The Huskies Beat Up On The Fighting Hawks, Now It’s On To Utah

Last week’s 45-3 win was nothing special, but it was fun nonetheless.  I got to go to this one, and honestly the tailgating was the best part.

I thought the defense bounced back nicely.  Not that North Dakota poses much of a threat, but still.  I could’ve easily seen them throw up some garbage TDs late in the game, but we held them to just a field goal.  Really, their one long run of 69 yards (nice) was the only thing they did all day.

The offense, however, was another story.  Now, maybe it’s the dozens of beers I consumed that morning, but I really don’t remember us looking all that good.  The numbers would appear to bear that out.  Jake Browning threw for 313 yards and 2 TDs, but he also threw 2 picks.

The real galling thing about this game was how inept our rushing attack was for the second week in a row.  I mean, we’ve bolstered our O-Line, and we have an NFL running back in Myles Gaskin as our lead rusher; HOW ARE WE THIS BAD?  Gaskin ran 15 times for only 53 yards.  Salvon Ahmed had a solid game, but they only handed him the ball 4 times!  For 44 yards!  IT’S TIME TO GIVE AHMED MORE TOUCHES YOU GUYS, IN CASE YOU HAVEN’T NOTICED, HE’S PRETTY FUCKING GREAT!

There was apparently a lot of rushing after I left early in the 4th quarter – to go and catch that evening’s Mariners game – because the team as a whole looked okay with 195 yards and a 5.7 yards-per-carry average.  But, for the first half – where the Huskies only amassed a 17-0 lead – it was, as coach said, pedestrian.

I still stand by what I said before the Auburn game – I do believe it’s better to play those teams right out of the gate, as the surprise factor more than anything can be a big equalizer, particularly on the road like that – but maybe it wasn’t the best thing for THIS Husky team.  Maybe this team needed a soft landing to start the season, before ramping up against the more elite teams.

I sure as shit hope so, because we’ve got a pretty good team coming up this week in the Utes.  It’s a road game, it’s at 7pm, and it’s going to be a dogfight in every sense of the term!

Can’t lose this game.  At all.  I think that snuffs our playoff hopes before they even got started, and that would be a bummer too big to overcome.  Sure, the conference title would still be in play, but it sucks to think that’s a consolation prize this early in the season.  I’d like to still have that inkling of hope, if that’s all right with the Huskies.

I will say that I’m NOT going to jump on this bandwagon of fans who are clamoring for Jake Haener to take over for Browning … but I’d certainly consider it a lot more if Browning lays an egg in Utah.  At this point, I have to believe it’s all mental with him, and if he’s going to have the yips in every big game we play, then it’s time to move on and look to the future.  This Husky team is TOO GOOD to have a sub-par quarterback ruining the entire season.

Washington Lost To Auburn In The Stupidest Way Possible

Look, to try to recount every single way the Washington Huskies shot themselves in the foot would be an exercise in futility.  A Browning fumble here, a mind-boggling interception there, a missed field goal, a missed targeting penalty that falls on both the refs on the field and the replay review board … I mean, my blood is boiling the more I think about this shit.

The losers of these types of games always say this, but I’ll say it anyway:  THE BETTER TEAM LOST!  Auburn didn’t deserve that win.  But, I guess neither did Washington.

It’s not JUST Jake Browning’s fault, but boy does he carry his fair share of the burden.  The thing is, he didn’t totally shit the bed.  He threw for 296 yards and a 9.3 yard average.  I’d argue the play-calling did him little favors, and he compounded those by making things a million times worse.  I mean, if you’re throwing the ball away, THROW IT OUT OF FUCKING BOUNDS!  You’re a 4th year starter; that’s a mistake a true Freshman makes!  Also, if you’re going to run a fucking option play near the goalline, PITCH THE FUCKING BALL ON TIME!  Once again, it smacks of Browning trying to do too much; trying to shed this label of him not showing up in big games.  Just play within the offense and let your teammates make plays, THAT’S where Browning is elite.  We don’t need him to be Russell Wilson, we just need him to be Alex Smith and manage the fucking game.

Also, man, how soft was that defense?  They tightened up in the second half with some adjustments, but Auburn was still able to move the ball at will pretty much all game.  No turnovers, only 2 sacks, minimal pressure on the quarterback, and our vaunted secondary was picked apart!  Auburn’s mediocre quarterback was able to throw for 273 yards on 26/36 passing (and obviously a bevy of missed tackles were the shitty icing on top).

Just a fucking disaster from the get-go.  Obviously, it’s never good when your starting left tackle is hurt, but there should be enough depth on this team to compensate.  This was more about execution and I put as much of the blame on the coaching staff for not getting these players ready in time.  You had all off-season!  These looked like lost, scared little kids through most of the first half, and that’s on Coach Pete.

The shitty thing is that I don’t know how good Auburn really is.  They didn’t look particularly elite to me; I could easily see them losing 3-4 games this year.  We most likely lost to an inferior team in what was truly a home game for them, and losing that game will do us much more harm than the good of the fact that they’re on our schedule in the first place.

What I’m clinging to – because it feels wrong to abandon all hope on the season after 1 game – is that the Huskies are still a great team.  So great, in fact, that I have no doubt we can run the table if we catch a few breaks here and there.  Honestly, after some of the shit that’s gone down the last couple years, we DESERVE some breaks to go our fucking way!  I thought the passing game in general really stepped up in this one; we might not see a better defense the rest of the regular season.  So, that means we should be able to move the ball with regularity.

As predicted, this game came down to the Husky run game, and as I warned, if we ran for less than 150 yards as a team, we’d lose the game.  We ran for 102 on 33 carries.  Really, 8 of those carries were on the QB scrambling, so throw those away.  Our actual running backs had 24 carries for 111, which still isn’t great, but it’s a fine average.  Even though our pass game was getting big chunk plays, I thought we went away from the run too much.  I also thought the team should’ve used Salvon Ahmed more, as his quick burst as a change-of-pace to Gaskin was able to gash them pretty regularly.

So, yeah, SHITTY start to the season.  Got to put it behind us and get on with the rest of it.  There are a ton of games left in the college football season and when it comes time to decide the bowl/playoff teams, no one is really going to remember a whole lot about this Washington/Auburn game.  If I’m wrong and the Tigers are great, then the Huskies can hang their hats on playing them close; if I’m right and they’re mediocre, then whatever, it’s only one road loss in a tough environment against a pre-season top 10 team.  The Huskies have to take care of business the rest of the way, so let’s go to work.

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!

I Hate Everyone & Everything: The Huskies Lost To ASU

You know what I hate the most, aside from the fact that the Huskies lost 13-7?  I hate that all those smug national (east coast) pundits get to think they’re right.  They get to believe that the Pac-12 is a garbage fire, and they get to believe that the Huskies aren’t very good.

I hate that 1 loss means the Huskies are out of the running (barring about a million other things going right) of the College Football Playoff.

I hate that this ongoing “haven’t won at ASU” streak gets to continue for another two years.  It’s not even clever or interesting, it’s just random and stupid!

I hate that we’ve been ignoring how mediocre this offense has been all year, and now it’s all anyone’s ever going to talk about.

I hate this mediocre offense.

I hate that the offensive line is as mediocre as it is, when it should be one of this team’s top strengths.  We should be the Dallas Cowboys of offensive lines compared to the rest of the Pac-12!

I hate that we were THIS close to the BYE week, followed by 4 of the next 5 games at home.

I hate that we lost to THIS team, a terrible, pathetic ASU team.

I hate that Coach Pete opted to try that chipshot field goal instead of going for it on 4th down.  Worst case:  you back them up at the 1 yard line.  Instead, the worst case became missing the fucking field goal on the most pathetic kick I’ve ever seen in my fucking life!  I could tell by the kid’s body language alone that he wasn’t going to make ANYTHING after that first missed kick!

I hate our shitty fucking kickers.

I hate that our shitty veteran kicker put that Freshman in that position by sucking in all the games before this one.

I hate that our defense keeps coming out flat on the road in the first quarter.

I hate that our defense sucked at tackling throughout this game, particularly on that third down in that first drive, where we could’ve stopped them from ever scoring, except the guy broke about a million tackles to get the first down.

I hate that the rest of these games are effectively meaningless.  Oh sure, there’s still the conference and the Rose Bowl(?) or whatever major bowl is up for grabs, but it’s sure to be a collosal let down.

I hate that we really haven’t taken that next step.  We’re NOT in the realm of Alabama or Clemson or Ohio State.  We’re still a tier down.

I hate that I haven’t been to a tailgate yet, and the first one I go to (on the 28th) is going to feel like a wake, at least to me.

I hate that our shitty schedule means that 1 loss is all it takes to keep us from advancing to the playoffs.

I hate that there are 5 major conferences and only 4 playoff spots.  I think each major conference winner should get a spot, plus 3 at larges.

I hate that we lost.

I hate that everything feels different now.

I hate that this is how we have to spend our BYE week, instead of celebrating a potentially Top 3 or Top 4 team in the nation.

I hate everyone.

I hate everything.

The Huskies Didn’t Let Cal Do Anything

Quick post from my Hawaiian vacation:

The defense held the Bears to an absurdly low number of yards and they were only able to score on a fumble returned for a touchdown.  38-7, Huskies, where the story of the day was Coach Pete complaining about the late starts we’ve had to endure, ESPN taking it as a personal attack when he never once referenced them, then ESPN getting their panties in a wad because he wouldn’t meet personally with their announcing crew the day before the game (even though this is something he similarly avoids with every announcing crew).

I can sort of see both sides of the argument on this one.  It’s a hardship on the fans to have every game be a night game.  And no, the East Coasters are never going to watch our games with any regularity if they keep STARTING at 10:45pm Eastern.  But, the Huskies are still getting more exposure by having that national ESPN timeslot, regardless of how late it starts than they would if the game were on the Pac-12 Network, for instance.  Of course, Larry Scott doesn’t give a shit, because the Pac-12 Network isn’t on DirecTV for some mind-bogglingly stupid reason (the Pac-12 isn’t the SEC or even the Big 10, when it comes to fan fervor, so stop trying to demand equal pay and just GET the fucking network more exposure!), and so the cycle continues.

Anyway, now ESPN is butthurt, and Husky fans are equally butthurt because ESPN called the Huskies out on their easy non-conference schedule, and so now this is a thing we have to waste braincells on.

Did I mention I’m on vacation right now?  I’ve got to go.  God Awgs!

Mount Rushmore: Seattle Head Coaches/Managers

Yesterday:  Seattle Sports Announcers

It’s All Star Week in Major League Baseball, which means it’s pretty much a dead week in sports.  I’m not 12 years old, so the All Star Game doesn’t mean anything to me; I’m not 62 years old, so golf doesn’t mean anything to me.  But, a blogger’s job is never done!  Or, I dunno, maybe it’s been done ad nauseam.  Either way, I’ve got nothing timely to write about, and I’ve got nothing else better to do, so I’m doing this.

We’re celebrating some of the local Mount Rushmores in a series of posts this week, because that’s something people do, right?  Sports radio and the like; what’s your Mount Rushmore of Stand-Up Comedians?  Off the top of my head, I’d have to say Dave Attell, Chris Rock, Tig Notaro, and Dave Chappelle, but ask me another day and I might give you four completely different names.

Today, I’m going to delve into the head coaches and managers of the various local sports teams.

In spite of the fact that Seattle is far from Titletown, U.S.A., this was actually a pretty difficult exercise.  Ironically, because there were TOO MANY good coaches to choose from!  I’ll tell you right now, this one is bound to be my most controversial Mount Rushmore of the week, but IDGAF.  Come at me, broseph!

For starters, right or wrong, I’ve put OVERWHELMING emphasis on those head coaches who led their respective teams to championships.  I mean, it’s obscene, which is why I’m going to start this post with my Honorable Mentions, and I’m going to lead off those Honorable Mentions with probably the most glaring omission (but hear me out):  Lou Piniella.

Look, I love Sweet Lou as much as the next guy, and if I were simply ranking managers of the Seattle Mariners, he’s obviously at the top of the list.  And, while much of this isn’t his fault, I would argue he’s not entirely blameless for the fact that the Mariners only made it to the playoffs 4 times in his 10-year career.  And in those 4 years, they failed to get past the American League Championship Series (often never really making it much of a challenge).  Those teams were absolutely LOADED with talent!  Are you kidding me?  Not even a single World Series appearance in the bunch?  I know, the organizational management of those teams was severely lacking; they bungled a bunch of trades, mishandled two of our greatest players (Griffey and Randy) to the point that both wanted out of the organization, and refused to pony up the cash to keep the best player on the planet – Alex Rodriguez – when he became a free agent.  That having been said, I’ve never really had much respect for baseball managers; what do they do besides write a lineup and make bullpen decisions?  Manage player egos?  Ooo!  Big whup!  Head coaches in other sports do that too, and they do a lot of other stuff that has more of an impact.  Naw, I’m not buying baseball and I’m not buying Lou Piniella.  If Mount Rushmore had 5 people on it, I probably STILL wouldn’t have him on it!

Because that leads me to my next omission:  Mike Holmgren.

At least he took the Seahawks to a Super Bowl!  I would argue both he and Piniella have to be credited with changing the culture of losing for their respective Seattle-based teams, but they JUST didn’t quite get it done when it mattered most.  There were some extenuating circumstances with Super Bowl XL and the officiating that I won’t get into here, but alas, Holmgren just misses the cut.

Some other Honorable Mentions include, in no particular order:  Chuck Knox (very underrated as the leader of the Seahawks in the 80s); Nate McMillan (doing a lot with a little in a mis-managed Sonics organization, particularly in the Howard Schultz years); Gil Dobie, Enoch Bagshaw, Hec Edmundson, Tippy Dye, Marv Harshman, and some of those other old-timer Husky football and basketball coaches (who are obviously WAY before my time); Jim Lambright (who somehow held the Huskies together after sanctions and an acrimonious split with Don James); and Lorenzo Romar (whose ignominious end to his tenure should do nothing to tarnish what was a tremendous achievement for Husky basketball).

So, without further ado, I present my Mount Rushmore of Seattle-based head coaches.

At the top of the list was the easiest pick of them all:  Don James.

The Dawgfather.  Head coach of the University of Washington football team, from 1975-1992.  He’s the closest thing we had to a Bobby Bowden, Bear Bryant, Steve Spurrier, or Joe Paterno (without all the child rape).  He led the Huskies to a National Championship in 1991 and was poised to continue to do so for years to come if not for the Lack of Institutional Control scandal that ultimately led to him resigning in protest for the unfair sanctions on the team.  Also, not for nothing, but the Huskies were robbed of a second National Championship in 1984 (to a bum BYU team who played a cupcake of a schedule), but that’s another post for another time.

Don James was the G.O.A.T.  We can only hope and pray Chris Petersen someday ascends to that level.

Next on my list, I’ve gone with Pete Carroll.

Like I said, championships are a premium to me when it comes to my Mount Rushmore of Head Coaches, and Big Balls Pete has one, with another Super Bowl appearance to boot.  He’s 17 wins away from being the winningest Seahawks coach of all time, which should go down in 2 years, tops.  After a couple of 7-9 rebuilding seasons, he’s won no less than 11 games every year (including playoffs).  Overall, he has 4 division titles in 7 years, 6 playoff appearances in 7 years, at least 1 playoff victory every time they’ve made the post-season, and with John Schneider (who certainly belongs on the Mount Rushmore of local GMs) built one of the best rosters in the history of the NFL, in the 2013 Seahawks.  He could retire right now and I don’t think there will be another local head coach that will bump him off my Mount Rushmore in my lifetime.

Third on my list:  Lenny Wilkens.

Oh yeah, here it comes.  I told you, titles baby!  Lenny took over as a player-coach for the Sonics in 1969 before being fired in 1972.  When he returned to the Sonics as just a head coach in 1977, he took a good team and led it to greatness.  Those Sonics teams went to back-to-back NBA Finals against the Washington Bullets in 1978 and 1979, winning it all the second time around.  The Sonics ultimately went another direction starting in the 1985/1986 season, but he still sits at #2 all time in franchise history winning percentage (keeping in mind, of course, that the Sonics died in 2008, and whatever record the head coaches of that team in OKC may have amassed has no bearing on the Seattle Supersonics).

Finally, the fourth name on my Mount Rushmore:  George Karl.

You may take umbrage with Lenny Wilkens’ inclusion on my list, and that’s fine, I understand.  You may take umbrage with the fact that I have George Karl over the likes of Piniella and Holmgren, and again, that’s your right.  But, you know what?  George Karl won a shitload of games in Seattle!  He has the best winning percentage of a head coach by a million miles over the other professional teams’ coaches at .719.  He took the Sonics to the playoffs every year of his tenure, won 4 division titles in 7 seasons, had the Sonics in the 1-seed twice (best regular season record in the entire league once); led the franchise to two Western Conference Finals, and led the franchise to the NBA Finals once (against the best team of all time, the 95/96 Chicago Bulls).  AND, not for nothing, but took the Bulls to 6 games when they probably had no business getting past Game 4.

I could go on and on.  Maybe only the Pete Carroll Seahawks have had more talent than the George Karl Sonics, but for all his greatness, there was a lot of failing.  George Karl led the first #1 seed to lose in the first round in NBA history.  His Sonics teams squandered two Michael Jordan-less years when they were ripe for back-to-back championships (the Houston Rockets, instead, took advantage of that glitch in the matrix).  And, ultimately, George Karl was destined to be run out of here by poor personnel management by Wally Walker (featuring the obscene signing of Jim McIlvaine and the trading of Shawn Kemp for Vin Baker).

Nevertheless, those Sonics teams were beautiful and exciting and ultimately tragic.  They ignited a love affair with sports within me that burns like a thousand suns to this very day.  At a time when the Seahawks were mediocre, and before the Mariners were relevant, we had the Supersonics and nothing else mattered.  There may have been better teams out there in the 90s, but no team was as thrilling to watch on a nightly basis.  When they were on, they were unbeatable!  When they were off, they were combustable; that’s just the way it goes sometimes.  But, George Karl had his hands all over that team, and was the main reason why we were able to take the next step to elite status.  Ultimately, the biggest tragedy of all is that George Karl doesn’t have an NBA title to his credit; he might be the best head coach in NBA history not to have one.

Okay, there you have it.  Agree?  Disagree?  Feel free to let me hear about it.

Looking Ahead To The Washington Huskies’ 2017 Football Schedule

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Bunch More Huskies Are In The NFL Now

I’m on record as saying the Seahawks would be fortunate to have as many Huskies on their team as possible.  I’m also on record as a huge know-nothing homer, so maybe they’re best not to listen to me.  Anyway, with the 2017 NFL Draft in our rearview, here’s a breakdown on where all of our beloved Huskies will be calling home, at least for Training Camp, if not for many years beyond.

John Ross got us started by the Cincinnati Bengals picking him 9th overall in the first round.  If the Seahawks couldn’t have him, I’m glad to see him in the AFC.  Quite frankly, too many AFC teams would drop the ball on this, forcing a lot of Huskies into direct competition with the Seahawks.  This is an awesome fit, though, for the Bengals.  He gets to play opposite A.J. Green and will open up a lot for his partner in crime by opposing defenses game-planning against his speed.  This could really further Green’s career, as he’s prone to foot injuries and will likely be slowed further due to age.  Green could become a top possession receiver with Ross blowing out coverages over the top.

No more Huskies taken until the second round, where three guys were selected with the top 11 picks on Day 2.  Kevin King went to Green Bay, two spots above where Seattle picked.  Obviously, he wasn’t a top priority for the Seahawks, otherwise they would’ve made more of an effort to pick him at 26 or again at 31 when they traded down.  It’s pretty clear, in hindsight, that the Seahawks had Malik McDowell targeted all along, and King was more of a backup pick.  I hope this doesn’t bite them in the ass, as I could easily see King being a Pro Bowl player for years to come, while McDowell feels like more of a longshot (with, admittedly, a higher upside if he reaches his full potential).

Then, to make matters worse, one pick after the Seahawks took McDowell, the Arizona Cardinals moved up to nab Budda Baker.  Great, so we get to play against Budda twice a year.  They are going to LOVE him in Arizona.  I think I’m more jealous of this pick than even the King one, as after Ross, Budda was a close second as far as my favorite Huskies are concerned.  That guy just has a nose for the ball, a nose for making a big play, and a nose for beating the shit out of guys.  What that means for his long-term health is another issue, but I wouldn’t have let that stop me from taking him high in this draft.

Then, with the 43rd overall selection, the Eagles took Sidney Jones, who had the achilles injury (and thus MIGHT start the season out on the PUP list), but figures to be a long-term lockdown corner for many years to come.  Part of me hoped he would’ve dropped a little further, with the Seahawks either landing him at 58, or packaging 58 with another pick to move up into the low 50s or high 40s, but alas, at 43, that’s probably a lot more than the Seahawks were willing to move.  Also, aside from the injury issue this year, my main concern with Jones is that he primarily played the Richard Sherman side of the field, so how would he take to playing opposite?  I’m pretty sure he would’ve been fine, but you never know.

From there, a pretty long gap without another Husky taken.  As time went on, and Friday moved into Saturday, more and more people were questioning the decision of Elijah Qualls coming out a year early.  He eventually fell all the way to pick # 214, also belonging to the Eagles.  I attribute a little bit of this to being wary after Danny Shelton really hasn’t done much of anything of impact with the Cleveland Browns since he was picked in the first round.  Either way, I think they got a great guy at a tremendous value.  He tops out as a Sam Adams type player if he can put it all together.  Either way, the Eagles didn’t risk much by using a late 6th round pick.

That’s it for the Husky draft picks.  Not too shabby, though.  Five guys, four of them on defense.  I’d expect this to be a trend going forward as Chris Petersen keeps reloading this team with top talent.

In the undrafted sector, tight end Darrell Daniels signed with the Colts.  Even without knowing their situation at tight end, he would seem like a longshot.  He’ll really, I would think, have to make his hay by improving his blocking a great deal, as I think he’s a sneaky good offensive weapon down field.

Jake Eldrenkamp, left guard who really developed into a nice interior lineman by his senior season, signed with the L.A. Rams.  He’s got good size and athleticism and it wouldn’t shock me to see him get stashed on the practice squad for them and maybe make a bigger impact in his second season, if everything breaks right.

Perhaps the biggest shock of this whole thing is Deontae Cooper, the oft-injured running back and HUGE fan favorite, who ended up transferring to San Jose State in his final season in 2016 (part Fresh Start, part being blocked out by the younger UW running backs), I guess is getting an invite to Training Camp with the Oakland Raiders?  I’m not sure, exactly, what the deal is, as news is pretty spotty.

Safety Brandon Beaver (who I totally forgot was a senior last year) is getting a shot with Budda Baker’s Arizona Cardinals, so that’ll be interesting.  Beaver had some nice impact plays last year, but obviously would be considered a pretty big longshot.

Joe Mathis, defensive end, who missed out on the back-half of his final Husky season due to a foot injury, also went undrafted, much to the chagrin of everyone who saw how impactful he was for the Dawgs.  He signed with the Houston Texans, to either be an end or an outside linebacker.  Either way, I think they’ve got a good one on their hands.  That is a STEAL, especially for a team looking for a cheap way to add some pass rush depth.  I hope he really knocks their socks off in Training Camp, because I could see him – over the rest of the undrafted Huskies – having the biggest impact right away.

Washington Huskies Hired Mike Hopkins

When I headed off to my long weekend in Reno, the talk of the local sports world was on Lorenzo Romar’s firing.  When I woke up on Sunday, preparing to hop on a plane back to Seattle, his replacement had been hired and here we go.

Mike Hopkins has been an assistant coach at Syracuse since 1996.  He’s been the official “head coach in-waiting” under Jim Boeheim since 2015.  I know so little about Syracuse basketball, I was actually surprised to learn Boeheim was still there.  For some reason, I thought he retired a year or two ago.  Other than that, I know Syracuse has been a premiere college basketball program for some time.  I know they play some sort of zone defense exclusively.  And, I know they make the NCAA Tournament almost every year.

What I’ve learned about Mike Hopkins is that he was supposed to take over as head coach for Syracuse at the conclusion of the 2017/2018 season.  I’ve learned that a number of schools have tried to hire him away, including USC and Oregon State, but for various reasons it fell through.  I’ve learned that Hopkins has been the primary recruiter for some time with the Orangemen (with Boeheim being the “closer” for some of the top recruits), and that he’s very actively involved in the team’s gameplans and scouting.  So, you know, we’re talking about a situation with Boeheim that you see a lot when a head coach has been in the same spot for upwards of 41 years:  you see an old man delegating the shit out of his responsibilities.  And so, in essence, we’re hiring away the “real” head coach of Syracuse, in all but name only.

My initial thought when I heard about the signing was:  why would he come to Washington NOW?  If he’s really a year away from taking over at Syracuse – which is the only school he’s ever worked for, as well as the school he played for from 1989-1993 – then why does he jump ship now?  It has since come out that Syracuse is going to extend Jim Boeheim beyond 2018, which they are spinning as a move done in response to Washington’s hire, but I’m not so sure.  It would stand to reason that Boeheim – being effectively forced out by the school when they announced Hopkins would be the head coach in-waiting – resented not being able to go out on his own terms, and has fought behind the scenes to stick around.  I’d be willing to put money down that Boeheim had an extension either in place or in the process of being in place, and once Hopkins heard about it, he opened himself up to moving onto another program.

I’m sure there are other reasons that will be discussed this week when he comes over for his initial press conference.  I can’t imagine it would be fun to be the guy who follows in Boeheim’s footsteps once he retires; that’s a huge burden to bear.  In Washington, he’s got a chance to build something great.  If he’s as good a coach and recruiter as I’m hearing, he could be for Washington what Boeheim is to Syracuse.  And, then there’s the fact that he has family on the west coast and whatnot.  It’s never any one thing that brings a guy to make a decision like this, so I’m sure we’ll get fed multiple lines of reasoning.

As far as how I think he’ll do, I’m going to go with Cautiously Optimistic.  He’s never been the head guy before.  Outside of recruiting circles, he’s a virtual unknown.  While he’s FROM the West Coast, he has no real basketball ties to this side of the country, so whoever he ends up hiring as his assistants will factor HUGELY.  And, even though we’re not going to be able to hold onto Romar’s final recruiting class, I think he’ll be a nice breath of fresh air for the players who stick around.  Hopefully, he’ll be able to light a fire under them, particularly on the defensive side of the ball.

I have a general feeling about new college head coaching hires, and it’s this:  I’m never going to trust them completely, until they give me reason to.  The college game, whether it’s football or basketball, is all about jumping from school to school.  And I can’t help but see Washington as a stepping stone to other places.  Just as soon as they have some success here, they’re gone.  It didn’t take much for Coach Sark to fly the coup back to USC.  I’m sure Chris Petersen gets calls daily about going to some bigger program.  Rick Neuheisel was seemingly taking weekly interviews with other schools and NFL teams, for crying out loud!  Washington isn’t a destination; it’s a slingshot to bigger and better things.

While Boeheim isn’t going anywhere for the time being, he’s still over 70 years old.  Who’s to say he won’t retire in the next 3-5 years?  And, when that time comes, what’s going to stop Mike Hopkins from returning to his Dream Job, particularly if he turns the Husky program around and gets us back into the Tourney in that time?

Or, shit, what if UCLA’s job opens up in that time?  His west coast family is in the southern California area, so that has to be of interest.  And, if he does REALLY well at Washington, what’s stopping him from going to any number of bigger basketball schools?

Obviously, money talks, and if you’re a good-enough coach, you can establish a top line basketball program literally anywhere.  If Gonzaga can be as well regarded as it is, there’s no reason why Washington couldn’t.  It then becomes a point of whether or not Washington wants to invest in the basketball program as much as it does the football program.  So, you know, at this point we’re talking about not trusting the university enough, but let’s not go down that road until we have to.

We’ll see, I guess, is the bottom line.  First thing’s first:  how will Mike Hopkins salvage next season’s recruiting class?  It won’t define his tenure by any means, but it’s the first big test on his desk.

Washington Huskies Fired Lorenzo Romar

It’s kind of a bummer.  I dunno.  There are a lot of mixed feelings right now, it’s hard to put them down in a coherent thought.

He’s been here since 2002!  That’s such a long time.  So much has happened since then.  In many ways, with the NBA leaving, the one constant as far as Seattle basketball is concerned has been Lorenzo Romar.  He’s been sort of the face of the 206’s hoops scene.  With Romar, it’s always felt like we’ve had this awesome basketball community.  So many Huskies playing in the NBA, but they all felt like local guys with Romar here.  Now, he’s gone, and it feels like that community is shattered.

Growing up, the Husky basketball team wasn’t even REMOTELY on my radar.  Not with the Sonics in town, kicking ass and taking names.  I briefly got excited for a couple of those Bob Bender teams when I was in high school and they made that run to the Sweet 16.  But, it wasn’t until Romar took over and Nate Rob & Co. came to Washington when I really become a fan.

Under Romar, the Washington Huskies have had an unprecedented run of success.  Six NCAA Tournament appearances; no other Husky head coach has had more than three. Five top 2 conference finishes, tops in school history since we’ve been in the Pac-8/10/12.  298 wins (including NCAA Tourney games), second most in school history behind Hec Ed.  All of this in a period in college basketball that has changed so much during his tenure.  It’s going to take a HUGE name to fill his shoes.

This stinks.  Not just because we’re almost certainly going to lose out on next year’s incoming Freshman class.  But, you know, that’s part of it.  I think the 2017/2018 Huskies could’ve been really special.  I think we were poised to return to the NCAA Tournament and maybe even barge our way into a Sweet 16 spot.  It could’ve saved Romar’s job, put the Huskies back on the map, and kickstarted a run of great Husky basketball teams.  Now, we have to start over from scratch.

What’s worse, it’s very possible we lose what little holdover talent we’ve got on THIS team.  Granted, there wasn’t much to be excited about – particularly with Fultz going to the NBA – but players like Crisp and Dickerson are poised to take a big step forward as Juniors, and who knows if they’re going to want to stick around?

Next year’s Husky basketball team could be rock bottom.  I mean, legendary, all-time awful.

So, that’s the short term.  Long term, of course, is the big unknown.  Since the University of Washington is willing to throw around $3 million to buy out Romar, it would seem like money is no object when it comes to the next guy.  And, you know, it’s not like this decision was made with a hair trigger.  I think UW has been more than fair, and has given Romar as long a leash as could reasonably be expected.  But, when you’ve been in steady decline like the Huskies have over the last 6 seasons, with some of the NBA talent Romar has had, with rising expectations what they are after you make 6 NCAA Tournament appearances in 8 seasons, it’s only natural to want to go in another direction with your program.  15 seasons is a long time to coach at one place, particularly when you’ve never gone past the Sweet 16.  So, I would hardly think this decision should scare away any prospective head coaching targets.

Now, obviously, the trick is finding someone who wants to come here.  Try to avoid listening to the Husky homers around here and think on a more national level:  the University of Washington is not a powerhouse draw for college basketball.  It’s a step up from the mid-majors, but it’s probably not a big-enough step up for a really successful mid-major head coach.  So, you know, probably best to get Mark Few’s name out of your head.  Or that Wichita State guy.  While it’s entirely possible that UW could over-pay to bring someone in here, I think we have to be reasonable with our expectations on just how much the university is prepared to shell out.  Let’s not forget, Chris Petersen and some of his assistant coaches are looking at big raises and he already made over $3 million last year.  I hardly think the UW basketball program is flush with enough cash to pay football-coach money.

The upside is, regardless of who we bring in, he’s likely to be an all-around better head coach than what Romar has been in recent seasons.  Romar has recruited well, particularly at guard, in getting some of these recent one-and-done guys (including next year’s class that will be transferring in short order), but his coaching has left a lot to be desired.  There’s no real offense to speak of.  He’s all but abandoned his old defensive identity in favor of letting his stars do whatever the fuck they want.  The team has been relatively competitive on athletic ability alone, but that’s meant that we haven’t beaten a quality basketball team in years.  We find ways to lose, or we get run out of the gym, by smarter, more technically-sound teams.  And in 2016/2017, we weren’t even competitive, so what good has all that recruiting ability been?

So, here we are.  The great unknown.  It’ll be an interesting next few weeks to see what the Washington Husky basketball program looks like, but for now I think it’s appropriate to reflect on the end of an era.  Lorenzo Romar has meant so much to the University of Washington and the city of Seattle when it comes to local basketball.  While I understand why it happened, I hate to see it end like this.