’d be a legend; hell, you already kind of were! You turned this team around in two short years and led us to the championship game! You could do no wrong after that; except break our hearts.

In Alabama, it’s going to be different. If you don’t immediately take them back to the championship game, you’re going to have heat. You’re going to have boosters and fans so far up your ass, you won’t be able to shit right ever again. Washington was the cool, flashy, fun program in the northwest that everyone could enjoy. Alabama is the fucking Empire, and this is the moment where Anakin becomes Darth Vader. Sad, predictable, and poorly written (just like every disingenuous speech DeBoer has given since being hired away; I don’t believe for one moment he ever gave two shits about Washington).

But, the thing is, Jedd Fisch doesn’t give two shits about Washington either. That’s not what this is about anymore. It’s about getting mine while the getting’s good. As Washington fans, we have to hope we get ours while Fisch is still here in the next year or two. Otherwise, it’s either On To The Next (if he still finds success and jumps to a bigger program), or When Can We Get Rid Of This Fucking Guy (if he’s just mediocre and tainted to the point where any move would be lateral or worse).

Why do we even have contracts anymore? Like, what’s the point of teams requesting an opportunity to interview YOUR head coach to be THEIR head coach? I understand it somewhat if you’re interviewing a coordinator to be a head coach, that’s a promotion. But, did Washington actually have to give permission? If so, why did we do that? Fuck DeBoer, make him stay and finish out his deal! And if we didn’t have to do that, then what’s the point in even asking? What’s with the fake diplomacy or whatever?

It’s all so stupid.

The Huskies Fell Short In The National Championship Game

Being a sports fan is a form of mental illness.

At some point, my friends decided that lemons were good luck. I haven’t pinpointed the specific Husky game when this first came up – because I wasn’t there – but we were in need of a rally, there were some lemons sitting around, and so everyone picked up a lemon and held onto it for the rest of the game. The Huskies completed their comeback, and then every game after that, someone needed to remember to bring the lemons. I was introduced to this practice during the Pac-12 Championship Game, and we’ve had our rally lemons ever since. They were working fine until last night, but also my friends and I weren’t watching the College Football Playoff National Championship Game together as a collective, so maybe that’s the reason why they lost their football potency?

Or, you know, the mental illness thing.

It’s interesting where your brain goes while you’re in the middle of watching a game, versus where it is the next day, or weeks from now, or years from now. Last night, for instance, I would’ve come on here and been ranting and raving about the discrepencies in the flags that the refs were throwing (or not throwing). The weak-as-shit holding call against the Huskies that cost us a deep pass play; the multiple missed holding calls against Michigan’s O-Line that might’ve turned the tide of this game. The fact that we were told this was an ACC crew that was going to call a tight game when it came to defensive pass interference and the like, followed by them allowing the Wolverines to be handsy as hell all game long.

But, it’s really hard for me to want to pin it all on the refs, because there were so many areas where the Huskies fell short in this game. With just a night’s sleep, some perspective seeps into my brain. Instead of being a bitter lunatic during the game, or a depressed sad sack after the game, I’ve come to accept this team’s faults as just the reality of that particular game.

So many differing emotions in such a short time, how can this not be mental illness?

It’s easy to say, “Well, if this and that and the other had gone a certain way, maybe the game would’ve turned out different.” But, if you need everything to be Just So in order to win a game, then you probably weren’t the better team anyway. That isn’t to say – if we played this game 100 times – that the Huskies would lose all 100. But, you know, that didn’t feel like a 50/50 affair that just got away from us.

Not that we were entirely outclassed. It’s patently absurd to suggest that Washington didn’t deserve to be one of the final four teams, and I’m not going to take that kind of criticism from someone who’s probably only seen all of two Husky games this year (the Sugar Bowl and the CFP National Championship). But, I think it’s fair to say that Michigan wasn’t a great matchup for us, and it was going to take damn near a perfect game for us to actually beat them.

The first quarter of that game was a nightmare I can’t forget soon enough. They got the ball first, and they rammed it down our throats to the tune of a 14-3 lead. If that had just been the entire game, then it would’ve been miserable, but maybe easier to accept. But, true to form, the Huskies adjusted. We found a way to slow down their attack over the next two quarters, limiting them to a field goal in the second and another field goal in the third. We were able to get a touchdown drive going before half to make it a one-score game, with the ball first coming out of the break. The game was RIGHT THERE for us in that second half.

Unfortunately, Michael Penix followed up his very-best career game (in the Sugar Bowl) with probably his very-worst career game, and that’s something we could never overcome. The Huskies were never going to win this game scoring less than 20 points. The fact that we were held to only three points in the entire second half sealed our doom. A lack of offense – and obviously offensive mistakes – turned this game into a 34-13 blowout in the end.

This was our defense, warts and all. The 229 first quarter rushing yards, obviously, were an anomaly. Even with how poor we’ve looked in stopping the run, it’s never been THAT bad. I don’t want to toot our horn too much, but we did at least stem that tide a little bit, holding them to only 74 rushing yards the final three quarters. That’s not amazing by any means (considering they had two more rushing TDs in the fourth quarter to put it away), but it speaks to the resiliency of this team. The defense was often maligned, but it also often kept us in games, and it certainly gave us a chance to win this one.

This game was ripe for the picking in the third quarter. But, like I said, Penix had his worst game in a Husky uniform. I don’t know WHAT that first interception was, but it sure as shit killed any momentum we might’ve had. Under normal circumstances, that’s a drive where we score a quick TD, tie the game, and start taking things over from there.

No one’s saying that Michigan’s quarterback was anything special in that game. He completed 10/18 for 140. Of course, with how well they were running the ball, he didn’t NEED to do anything. But, had we tied the game in the second half, maybe things turn. Maybe they feel the need to throw the ball more. Maybe he’s forced into a mistake or two (there were definitely opportunities for picks with some of his errant passes). And maybe – JUST MAYBE – this game looks a lot like every other Husky game we’ve played this season.

The Husky offense just wasn’t up to snuff. In the battle of Elite Offense vs. Elite Defense, Elite Defense prevailed (predictably) yet again. I get that Penix was dealing with injuries. Dillon Johnson was too. He miraculously fought back to play this week, only to have his other ankle rolled up on in the first carry of the game. And, one of those hits Penix took appears to have aggravated a prior rib injury that he’d been dealing with for most of the season, limiting his abilities and forcing him into too many quick throws.

I didn’t think the offensive scheme was SO bad last night. We appeared to be going with lots of quick passes near the line of scrimmage to spread them out. My guess is that we were looking to draw them in, only to beat them over the top later. Unfortunately, later never really came. Odunze had a long reception of 44 yards, but everyone else was limited to 15 yards or less. Either Odunze or Penix fucked up a 4th down pass near midfield that would’ve been a touchdown. There was another deep shot to Culp that Penix flat-out missed, in his desire to get the ball out quickly with a free blitzer running towards him. There were other shots to Odunze that Penix either didn’t see or didn’t like. It’s not like we didn’t have opportunities; we just didn’t capitalize. There were also a couple of killer drops (one by Will Nixon in particular that would’ve been an easy third down conversion) that we weren’t used to seeing from this team. If Dillon Johnson had been healthier, maybe Nixon wouldn’t have been in there for that drop, and again things might’ve been different.

But, taken as a whole: our injuries, our missed connections, our atrocious first quarter defense, all added up to an unwinnable game.

Both teams exchanged three punts each in the second half, when it was 20-13. That was the time. That was the game right there. It was unrealistic to expect the Huskies to keep them scoreless the rest of the way, without at least putting some offensive pressure on them. They drove down for a 27-13 lead with about 7 minutes left in the game, and we were in scramble mode. An emergency throw led to Penix’s second pick of the game (this one returned inside the 10 yard line), and they were two rushes away from finishing us.

I feel so bad for the Huskies. That was, by far, the best Husky team I’ve ever seen. And this was the funnest season I’ve ever followed. It’s just a shame things didn’t turn out differently.

I’ll always look back fondly when I think about this team, though. This was a helluva run! And it was a helluva finish to the Pac-12 experience as we know it. Not the outcome we wanted, obviously. But, it puts Washington back on the map, just as we enter Big Ten play next year. I, for one, can’t wait to see what the future holds for this program!

The Huskies Won The Sugar Bowl & Are Playing For A National Championship!

The Washington Huskies beat the Texas Longhorns in the Sugar Bowl 37-31, earning the right to play the Michigan Wolverines in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game.

That game was so surreal. We kicked off our January 1st by making the long drive from Port Orchard to Lake Sammamish for the annual Polar Plunge. There wasn’t snow on the ground as we did it, so already it was better than last time. People always talk about having the option of just jumping straight in, versus the long shallow run out to where it’s deep enough, followed by dunking yourself and running back, but I like the long run. It’s tough on my feet – which get incredibly cold – but the shock is far less dramatic when you finally get out there. For me, it involves going to about thigh-high water, turning around to face the beach, sitting on my butt, and dunking my head face-first. Then, it’s a frantic scramble to my feet and back out of the water. Maybe 20 seconds in total, but in the end I’m always glad I did it.

Then, we went over to our friends’ house to eat food, drink beers, and watch sports on the back porch. The Rose Bowl was first, and I’ll admit, I didn’t give it my full attention. Alabama looked like the better team early, but then Michigan really seemed to take it over. All told, the better team looked like it won that game.

I remember going into the Rose Bowl thinking people were too high on Alabama and not really giving Michigan the respect they deserved. That won’t be happening here with me.

Once the Sugar Bowl started, I was locked in. Much like how Michigan – by and large – looked like the better team, I thought Washington consistently looked like the better team. It’s insane how many opportunities we had to take over that game, only to let Texas back in every time. If that reminds you of both the Oregon games, I’d say we’re onto something.

We kicked off first, forced a punt, and marched right down the field (thanks to a 77 yard pass to Polk) to go up 7-0. Great start, only for the defense to give up a methodical drive to tie it at 7-7. Punts were exchanged, then the Huskies drove down for Dillon Johnson’s second TD rush of the game. We forced a subsequent 3 & Out and things were starting to look great, only to muff the punt and let them tie it at 14-14. We went on to get stuffed on downs (on an ill-advised Wildcat play), and things were looking a little rocky. But, we got the ball back, kept the ball for 4 and a half minutes, and went up by 7 with less than 2 minutes to go in the first half. Unfortunately, they marched it right up our asses to tie it at 21-21 at halftime.

We got the ball after the break and, again, methodically drove for another TD. Then, we forced a fumble on their first play of the second half, getting the ball in terrific field position. This was our chance, but they held us to a field goal and a 10-point lead. Nevertheless, we forced yet another punt and ate up the rest of third quarter driving down the field. Ultimately, we had to settle for another field goal and a 13-point lead, an ominous number with an entire quarter yet to play.

Where things got interesting is when we forced their second fumble of the half. They were on our side of the 50 and driving, so it couldn’t have come at a more opportune time. Score there, and the game is pretty much out of reach. No dice, though. We punted and they scored a TD 4 minutes later to make it 34-28.

As soon as we went up 13 points, I was saying, “We just need one more score and the game is ours.” Well, that score came on the very next drive. We got the ball back with 7 and a half minutes to go, we kept the ball for almost 5 of those minutes, and even though we had to settle for a field goal, we gave ourselves a 9-point lead with less than 3 minutes to go.

On top of which, we forced them to burn 91 seconds AND settle for a field goal. We got the ball back with 1:09 left in the game, with Texas only having two time outs to go. We burned both of them on run plays that netted us 5 yards. With 1:02 to go, we ran it once more. You burn 40 seconds there – plus the time it takes to actually run the play and set the ball – and we’re looking at less than 20 seconds to go in the game. In that scenario, Texas would have to be perfect JUST to put themselves in position for a Hail Mary.

Instead, Dillon Johnson injured his already-injured foot, to the point where he was writhing around in agony on the ground, had to be helped off the field by training staff, and was wincing the whole way back. It looked brutal, and is really the last thing we needed (both in this instance, and for next week). As it turns out, the coaches are at least publicly declaring Dillon Johnson will be back; I’ll believe it when I see it. But, for this game, it very nearly cost us our season.

See, there’s this stupid rule in college football, where even if you’re on offense, and even if you have a lead, if your own player gets hurt, the clock stops and doesn’t re-start again until the next snap. Nothing about this makes any sense; it makes perfect sense if the defense is faking injuries. But, what incentive does an offense have to fake injuries when they’re actively trying to burn the clock? IT’S FUCKING INSANE! If college football doesn’t change this stupid fucking rule, it’s really going to do some damage down the line.

Anyway, instead of Texas getting the ball back in time to have two, MAYBE three plays, they got the ball back with 41 seconds at their own 31 yard line. On 3rd & 10, they hit a deep one for 41 yards, then two plays later they hit another one for 16 yards, down to the Washington 12 yard line with 15 of the longest seconds of my life left to go. At least one of those receptions looked sketchy as hell, where he was actually bobbling the ball – to the point where the ball wasn’t even touching his hands – as he was stepping out of bounds. But, somehow, in spite of no contact on the football, he still had “control”. Bite me.

There was a quick pass for negative-one yard on first down, followed by a whopping THREE incompletes in 10 seconds. We made a miraculous play in the endzone to swat away the potential game-winner, preserving our chances at a college football championship.

Michael Penix was positively sublime in this game. 29/38 for 430 yards and 2 TDs. If we didn’t let off the throttle in the fourth quarter, those numbers could’ve been even better. As it was, I think he has the second or third most passing yards in a college football playoff game, which is incredible. The D-Line of Texas was as good as advertised, but while they occasionally got pressure on Penix, he was still able to maneuver around them for deep gains. Even better? He ran on designed read-option plays 3 times for 31 yards, which has to be keeping Michigan’s defensive coaching staff up at night, because this was decidedly NOT something he put on tape (at least in a Washington uniform) before this game.

Dillon Johnson, while vital, had a tough time getting things going in this one. He ran it 21 times for only 49 yards and the aforementioned 2 touchdowns. Tybo Rogers was the only other official running back to touch the ball and he only carried it 5 times for 19 yards. That’s not going to cut it next week.

The Big 5 receivers were all predictably outstanding! Rome Odunze led the way with 6 catches for 125 yards, Ja’Lynn Polk had 5 for 122 and a TD, Jack Westover – with his usual understated brilliance – had 6 for 59 yards, Jalen McMillan had 5 for 58 and a TD, and Germie Bernard had 3 for 48 yards. There was some crazy stat where Penix to the four wide receivers was 19 of 20, which is absolutely unbelievable!

The defense was up and down, about what you’d expect. We forced 5 punts and 2 fumbles, but they also gashed us for 318 yards passing and 6.4 yards per rush. If Texas had properly focused on running the ball down our throats, the game might’ve turned out very differently. But, our secondary did a good job of double-teaming their best receivers and forced them to beat us with lesser players. They very nearly did, but as always, the Washington defense did just enough to get the job done.

Bralen Trice really stood out, with 2 sacks, 5 tackles (3 for loss). We’ll need him, once again, to carry the mail next week, as he’s really the only guy getting consistent pressure on the quarterback. On the flipside, Washington’s O-Line was as good as advertised as well. Penix had zero sacks on him, and in the grand scheme of things – considering how ineffective we were running the ball, and how many times he ended up dropping back – relatively little pressure to speak of. And it’s not like we were dinking and dunking for quick passes! We were consistently shredding up their Swiss cheese defense!

Which brings us to Michigan. Rose Bowl champions, also 14-0 on the season. We haven’t faced a defense like this before. The closest, honestly, might’ve been what ASU was able to do against us. Granted, this will be a much different environment, but I fully expect the Wolverines to be VASTLY better than the Longhorns.

What has Michigan done this year? Well, they carved up their first 9 opponents, but those teams were all garbage. They pretty well handled a Top 10 Penn State team, but I think the Nittany Lions were vastly overrated. Michigan struggled in a let-down game against Maryland, then nipped Ohio State by one score. We’ll never really know how good Ohio State was this year, because they also didn’t play anyone before Michigan, and then all their best players dipped out of their bowl game (where they lost to Missouri 14-3). Michigan pounded a terrible Iowa team in the Big 10 Championship Game, before taking out Alabama.

Looking back at what we’ve seen so far this year, I think I agree with Brock’s assessment on today’s Brock & Salk show; the four best teams in college football were Michigan, Washington, Georgia, and Oregon. It would’ve been interesting to see what that playoff might’ve looked like.

I can’t sit here and tell you who’s better between Washington and Michigan. What I see from a team in Michigan is an absolute force defensively, and is good-enough offensively. What I see from a team in Washington is an absolute force offensively, and is good-enough defensively. I think Michigan’s offense is probably a little bit more competent than Washington’s defense; I don’t know what to think of Washington’s offense compared to Michigan’s defense, but I fear that also probably tips in their favor. But, again, I’ve seen like next-to-nothing of Michigan football this year, so I can’t speak with any sort of certainty. It’s all vibes, and right now, my vibes are VERY apprehensive.

In title games like these – where the main story is an elite offense vs. an elite defense – I never want to be on the side of the elite offense. It seems like the elite defense always prevails. My hope is that: maybe their defense isn’t as good as I think. I think that’s what I’m going to have to hang my hat on.

The Wolverines are favored by 4.5; for some reason, that feels right to me. They’re the team that the vast majority of the college football viewing public believes will prevail, they’re the higher-profile team with the big-name head coach, and they’re co-leaders of one of the two biggest conferences in the sport.

Washington, meanwhile, heads up a dying power five conference. We’re the team from the Pacific Northwest that no one ever really pays attention to (unlike Oregon, who everyone obnoxiously knows). Sure, we’re undefeated, but every game after the first four has been up for grabs in the fourth quarter, some of them coming down to one play at the very end. It’s been the most fun rollercoaster of a season I can possibly imagine, but it’s also shaky as hell, and at some point this kind of rollercoaster – where it’s missing a few bolts, and hasn’t been properly maintenanced in ages – will come hurtling off the tracks and crash and burn spectacularly. Can we avoid disaster for one more game? Or, will this be the one where it all falls apart and we get blown out by a team people couldn’t possibly despise more?

Michigan feels like the dominant program that’s been extremely relevant for the last two decades, whereas Washington still feels like a team that hasn’t been relevant since the early 90’s (with one blip in 2016 where we lost in the first round of the playoffs). But, that’s just marketing. Washington has been consistently better than Oregon, for instance, but Oregon is still the “class” of the west coast. Same goes with Michigan. What has Michigan done? Until the last few years, they couldn’t even unseat Ohio State for Christ’s sake! Washington last won a championship in 1991, but Michigan’s most recent title was in 1997. They haven’t done much of anything either, but they’re Michigan, so they go into seasons highly regarded and highly ranked, they beat up on a bunch of crap teams to stay highly ranked, and then they fall apart at the end.

Michigan has won the last three Big Ten titles. But, before this year’s Rose Bowl, they haven’t won a bowl game since 2015. They haven’t won a major bowl game since the Sugar Bowl in 2011. I know every team’s different, and it only takes one game to earn them a championship, but this isn’t a program we need to be afraid of. This isn’t some foregone conclusion that they’re going to beat us.

Can they? Of course. It honestly wouldn’t shock me in the least. Will they? Well, that depends. Is Washington going to be able to move the ball like we know they can? Like they’ve done against just about everyone the last two years? Well, if that’s the case, then I would expect we manage to keep it close.

Is Washington going to be able to do what they do on defense? Generate key stops at the most important times? Well, if that’s the case, then I would expect we’ll do what we’ve done all year long: pull it out of our asses at the end.

My gut tells me that this is Washington’s Cinderella moment, that the clock is going to strike midnight, and our coach is going to turn back into a pumpkin in this game. I hope to God I’m wrong. But, if you give me the choice of the elite offense or the awesome defense, I’m going to choose the awesome defense every time.

I’m going to be a nervous wreck all the way up until gametime, and for the next three hours or more. GodAwgs.

Dillon Johnson Is The Secret Sauce That Makes The Huskies Go

The Huskies have as good a chance as any of the four teams in the playoffs to go out and win the championship. I’m not going to say we definitely will, but I also don’t think it’s a total pipe dream either.

The Huskies have very unique and important strengths that make them among the very best teams in college football. They also have certain weaknesses that – if exploited – could cost us. But, I guess the points I’m clinging to are the fact that there’s no one super-dominant team that looks like an inevitable lock, and the Huskies specifically seem to have a knack for keeping games close and prevailing in the end.

Clearly, the biggest strength of the Huskies is Michael Penix and the receivers. Rome Odunze is one of the best wide receivers in the college game today. Jalen McMillan and Ja’Lynn Polk are as good as complementary receivers get. Even Germie Bernard – for a 4th receiver – is pretty special. And, of course, we can’t discount what Devin Culp and especially Jack Westover have done; they have some of the biggest receptions of the season on their ledgers! When you talk about the Huskies, this passing game is always going to be mentioned first and foremost.

There’s an element of “the Huskies are just getting by defensively” that I think isn’t quite fair to that side of the ball. Bralen Trice is one of the most dominant edge rushers in football right now; the pressure he consistently generates doesn’t always show up in the stat sheet. ZTF isn’t quite the dominant mastermind we all thought he’d be at this point in his career, but paired with Trice on the opposite side, you could do a lot worse. Linebackers Ulofoshio and Bruener aren’t huge names, but they’ve definitely picked up that unit from where it was the last few years; linebacking isn’t the black hole it once was. And, as a collective, the secondary plays bigger than its individual parts. Dominique Hampton certainly stands out as an enforcer, sometimes negatively, but oftentimes positively. Jabbar Muhammad is a solid playmaker on the outside. And, of course, we wouldn’t even be here without Mishael Powell’s pick six in that ASU game. The defense isn’t always pretty; it certainly isn’t the strength it was back in 2016. But, they find ways to get the job done and give our offense a chance to shine.

But, I gotta tell you, Dillon Johnson doesn’t get talked about enough. And it’s not even that he’s being ignored. People are aware. You don’t run for 256 yards against USC and not get noticed. They clearly recognize the skills. But, I’m here to say that – in spite of the praise he’s been getting – he STILL feels underrated to me.

The man is a phenom! We definitely, for whatever reason, took it slow with him the first month of the season. Seemed like more of a running back by committee situation, where we were just feeling guys out and seeing who meshed best. It also looks like maybe Johnson was injured for that Tulsa game (or else he just didn’t play for … reasons). But, he’s just special, man. He’s tough, he’s fast, he has great vision, he has great hands, he can block, he can line up out wide. You would think a guy with his body type wouldn’t have all the skills, but the dude has ALL THE SKILLS.

We all know how the bread is buttered on this team; again, it’s the passing game. But, the Huskies would not be undefeated and in these playoffs now if we had anyone less than Dillon Johnson as our lead back. On any other more run-focused team, Johnson would be pushing 1,500 yards and in the conversation for the Heisman Trophy. I can’t tell if he’s underutilized or utilized the appropriate amount, but for this team, he’s the ideal running back. He takes a lot of pressure off of Penix to be perfect, and he can also take over a game if we need him to. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, it’s a credit to Penix that he hasn’t fought our need to give Johnson the ball more. Johnson has 14 TDs on the year. It’s fair to wonder if you give half of those to Penix, would we be talking about him as the Heisman Trophy winner instead of that LSU guy?

It’s kinda crazy when you think about it. Dillon Johnson was a transfer from Mississippi State, where he played under Mike Leach in the Air Raid system. Why would a guy with his considerable abilities settle for an offense that hardly uses him at all? There are certainly times where it feels like the Transfer Portal can be a bit much, but then there are times like these where it feels like THIS is what it was meant for.

I don’t know what Johnson’s future is at the NFL level. I wonder if he has the raw testing numbers that make him an easy fit in the pros. But, if you focus on his abilities in pads, in game situations, I defy you to find a better running back coming out of college. I hope there’s a place for him in the NFL, because I think he’s more than earned it.

If the Huskies win this game in the Sugar Bowl – no easy feat, I assure you – it will be for plenty of reasons. But, chief among them will be how Dillon Johnson handles the stout front seven of the Texas Longhorns. Taking further pressure off of Penix by putting us in managable situations, and by keeping them honest so we can beat their secondary over the top. That’s the name of the game.

Whenever anyone talks about the Huskies, they talk about the passing game and only the passing game. But, this Husky team is actually one of the most balanced and successful attacks in all of college football. On this stage, I can’t wait for Johnson to show everyone what he’s capable of.

The Huskies Are Busy Building For The Future

We’re in prime Transfer Portal Szn across college football. It’s kind of a shitty time to be a college football fan, when it’s supposed to be the very best time.

College bowl games are the greatest. If it were up to me, I would be off of work right now and dedicating my days to nothing but college football enjoyment and chaos. But, I used up my PTO in admittedly more fun ways, so I just have to settle for what I can get outside of work hours.

But, the bowls are rendered less exciting when there’s so much flux going on across the sport. Guys are opting out to focus on turning pro. Pretty much, unless you’re one of the final four teams, you have to be worried about your biggest stars finishing out their college careers. Then, there are the players who are entering the transfer portal, and the coaches who are taking jobs with other programs.

The Huskies are poised to lose their Special Teams coordinator and defensive edge coach to be the DC at San Diego State. Part of me wonders if that’s the first of many coaches leaving for bigger opportunities elsewhere.

This isn’t something I’m trying to dwell on, though. We’re in the playoffs! We’re the #2 team in the nation, and we have an all-important Sugar Bowl game on January 1st to be concerned with! But, the sport of college football doesn’t stop just because I want it to.

There have been a number of acclaimed players opting to transfer to Washington in the last week or so. We picked up a bigtime DT from Montana State with one year of eligibility, who should help our interior pass rush in 2024. We picked up a potential starter at OT from San Diego State, with 3 years of eligibility, who has all the size and ability you’re looking for. We also picked up a defensive end from ASU who was the co-leader in sacks with 6 for the Sun Devils; he also has one year of eligibility. And, to boot, we picked up a grad transfer linebacker with a year of eligibility.

The Huskies will have a number of openings in 2024. Troy Fautanu, our LT, is likely going pro (and going very high in the draft to boot). Bralen Trice and Zion Tupuola-Fetui are both going pro, severely diminishing our defensive end position. Edefuan Ulofoshio and Ralen Goforth are both out of here. So, there’s immediate openings that these transfers could potentially fill.

But, of course, the elephant in the room is quarterback. Michael Penix is obviously in his final college season. That hole to fill is the size of a thousand Grand Canyons. Dylan Morris has already committed to transferring – apparently not seeing a path to starting for the Huskies barring injuries to his competition – so nabbing a transfer QB was always going to be in the cards.

As it turns out, that transfer QB ended up being Will Rogers, from Mississippi State. He’s thrown for over 12,000 yards in his career (apparently 2nd in SEC history) with 94 TDs and 28 INTs. He has one year of eligibility remaining.

This isn’t necessarily a 100% slam dunk. Rogers played in – and had his biggest success with – Mike Leach’s Air Raid system. His 2023 season was injury-riddled, as well as disappointing as the offensive scheme shifted away from the Air Raid after Leach’s untimely death. He apparently isn’t great at pushing the ball down the field, so it remains to be seen how well he’s going to fit into this system. But, at his best, he’s been accurate and extremely productive. There’s no reason to think he couldn’t be a quality passer for the Huskies next year. But, it’s no guarantee that he will be either.

These moves are all well and good; they appear to be ensuring the strength of the program in both the short and long term. But, the only thing I care about at this time is making sure the Huskies give Kalen DeBoer an extension and a raise. The next thing I’d like to see is for this team to find a way to keep Ryan Grubb in the fold for as long as possible. This only works – this only continues – as long as we can keep our coaching staff intact. I’ve never had an OC this effective since I’ve been a fan of the Huskies, so it’ll definitely be a significant transition when we finally have to move on to someone else; I’d like to delay that as long as humanly possible.

Michael Penix Came In Second For The Heisman Trophy, As People Continue To Overlook The Huskies

Jayden Daniels is your Heisman Trophy winner. He beat Penix by a little over 300 vote-points, who had a healthy margin over Bo Nix and everyone else in contention.

This partially feels like Daniels won by default. I know most analytically-minded people hate it when QB Winzzz gets thrown into the discussion of the greatest quarterbacks, but I think it’s pretty clear that wins and losses play a significant factor. And no one could’ve been happy voting for a guy in Daniels whose team had three losses and was a non-factor in the college football playoffs (with LSU finishing ranked 13th in the country).

The easy pick would’ve been Bo Nix, but he had to go and lose a second time to Penix and Washington. That essentially flipped that race in favor of Penix, but then you had to look at the overall numbers, and they weren’t super sterling for our guy.

Penix led the country in passing yards with 4,218; Daniels was third with 3,812. However, Penix had negative rushing yards, while Daniels had over 1,100. Daniels also had 50 total TDs compared to 36 for Penix. Penix’s completion percentage dipped to 65.9%, his yards per attempt dipped to 9.1, and he finished with 9 INTs (all numbers were bested by Daniels).

If you were voting for Penix, you were voting for his 13-0 team record and Washington’s spot as the #2 team in the country heading into the playoffs. I’ll admit, I’m conflicted on the whole thing. The homer in me wanted Penix to have it. More than anything, I just wanted Penix to beat out Nix, but that’s neither here nor there. But, objectively, I think they got it right. Penix was great, but he wasn’t the very best. I might’ve taken this opportunity to give the award to someone OTHER than a quarterback. I’m happy for him that he was considered, and that he got so close, but this season is about more than just a Heisman. It’s about the playoffs and winning a championship.

The discourse around these playoff matchups is pretty hilarious. I don’t want to say NOBODY is giving Washington a chance, but I think a lot of people are skeptical at the least. It does seem to favor us that we drew Texas as our first round matchup, as I think it’s generally considered that Michigan and Alabama would both be scarier opponents at this point in the season. Taking nothing away from Texas who beat Alabama this year, but it’s a Nick Saban-coached team in the post-season over a Sark-coached team. Like, what are we talking about here?

But, you can clearly see who’s been overcome by SEC bias and who hasn’t. Who’s actually stayed up and watched Washington’s games and who hasn’t. I think Booger McFarland is an entertaining football pundit and radio guest, but his argument against Washington is pretty sketchy. He says we don’t play “big boy football” and are likely to get beat in the trenches. That’s tough for me, because Washington’s offensive line has been pretty phenomenal for the last two seasons. Between their solid play, and Penix’s savvy at getting rid of the ball quickly, he’s been one of the least-sacked quarterbacks in the game.

Just because the Huskies have been pretty elite on the O-Line doesn’t guarantee that’s going to continue indefinitely. This game is likely to hinge on that matchup. Penix hasn’t been the best when pressured, or throwing on the run. I’m not going to sit here and say he NEEDS the cleanest of pockets in order to succeed, but when he has made mistakes, it’s usually when he’s under intense pressure.

If I had to guess, I’d say Booger’s point lies more with the Husky defensive front. I’ll give him that, to a point. The sheer numbers aren’t there as far as sacks are concerned. Based on the all-important Eye Test, I’d say there’s a little bit of smoke & mirrors when it comes to the job the Husky defense has done. There HAS been pressure generated, though. Guys are affecting opposing QBs, forcing them into subpar decisions. And the secondary is relatively opportunistic.

But, if we’re talking Eye Tests, then I’d have to say that Washington isn’t a one-trick pony. They’re not “basketball on grass” as he derisively suggested. This is a team that can get it done any number of ways. Shut down our deep passing game? We can beat you underneath. Slowing the game down to a slugfest? Meet Dillon Johnson, the best running back in America nobody is talking about. Got us caught up in a shootout? Good luck! We can pretty much score at will. Need a stop? The defense can get it done in the fourth quarter, with the game on the line. Need to run out the clock? The offense will find a way to keep generating first downs. Down late and need a 4th down conversion on our own side of the 50? Allow us to utilize a play you’ve never seen us show before, to pick up that first down and then some.

The Huskies are battle-tested in a way no other team in the playoffs can match. And now you’re giving us a game in a climate-controlled dome? Against a team we’ve seen before relatively recently? With all of our guys fully healthy, and oh by the way, we also get the addition of transfer Zach Durfee for this run? Someone with fresh legs, who’s been killing it in practice, and has a track record of being a disruptive force?

Keep overlooking us. That’s fine. I think we’ve done enough to earn a little more respect, but whatever we can do to add a little more bulletin board material is all right in my book.

It’s Absurd That Florida State Isn’t In The Playoffs

This falls into the Better Them Than Us camp of fandom, because as long as the Huskies are in the final four, I don’t really care how it shakes out for anyone else. But, it’s still a pretty blatant miscarriage of justice that Florida State is undefeated and was kept out of the playoffs, and if the shoe was on the other foot, I’d be ranting and raving like nobody’s business!

Through Week 12 of the college football season, Florida State was ranked in the top 4. After Washington beat Oregon State on the road, that’s where things flipped: we were 4th and they dropped to 5th. Which made sense, right? Our strength of schedule was tougher, and we finally started getting the respect we were due (one could argue it was overdue, but that’s neither here nor there). By Week 14, though, FSU was right back in the top four, thanks to Michigan beating Ohio State. With their showdown against 14th-ranked Louisville looming, all they had to do was win and they’d be in, right? Right?!

Wrong! Apparently, Florida State also needed Georgia to win the SEC Championship Game, and apparently Oklahoma State to defeat Texas in the Big-12 Championship Game. Who knew that an undefeated power five conference champion needed so many other things to go right just to make the playoffs? Especially when they were already ranked in the top four to begin with!

But, there you have it. Michigan 1, Washington 2, Texas 3, Alabama 4 (with FSU 5 being a pretty generous ranking, considering by this logic, it’s all but a given that Georgia would be ranked ahead of FSU even with the one loss to the #4 team in the country).

So, how did this happen?

Well, it doesn’t help that Clemson – the only other true powerhouse in the ACC – had a down season, finishing 8-4 and only ranked 22nd in the country. The ACC only had Louisville and NC State ranked in the Top 20 (both in the teens), so FSU’s strength of conference schedule was a little lacking. They made up for that by scheduling a neutral-site game against LSU, and playing Florida on the road late in the season. LSU finished the season ranked 13th, and while Florida finished outside of bowl contention, it’s nevertheless a middling SEC team on the road, which is nothing to sneeze at (especially considering the rivalry’s history).

I can’t sit here and tell you that Florida State deserved to be ranked ahead of Michigan or Washington, but I think they did enough to make it in the top four.

Again, how did this happen?

Now we have to talk about Texas and Alabama. Did you know they played each other? Don’t that just beat all?! The game was in Alabama and Texas won 34-24. At that time, it looked like maybe Bama was in a rebuilding season. While it was too early to crown Texas, you had to like that feather in their cap going forward. But, who could’ve imagined how important that game would end up being?

Alabama has yet to lose another game. Texas would go on to lose a one-score game at home to Oklahoma (who would go on to finish 12th, and outside of the Big-12 Championship Game). Both teams, as I mentioned, would go on to win their respective conference titles. As did Michigan, as did Washington, as did the aforementioned Florida State Seminoles.

At some point between the final week in the regular season – when the Longhorns were ranked 7th in the country – and them beating a then-18th ranked Oklahoma State Cowboys team, it was decided that the playoffs could absolutely NOT be without Texas. Apparently that one victory was so impressive, they could not be denied. And, since they previously beat Alabama on the road, we knew without a shadow of a doubt that Texas had to be ranked ahead of Bama. We had proof! The game on the field decided it!

Even though, you know, the playoff committee seems to be pretty wishy-washy when it comes to the actual game results mattering or not.

Texas was 7th, they beat the 18th-ranked team in the nation, bingo bango bongo, they’re 3rd. Florida State was 4th, they beat the 14th-ranked team in the nation (Louisville), bingo bango bongo, they take a step back to 5th. Make sense? Of course not.

In totality, all Texas did this year was beat Bama. It was never really about Texas at all. They beat Kansas State (very generously ranked 25th at the most recent poll, for reasons that elude me, considering they’re unranked by the AP and Coaches), they beat OK State once (in the title game), and they lost to the only other good team they played, Oklahoma. That isn’t a resume that screams WE NEED TEXAS OVER FSU! It’s fine.

No, as usual, this was about the SEC. It always is.

So, how did this really happen?

Well, as I said, Bama ripped off 11 wins in a row, including the all-important one in the SEC Championship Game. There’s no way a 2-loss Bama team would’ve made it into the final four, that’s a given. But, there’s also no way an SEC team is going to be left out of the playoffs entirely. That’s not how this works. The league is the most hyped thing in all of sports. Just being one of the bottom-dwellers gives you the kind of cred any other conference can only dream of.

Once you had this red-hot one-loss Alabama team that knocked off Georgia – ending college football’s longest active winning streak – it was a foregone conclusion that Alabama would be in the playoffs. And since Texas already beat Alabama, the rising (crimson) tide lifted both boats to the promised land, knocking FSU out accordingly.

Is it fair? Absolutely not. Who did Alabama beat this year before Georgia? An Ole Miss team outside of the top 10, a Tennessee team outside of the top 20, and LSU (another team outside the top 10). And, I would argue, would any of those teams be rated even as high as they were if they were in the ACC or the Big-12? Probably not. By the by, all of those wins came at home or on a neutral field.

And, if you want to get into the weeds of unimpressive, close wins (as Washington had to endure for most of the second half of this season), take a look at a 14-point victory over UCF, a 6-point win over a Texas A&M team that would fire its head coach, and a 3-point win over a 6-win Auburn team. Meanwhile, Florida State was killing everyone until their starting quarterback got hurt, yet they still found ways to stay undefeated after he was lost for the season.

Which leads us perfectly to the stupidest part of the whole argument, but before I get to that, let’s put a bow on the SEC-ness of it all. Because, let’s pretend for a moment that Bama lost one of their conference games in the lead-up to the SEC title game, and were therefore eliminated from playoff contention. Even if they had beaten Georgia the way they did, I would argue that a 1-loss Georgia team would’ve been playoff-bound regardless (to say nothing of the fact that Georgia would be there now if they’d remained undefeated). The committee would’ve done backflips, but they would’ve made it happen, no doubt in my mind.

Why is that?

Because Florida State lost their quarterback to a broken leg (the aforementioned stupidest part of the whole argument). They were getting by thanks to a backup, who then missed the ACC title game thanks to a minor injury. He figures to be back by the time they play in their bowl game, but apparently he’s not good enough to matter.

The most absurd thing about this argument for Bama and Texas over FSU is the notion that the Seminoles aren’t as good of a team because of a quarterback injury. While that might be true, how does that take precedence over what the TEAM did without him? They won all their games! That’s supposed to mean something if you’re in a power five conference! But, instead, you’ve got committee members pouring over rosters and injured lists to compensate for a lack of otherwise concrete data. What’s next? Picking teams based on the ranking of their incoming recruiting classes for next year?

If it was me, I probably would’ve gone Michigan 1, Washington 2, Florida State 3, and Texas 4. I think Georgia was overrated all season, and never deserved to be the #1 team overall. It was carryover from their championship last year, and they played pretty much nobody until the final month of the season. That takes some of the sheen off of Alabama’s victory over them in the SEC title game, which is more than enough to propel Texas into the top 4 (and Bama out entirely). Ohio State doesn’t get consideration because they also played no one, and didn’t even make the Big Ten Conference Championship Game.

There’s no solace coming with the playoff format changes next year. That doesn’t do anything to give FSU a shot THIS year; who knows if they’ll even be good in 2024? Frankly, I think the playoffs would be more interesting with them in it. If for no other reason than all the howling contempt from SEC fans, who’d be forced to watch the rest of us take what they believe to be rightfully theirs.

It’s a travesty of justice. But, what do you expect? College football has always been as corrupt as it gets outside of FIFA and maybe the IOC. It makes no sense whatsoever that a committee of people would have this much power over what actually happens on the gridiron. But, it is what it is.

Once we get to a 12-team playoff, it will be a lot harder to have this discussion. If you can’t crack the top 12 – even in a ranking system that’s decided by a committee – then did you really deserve a chance at the college football championship? Probably not. But, again, FSU has a legitimate gripe, and it’s unconscionable that they’re left out.

This Is The Best Husky Football Team I’ve Ever Seen

For the record, I didn’t become a Husky football fan until I started attending the University of Washington in 1999. Admittedly, I don’t know how much of the team I actually followed that year, but I do remember being 100% on-board for the 2000 team and going forward. That’s a relatively quick way of saying I wasn’t part of the Don James heyday. In fact, I actively disliked the Huskies all my life up until I was accepted in my senior year of high school.

Before this year, the best Husky team I’ve ever seen was clearly the 2016 squad that went 11-1 in the regular season, won the conference title over Colorado, and made it to the first round of the playoffs (where we lost to Alabama in the Peach Bowl 24-7). I will say that I have a soft spot for that 2000 team that went 10-1 in the regular season before defeating Drew Brees and Purdue in the Rose Bowl. We were shut out of the BCS Championship Game, saddled with a #4 ranking. I’ll always wonder what we could’ve accomplished had they had a 4-team playoff like we do today.

But, that 2016 team was something special. It’s a year I’ll never forget. The defense was outstanding, the offense had stars at the skill positions, and a steady quarterback who was accurate and careful with the football. They stopped the losing streak to Oregon for crying out loud!

The circumstances around that season afforded the Huskies the luxury of being a 1-loss playoff team. That never would’ve happened this year, especially if that one loss came in the final Pac-12 Championship Game of all time.

As we all know, my confidence in the Huskies beating the Ducks for a second time this season – and a third time in the least two years – was shamefully low. I couldn’t be more thrilled to be so wrong!

We jumped out to a 10-0 lead after the first quarter, dominating time of possession and forcing the Ducks into back-to-back 3 & Outs to start the game. Unfortunately, Penix overthrew Jalen McMillan on our third drive of the day, in what would’ve put us up 17-0 and really gotten a stew going. We still managed to go up 20-3 late in the first half, after forcing a third 3 & Out by the Ducks. But, that’s where things started to get scary.

The Ducks marched right down the field with under 2 minutes to go in the half, to pull the game to 20-10. They subsequently got the ball to start the third quarter and again marched right down the field to make it 20-17. Then, we picked the absolute worst possible time to get intercepted. Thankfully, our defense got the ball right back two plays later thanks to a Bo Nix pick. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to settle this game down, as Oregon took a 24-20 lead into the fourth quarter.

That’s when we finally woke up! I’m not gonna lie to you, my wife and I were on the road for the entire first half – until just before the Ducks scored on their 2-minute drive – when we checked into a Kirkland hotel to spend the night. I was VERY concerned that the Huskies were only winning so handily at that time because we were listening on the radio. So, it was nice to see my weak-willed motherfucker instincts were incorrect. The Huskies got back in the endzone to make it 27-24, forced an Oregon punt, then scored again to go up by 10 points with a little under three minutes left in the game. The Ducks proceeded to go 75 yards in 30 seconds (literally) to pull the game back to within 3 points. But, we were able to run out the clock on them and win a game we were projected to lose by double digits!

I would’ve been curious to see what this game looked like from the very beginning, because other than the mid-game lull between the end of the second quarter and the beginning of the fourth quarter, it seemed like the Huskies were in complete control. That, quite frankly, starts with Dillon Johnson, who had another MONSTER game. 152 yards on 28 carries with 2 rushing TDs, a reception for 7 yards, and if that wasn’t enough, a 4-yard TD pass when he shovelled to Germie Bernard crossing behind the line of scrimmage. Just a brilliant game from our most unheralded super-stud!

What I’m really interested in is how Bo Nix compares to Michael Penix. All I saw from Nix – when we finally showed up to Top Golf to watch the game in the bar area – was excellence. But, he struggled for a lot of the first half, and I can’t help but wonder if this was related to his Heisman Trophy candidacy.

When it comes to great quarterbacks, there are two kinds: those who care about stats and personal accolades, and those who care more about winning. The Seahawks recently employed a guy we all THOUGHT only cared about winning, until it became blatantly obvious Russell Wilson cared more about his personal legacy. Which is what makes Michael Penix so refreshing, and has to be a disappointment for anyone who had their eggs in the Bo Nix basket.

It seems like the Ducks had every opportunity to win this game on the ground. Bo Nix himself ran for 69 yards on 6 carries. But, I would argue the Ducks are actually strongest at running back, and between Nix and the two backs, this game might’ve looked a lot different if they relied on the ground game. Instead, Nix threw it 34 times, was frequently pressured, and ultimately limited to 21 completions for 239 yards and 3 TDs (with the 1 INT).

Penix, meanwhile, had the more efficient game (27 for 39 for 319 yards) even though he only had the 1 TD to go along with the INT. He got the ball to our play-makers as he always does (McMillan came back with a vengeance to catch 9 for 131, Odunze had his usual excellent game of 8 for 102, and Ja’Lynn Polk had a nice bounce-back after some drop-filled performances, catching 5 for 57), but then he ceded the important moments to Dillon Johnson, who really deserved the game MVP given what he was able to do.

As it stands, Penix most likely won’t win the Heisman. However, given how Nix lost twice and failed to lead his team to the playoffs, I can’t imagine he’ll win it either. That’s usually what happens to players who care more about their own stats than winning: they fail to win games AND they fail to win the awards they so crave.

It was cool having this all wrapped up on Friday night, because we had all day Saturday to bask in the afterglow of our achievement, knowing with as much certainty as one can that we’d be a lock for the playoffs. Was there still an inkling of a doubt? Naturally. Especially when Michigan and Texas both won, Alabama beat Georgia, Florida State remained undefeated, and we still had certain 1-loss teams lurking like Ohio State. It wouldn’t be the first time a 1-loss team who didn’t even play in its own conference title game somehow made it into the playoffs. When you know the games don’t really matter, and some committee is going to pick the four teams it thinks are best, literally anything can happen (more on that in another post).

Thankfully, Washington was able to earn enough respect to be ranked #2 overall. It’s weird to not have a team in the SEC in the top two, but here you have it:

  1. Michigan (13-0)
  2. Washington (13-0)
  3. Texas (12-1)
  4. Alabama (12-1)
  5. Florida State (13-0)
  6. Georgia (12-1)
  7. Ohio State (11-1)
  8. Oregon (11-2)
  9. Missouri (10-2)
  10. Penn State (10-2)

Just as Oregon was the highest-ranked team with one loss, now they’re the highest-ranked team with two losses. Arizona finished 14th and Oregon State finished 19th, giving the Pac-12 four teams in the top 20. I don’t know if it mattered or not, but Utah was one of the first teams out of the Top 25 in both the AP and Coaches polls. Which just further goes to show what kind of team Washington is, that we were able to win five games against Top 30 opponents, which doesn’t even factor in USC and their high-flying offense, and the rest of the conference, which doesn’t play like the bottom-feeders we see in other conferences.

Is there an argument to be made that we deserved the top seed? Absolutely. Michigan beat Ohio State once, Penn State once, and a garbage Iowa team that couldn’t even put up a single point in the Big Ten Championship Game. We had to beat Oregon twice, an underrated Arizona team, and a rock-solid Oregon State team (both on the road). You think Michigan would’ve beaten the Buckeyes in back-to-back weeks? Because I certainly have my doubts.

But, you know, I’m not going to get a big bug up my ass about it. Michigan is saddled with playing the red-hot Crimson Tide – who just took out the previous #1 team in the nation – so what did they get for all their troubles?

Not that Texas is chopped liver, given that they gave that red-hot Crimson Tide team its only defeat. But, we do have to go all the way to New Orleans – instead of playing in the Rose Bowl – so you could say no one is really happy in this scenario.

But, we did beat the Longhorns in last year’s bowl game. I know these are different teams in different situations, but it’s nice to at least have a little bit of familiarity. I thought we looked shaky as hell in that game last year, so it would be nice to come out a little sharper after this next month off from game action.

Let’s hope we do better than the PREVIOUS best Husky team I’ve ever seen!