The Huskies Dominated A Hapless Future Big Ten League-Mate

This was some kind of impressive ass-whooping!

It’s hard for me to really tell you who’s got the best offense in college football. I don’t watch all the games; I don’t follow any other team all that closely. If you wanted to argue against the Huskies before this past Saturday, I’d say look no further than their relatively pedestrian rushing stats through the first two games. And while it’s only been one game, I don’t know if you can necessarily hold that against ’em now.

Oh sure, Michael Penix had his usual brilliant game (27/35, 473 yards, 4 TDs), and that’s all while playing only two drives into the second half. To that point, the Huskies put up all 41 of their points in this contest (somehow still punting twice in the process), and it was time to lean on the Spartans and salt this game away largely on the ground. You could argue that even on the two second-half field goal drives, we just settled for them to give our kicker practice, as I would have no confidence in Michigan State whatsoever to stop us on 4th & 6 in the red zone.

That’s all to say that this game could’ve been MUCH more lopsided, and we took pity on our future Big Ten league-mates.

But, we also found some success on the ground, and I think that’s going to be a huge boost for us going forward! Dillon Johnson looked absolutely unstoppable on his only 8 carries, netting 71 yards on an 8.9 yards per carry average. And Tybo Rogers mopped up beautifully, carrying it 15 times for 74 yards, earning himself a bigger role in this offense going forward. All told – including Richard Newton’s 4 carries for 29 yards – the Huskies ran it 33 times for 177 yards, or a 5.4 yards per carry average. Simply outstanding!

Again, though, it was all about the passing game, with Dylan Morris chipping in for 63 yards on 2/4 passing, with a pick. Rome Odunze led all receivers with 8 for 180. Ja’Lynn Polk had 5 for 118 and a TD. Jalen McMillan had 4 for 96 before a scary-looking injury that might keep him out for the short term, but shouldn’t keep him out for the long. And, new fan favorite Jack Westover had 4 catches for 37 yards and a whopping 3 TDs! I don’t know how I don’t remember him previously (probably because, as Tight End University, Washington does nothing but churn out elite tight ends), but he’s already got 4 scores on the young season, on only 10 receptions (all he does … catch touchdowns!).

The defense, though, really took a step forward in this one. It’s not easy to hold any team to just one score – which took place on their final possession of the game, after an 11-play, 99-yard drive that took up over 5 minutes of game clock, against presumably nothing but backups – but, to go on the road, against a major Power 5 opponent, and absolutely dismantle them, was better than I could’ve possibly imagined.

We had 7 tackles for loss, 2 sacks (both by ZTF), an interception, and two passes defended. We limited them to 53 yards rushing on 27 carries, and we limited them to a combined 208 yards passing on 14/35! They had no answer for us whatsoever.

It’s hard to say if that’s going to be deemed a quality win or not. I just don’t think they’re in the same universe as us. They might go on to be okay in the Big Ten this year, but my hunch is they won’t be any better than 6-6, and that’s probably the best-case scenario, considering word is out that their maligned head coach is about to be fired (if it hasn’t happened already).

The Huskies sit at #8 in the nation, but we’ve definitely closed the gap on Penn State. It feels like we’re one or two more impressive victories away from leapfrogging a team or two, and that’s without the need for anyone ahead of us to actually lose.

On the docket this week is a home night game against Cal. Cal is 2-1, with their only blemish being a late touchdown given up to Auburn at home in a 14-10 defeat. Auburn is currently 3-0, so that should probably be qualified as a “good loss” for them. Nevertheless, Cal’s defense is no joke, so if we were looking for a test, this might be the best one we see all year (at least, until Utah comes to town in November).

It gets real now. I know we’re at home, the game is at night, and for anyone willing to stay up past 10:30pm on the east coast, this will be the marquee matchup of the timeslot, but you’re not looking for style points here. The Huskies are favored by 21 points, but if I were a gambling man, I’d take the Golden Bears to cover. And I’d certainly take the under of 63 points scored in the game. Cal hasn’t had a ton of success against us, but in our last four outings (no game in the COVID year), we’re 2-2, and every game has been decided by one score or less. They’ve never really figured out how to field a competent offense under Justin Wilcox, but his defenses have been underrated and nasty to go up against. I’m not particularly looking forward to this one (it’s a good thing I’ll be at my bachelor party in New Orleans this weekend).

After that, we go to Arizona, and it was announced that will also be a 7pm start time. So, you know, hope you enjoy the night games! Hope nothing too fucked up and weird happens!

The Huskies Prevented Last Weekend From Being A Total Bust

I think, schedule-wise, this season has set the Huskies up for success so far. Boise State was probably the second-toughest non-conference opponent and playing them in Week 1 was the way to go. It’s a nice little test, and the Huskies passed with flying colors. The Broncos lost a hard-fought game at the last second on a 55-yard field goal to a pretty-good UCF team, otherwise they’re 1-1 and looking formidable in the Mountain West.

Tulsa, who the Huskies beat 43-10 on Saturday, was easily the worst of the three non-conference opponents, and we picked a good game to have to overcome a lot of mistakes. Winning by 33 points – in spite of those mistakes – is about as good as you could expect (tough on the bettors who picked the Dawgs to cover, though).

Michael Penix still had a pretty good game, and I don’t think he did anything to seriously damage his standing in the Heisman Trophy race, but he did throw an ugly pick that probably should’ve been directed elsewhere. Nevertheless, he had 409 yards and 3 TDs on 28/38 passing, which has him sitting fourth in college football in total yards (but two of the players ahead of him have already played in three games). He’s also tied for fourth with 8 TD passes, but again everyone tied or above him have played in three games. He’s still over 70% completions, and his average yards per attempt is at 11.0.

His performance also could’ve been even better, if it weren’t for some uncharacteristic drops from our top two receivers. Jalen McMillan lost a fumble and I think also had a drop, and Rome Odunze had a couple bounce off his hands. They, nevertheless, each topped 100 yards receiving (8 for 120 for McMillan; 7 for 107 for Odunze) and each had a receiving TD (Odunze also ran one in from 14 yards out).

The defense wasn’t all-world or anything, but Kamren Fabiculanan had his second pick in as many games, and we did run into a couple sacks even though we were missing a number of starters (including ZTF, which I very much hope isn’t serious). Again, if you have to sit some guys with nicks and scrapes, this is the game to do it.

The pass defense was rock solid; we held the Tulsa QBs to 85 and 65 yards passing. But, the run defense definitely needs work (40 for 168, for a 4.2 yard average).

Also, the run offense needs a lot of work. We were, again, limited by injuries, but our top two backs only ran for a combined 12 for 48. I get it, this offense runs through the passing game (Odunze and Ja’Lynn Polk had two runs for 41 yards and 2 TDs, to inflate our team average), but against that defense, we should’ve had no problem rolling all over them on the ground.

Thankfully, though, we’re 2-0, the passing game looks great, and it feels like we’re picking up right where we left off. This team improved as the 2022 season went along, so to already be at that level is a blessing. There are things this team can work on and improve, and when they do, it’s going to be quite a formidable opponent for any team crossing our path.

Up next, we have our first big non-conference road opponent (not counting Texas in the bowl game) in the Kalen DeBoer era. Last year, we beat Michigan State at home by 11 points, needing to hold on at the end. That Spartans team – at the time – was ranked 11th in the nation; they would go on to finish 5-7. They’re currently 2-0, unranked, and appear to have a new quarterback and running back combo. They’ve won a couple of cupcake games, and now their head coach has been suspended without pay for sexual harassment.

I don’t know what this means for the Huskies, to be honest. Will they be fired up, playing for a backup coach? Will they be deflated because they all kind of think their head coach is a scumbag? Is their head coach even any good? He has an 18-14 record in three seasons (with a win in the Peach Bowl after the 2021 season under his belt, but was that with the previous guy’s players?). How are the fans feeling right now? Well, they’re fans, so there’s probably a significant portion of them who are siding blindly with the coach.

Either way, it’s always tough playing even a mid-tier Power 5 school on the road. Those stadia are humongous and will surely fill to capacity at the opportunity to see not only a Top 10 school (the Huskies stayed at 8th overall this week), but a future league-mate effective next year.

Not knowing anything about the quality of the Michigan State players, I would say this is a game the Huskies should win. We’re, at the moment, favored by 16 points, and it’ll be interesting to see where that line goes as we get to gametime. Last year, we lost two games, both on the road (we were 3-2 in true road games), and both losses were marred by mistakes.

Penix threw 3 picks combined in those losses, and hit on only 65% of his passes. Moreover, those games were ruined by very poor defense (giving up a combined 85 points and 896 yards, while forcing only a combined 3 punts).

On the whole, the Huskies improved as time went on, both in general and with respect to their road performances. We eked one out against Cal, managed to take down a very good Oregon team by 3, and blew out the Cougs at the end. It’s imperative that we take care of business this week.

Win this game – even if it’s ugly – and we’re in very good shape. We’re home for Cal after that (the dreaded 7:30pm start; try not to remember the last time we played them in Husky Stadium during the Pac-12 After Dark slot), on the road for what should be a winnable game against the Wildcats (try not to remember the last time we went to the state of Arizona), then a BYE to prepare us for our showdown with Oregon in mid-October.

These are the games I worry about, though. It can be easy to overlook a team like Michigan State. Our conference slate starts next week, they seem to be a team in disarray, and we’re a high-falutin Top 10 team with a seemingly-indestructable passing attack. If our injured guys aren’t able to return, or if we lose others to injury, and we get off to a slow start and let that crowd assert itself, maybe some weird shit happens and we’re in a second half dogfight that we can’t quite overcome.

I should also point out that I’ll be with my friends, Deckgating and watching the game on their outside television, which … has seen some mixed results in the past during big games. I can’t say for sure if I’m the Bad Luck Guy or not, but we just need some more bites at the apple to prove my addition to the party is safe.

You know what I will say, though? Sort of off-topic, and I hope we never have to see this play out in a game that still matters, but I like what I’ve seen from Dylan Morris in garbage time! I know, it’s garbage time, we’ve amassed a huge lead, and both teams just want to get out of there without any more injuries, but he’s looked good. He’s looked so much better than he did as a starter, and it gives me hope that – next year – when Penix is playing in the NFL, Morris will be able to re-ascend to the starter’s job and keep this train rolling down the tracks! Not that I’m looking beyond the 2023 season, but it’s nice is all I’m saying. Good for him! Good for him for staying and good for us in case we need him.

The 2023 Husky Football Team Looks Great So Far!

It feels kind of amazing how quickly your fortunes can change in college football. I’ve always been of the opinion – especially with a school like Washington, that isn’t in the upper echelon of the sport – that you kind of have to build it up over a long period of time. But, with how quickly Kalen DeBoer has turned things around, I’m starting to have second thoughts.

I became a Husky fan when I started going there in the fall of 1999. That just so happened to coincide with the start of the Rick Neuheisel era. I wouldn’t say I was the most knowledgable fan over the course of the next decade; I just sort of took things as they came. It wasn’t until the nadir that was Tyrone Willingham, and our winless 2008 season, that I finally woke up and understood this was unacceptable.

There was a lot of hullabaloo during the Sark era; he truly was rebuilding this program from the ground up. It felt like he left some unfinished business when he abandoned us for USC, but at the same time it felt like we were ready to take it to the next level with Chris Petersen. And, to his credit, he got us into the playoffs, playing in Alabama’s neck of the woods. Even that took three years to get to, but it felt like a natural progression for a program on the rise. That was in 2016, and we’ve spend the subsequent six years spinning our wheels, trying to get back to that level.

Jimmy Lake proved he was NOT the right guy to succeed Coach Pete. To be fair, the COVID year didn’t help any. But, things were trending in a VERY negative direction in 2021, and we couldn’t help but think maybe that was it. Maybe this was a program heading back into the college football wilderness, never to be heard from again.

Kalen DeBoer wasn’t the flashy hire of a Sark, nor did he seem like a championship-level hire of a Coach Pete. It almost felt like settling, at least it did to me. But, I couldn’t have been more wrong!

He undid all the damage Jimmy Lake wrought in his first year. We were one stumble away from playing in the Pac-12 championship game, but we still finished the year 11-2, and more importantly, were able to retain our most important core players who were eligible to return.

Now, we’re heading into 2023 as legitimate playoff contenders. We just have to find a way to make it through the conference first.

The tricky part of this whole deal is our schedule. It’s considerably more challenging than it was last year, when we didn’t get a chance to play either Utah nor USC (the two teams who played in the conference title game). You can take that one of two ways: maybe it was a blessing, because if we lost them, we might not have gotten to double-digit wins; on the flipside, we weren’t able to take them down a peg and insert ourselves into that Pac-12 title game.

The 2022 Huskies were a little iffy in the first half of the season, especially on defense. Key injuries may have cost us against UCLA and ASU. We definitely gelled in the second half, securing huge wins over Oregon State and on the road against the Ducks. We’ll never know how we might’ve fared against the Utes or Trojans, but if those games would’ve taken place late, I know we would’ve given them a run for their money.

This year, we miss out on a possibly-rebuilding UCLA and an exciting (but still questionable) Colorado team with a brand new roster under Deion Sanders. In their place, we get Utah at home, and USC on the road. We get Oregon at home, but play the Beavers on the road. And it’s hard to imagine Michigan State will be any more mediocre than they were last year; we get them on the road as well, which should be a tough test.

Even our opener on Saturday came against a Boise State team that won 10 games last year. It would’ve been foolish to overlook them, and to their credit, the Huskies took care of business (even if it took an entire quarter to get going).

The Broncos owned the first quarter, holding a 6-0 lead (missing an extra point). After an awesome opening return to midfield, the Huskies tried to get their running game going, to no avail. The pass protection was also a little sketchy, leading me to wonder if the O-Line might be in worse shape than previously thought.

But, then we just abandoned the rushing attack altogether, to magnificent results. The Huskies won the second quarter 28-6 and the rout was on. 56-19 was the final score. Michael Penix threw for 29/40 for 450 yards and 5 TDs. Rome Odunze caught 7 balls for 132 yards and a TD. Ja’Lynn Polk caught 3 for 101 and a TD. Jalen McMillan caught 8 for 95 and 2 TDs (he also ran for a 19-yard TD).

It’s a little concerning that the run game never got going, not even late when the game was sealed up. But, this isn’t an offense that’s meant to depend on a Ground & Pound philosophy. It’s gonna go where Penix and these receivers take it. And, based on what we’ve seen across 14 games, I think that can be pretty damn far.

The defense wasn’t elite, but it also wasn’t overwhelmed. I’d like to see more than one sack in a game we win by 37 points, but we did manage a couple of picks. There’ll be games where this side of the ball picks us up and holds games close, but I would say this is a unit that is also going to go where Penix and the receivers take it. This D is meant to play with a lead. Force teams into obvious passing situations, use our talent up front to make things difficult on opposing quarterbacks, and hopefully generate enough turnovers to turn these games into laughers.

If we can manage to win on the road against the Spartans, it should be smooth sailing until mid-October, when we play Oregon. There should be another couple of soft landings before we get to the juggernaut portion of the schedule: weeks 9-11 at USC, vs. Utah, and at Oregon State. That will likely decide who takes control of this conference. We close at home against the Cougs, who might also be ranked by the time we get there.

Anything worse than 10-2 would be a disappointment. But, it’ll almost certainly require a one-loss season if we want to guarantee a spot in the Pac-12 Championship Game. I think we CAN get there, but that’s going to take a good amount of luck, and a good amount of winning in close games.

Gun to my head, the safe money is on the Huskies not making it to the playoffs. That being said, none of the contenders have it too terribly easy this year. Especially if Colorado ends up being amazing (and not just a week 1 flash in the pan). That’s probably the best thing the Huskies have going for them is the fact that the Pac-12 is fucking loaded in its final go-around. You’d have to be willfully ignorant or outright biased to not give these teams their due (which, this IS college football, so of course that’s what’s going to happen). Any team, from Washington to Oregon to USC to Utah to even Oregon State has a chance to win this league. And if Colorado is at least entertaining? Maybe knocks off a contender or two? All the better. Hell, if they’re legitimately good, and we’re talking about half the conference being elite, that’s going to bring nothing but rays upon rays of sunshine on the rest of these schools. I expect we’ll be well represented in the major bowl games this season.

Even though the safe bet is to short the Huskies, I dunno. This feels different. It feels special. A lot of the Coach Pete seasons felt special too, until we lost a game and all hope felt lost. This time? Who knows? Maybe 10-2 gets us there, if we manage to win the right tiebreakers. This is certainly a situation where the conference beats up on itself, which isn’t great for our playoff hopes. But, if we can get a team through with only 2 losses, I would hope we’re recognized for what we are: among the best teams in the nation.

What’s great about this Husky team is not only that it’s loaded at the skill positions, but it’s also an offensive system that should be foolproof. We should never be out of any game, even if we give up an early lead here and there. As long as the defense is just good enough to not give up a score on every single drive, we should have an opportunity to win every game. It’s just a matter of executing, and catching the breaks as they come.

I’m predicting 10-2 and a spot in the Pac-12 Championship Game. The homer in me is predicting 11-1, a conference title, and a spot in the College Football Playoffs. From there, we’ll put a scare in the hearts of every uppity Big 10 school that thinks they’re better than us.

Bow Down To Washington, motherfuckers. Because we’re coming for you!

The Washington Huskies Could Very Well Make The Rose Bowl

Saturday was as enjoyable a day of football as I’ve seen in quite some time. Everything sort of opened up for me and I had an opportunity to sit down and watch almost nonstop from about 3pm until 11pm (while taking a brief intermission to go out and buy a Christmas tree with my dad).

Now, obviously, it wasn’t perfect. But, Friday’s mini-slate of games had a lot to do with that, thanks to Cal blowing it against UCLA. The Huskies were iced out of the Pac-12 Championship Game when the Utes blew out the Buffaloes, but that game was over before it started. Colorado is one of the worst teams in all of football. They’re an embarrassment to the Power 5 conferences, and deserve to be relegated to a lower level until further notice.

It’s unfortunate, because the biggie improbably worked out, as Oregon State defeated Oregon in a thrilling matchup, where the Beaves overcame a 31-10 deficit late in the third quarter to prevail 38-34. In really dominating fashion, by just running all over the Ducks to the tune of 268 yards on 43 carries (that’s a 6.2 average for those following along at home), while their quarterback only completed 6 passes for 60 yards all game. I don’t know how you come back from being down 21 points by only running the ball, but this was straight out of the 1920’s. The Ducks didn’t do themselves any favors by making a lot of mistakes, and coaching their way out of any shot at the Rose Bowl by going for it deep in their own territory with a quarterback run that was doomed to fail.

There were other great outcomes throughout the day. 5th ranked LSU lost to a Texas A&M team that didn’t even qualify for a bowl game this year. USC handled a 15th ranked Notre Dame team by double digits. Michigan absolutely destroyed Ohio State on the road to lock in their spot in the playoffs (as probably a 2-seed).

It all led up to the Apple Cup at 7:30pm in Pullman. If the Huskies won, they would create a 3-way tie for second place in the Pac-12, with Utah and Oregon. With the tiebreaker system set in place, that gave Utah the nod to play USC in the conference championship. If the Huskies lost, it would’ve been a 2-way tie for second with just Utah and Oregon, with the Ducks having the head-to-head victory over the Utes. So, this was an opportunity for the Ducks to lose twice in the same day, which is why it was so great!

The Apple Cup was an intense scoring festival through the first half. The offenses sputtered a tiny bit through the first three possessions, with the Cougs improbably doinking in a 50-yard field goal to take a 3-0 lead. But, once the quarterbacks got used to the cold, they were gripping it and ripping it like nobody’s business. After those first three drives, there were a whopping SEVEN consecutive touchdown drives before the Cougs had to settle for a field goal just before halftime to only be down 28-27. If the clock wasn’t a factor, they’d still be out there trading TDs!

Somehow, the defense stepped up in the second half, limiting the Cougars to only 6 points (should have been 8 points, but quarterback Cameron Ward had the ball in the wrong hand as he ran for the front left pylon on the 2-point conversion – the first of two such instances where he failed to simply reach the football over the line to gain while running out of bounds – in one of the most baffling displays of low football IQ I’ve seen in a while), which was pretty necessary since the Huskies had a couple of uncharacteristic turnovers to keep things interesting. But, we got things on track after a brutal pick in the endzone, pulling away from a 35-33 lead to a 51-33 end result.

Interception aside, Michael Penix was a wizard out there, throwing for 485 yards and 3 TDs (on 25/43 passing), while adding 34 rushing yards and 2 TDs on the ground. His regular season with the Huskies looks like this:

  • 330/500 for 4,354 yards, 29 TDs, 7 INTs, and only 5 sacks in 12 games. He added 86 rushing yards and 4 TDs on the ground

This is, without question, the greatest season I’ve ever seen from a Husky quarterback. It might literally be the best season ever by a Husky quarterback; I’ll defer to the experts on that one. But, this is legitimate pro-level talent we’re watching! I can only imagine what it would’ve looked like to have Kalen DeBoer, Ryan Grubb, and Michael Penix together for four years. Penix still technically has a year of eligibility left, but I would be absolutely shocked if he opted to stick around for another season, especially given his injury history.

Our top three receivers also, by consequence, had huge games. Rome Odunze led the way with 5 for 157 and a TD. Jalen McMillan had 6 for 150 and a TD. And Ja’Lynn Polk had 4 for 82 and a TD. On the year, here’s how they shake out:

  • Odunze – 70 for 1,088 and 7 TDs
  • McMillan – 71 for 1,040 and 8 TDs
  • Polk – 38 for 649 and 6 TDs

The Huskies haven’t stopped recruiting receivers at a high level since the likes of John Ross and Dante Pettis went pro, but they simply haven’t had a quarterback capable of getting the ball to their most talented weapons. Instead, we’ve been Tight End University in the interim, which is fine, but unless you’re cultivating the next Travis Kelce, your tight end shouldn’t be your best weapon on offense. It’s long overdue that we’re seeing our wideouts getting this kind of attention. As you can see, it opens things up tremendously for everyone else.

The running game gets overlooked in all this, but Wayne Taulapapa had another wildly efficient game, running it 13 times for 126 yards and a TD. Cameron Davis also had a fine day, rushing it 6 times for 55 yards. On the year, they weren’t ever the headline stars, but they accounted for a lot of our scoring:

  • Taulapapa – 126 carries for 779 yards and 10 TDs
  • Davis – 107 carries for 522 yards and 13 TDs

It’s definitely a pass-heavy attack, but the offensive scheme takes advantage of that by gashing teams in the run. I think it’s exactly the right kind of balance for today’s game, and I couldn’t be happier with how the offense performed this year. I guess it’s all downhill from here!

So, here’s where everything stands. On Friday at 5pm, USC plays 14th ranked Utah in the Pac-12 Championship Game. At the moment USC is ranked 4th in the AP Poll (the official college football playoff rankings come out later today, I believe). The Top 4 in the AP Poll are Georgia, Michigan, undefeated TCU, and USC. TCU will play the 12th ranked Kansas State Wildcats on Saturday morning in the Big-12 Championship Game. Also in play we have a 1-loss Ohio State team playing for jack shit since they lost to Michigan. How this week’s rankings shake out will speak volumes. If USC is also ranked 4th in the college football playoffs, then I think it’s a foregone conclusion: win and they’re in. If Ohio State is still the 4th team, then all bets are off (though, in all likelihood, they’ll be in with a win, but you never know). I don’t think anyone believes that a 3-loss LSU team would make it, even if they beat Georgia in the SEC Championship Game, but let’s hope the Bulldogs take care of business just to be safe.

Anyway, if USC makes the college football playoffs, then that sets up the Huskies for a Rose Bowl berth. That would make the Utes a 3-loss team in conference (with 4 losses overall). Meanwhile, the Huskies and Ducks would both have 2 losses in conference (with Oregon having 3 losses overall), and the Huskies BEAT the Ducks. So, that should give us the edge.

Even if things go wonky on us, and USC has to “settle” for the Rose Bowl, there’s still an outside chance – as a 10-win team – that we might qualify for the Cotton Bowl, and be part of the big New Year’s 6. That’s fun! I’d be happy with that!

I’d be less happy if we are iced out completely, but that’s always a possibility as well. I would think – given our offensive firepower – that we’d be an attractive team to put into ANY bowl game.

Of course, a Rose Bowl showdown would be a rematch with Ohio State from the 2018 season, which was a tough-luck 28-23 defeat. Ohio State is always a scary team to play, but I’d still love the opportunity.

We’ll see what happens! Regardless, this season has surpassed my wildest expectations for the Huskies. I’m just tickled pink with how it all has gone so far.

The Huskies Defeated 11th-Ranked Michigan State!

To be fair, the Spartans are no longer ranked – while the Huskies made the leap to #18 in the A.P. Poll – but who cares? We beat a team many considered to be good-to-great, and when was the last time you could say that?

The line started out more or less with the Huskies favored by 2.5. It moved by gametime to the Huskies being favored by 3.5. As I discussed last week, that’s fishy as hell. That led me to believe something was up. That Vegas had cracked the code and figured out we were better than the world realized (predictably, the bulk of the money was placed on Michigan State, which means – yet again – Vegas crushed the public).

It was pretty quickly made clear that they were right, as the Huskies marched right down the field on the Spartans, scoring a touchdown on the opening drive. We took the next drive all the way down to the 1 yard line before being stuffed on downs, but that just led to our defense getting a safety, followed by another touchdown drive (this time successfully getting it in from the 1). After another punt by the Spartans, the Huskies scored again to make it 22-0 (missing the extra point). It looked like the rout was on from there, though Michigan State finally orchestrated a TD drive to make it 22-8. If you were worried, fret not, because with less than 2 minutes to go, we put up another TD before halftime to head into the break up 29-8, an insurmountable lead.

We traded touchdowns immediately after halftime to make it 36-14, but then things started to get sloppy for the Huskies. They chipped into our lead and got it to 39-28 – with the ball – late in the game. Another cheap touchdown and they might’ve executed the back-door cover! But, thankfully, the Huskies ended things on downs and were able to run out the final three minutes.

Michael Penix once again looked like a stud, completing 24/40 for 397 yards and 4 TDs to 0 INTs. The running game took a backseat once again, but Cameron Davis did carry it 17 times for 69 yards and a TD.

Ja’Lynn Polk had the biggest receiving day (6 for 153 and 3 TDs), but Jalen McMillan had another very nice game (7 for 94).

Defensively, when the game mattered most, we were able to get stops when we needed to. I’m going to chock up the second half surge by the Spartans to us taking the foot off the gas while holding a considerable lead. They really only had one easy scoring drive, every other one required lots of plays and time off the clock. I can’t ask for much more than that.

That’s a statement victory for a team that hasn’t had one since the Chris Petersen era. I would argue we haven’t had a win that huge since 2016. Now, we’re on the map, and I think it’s only fair for expectations to take a jump.

More importantly, we’re a fun team to watch. God bless ’em, I just don’t know what to do with myself! Penix is the best quarterback we’ve had since … I dunno? Marques Tuiasosopo? I’m not joking. I know we won a lot of games with Jake Browning, but has he ever performed at this kind of clip? Through three games, he has 1,079 yards and 10 TDs to 1 INT. I know it’s early, and we haven’t had a clunker yet, but I’m just so impressed with how well he’s been playing. It’s some kind of magic that he’s so good in this very particular offensive system, under this particular head coach.

We’ll see what this means going forward, but we have back-to-back late night games (at home vs. Stanford and on the road – on a Friday night – against UCLA). Either one could be a loss (I’m obviously more worried about the Bruins, but this Stanford game could be a trap as everyone looks ahead), but then things start to open up. ASU just fired their coach, Arizona just barely beat North Dakota State, Cal and Oregon State are middling, Oregon doesn’t look as good as their ranking might suggest, Colorado might be one of the worst teams in college football, and the Cougs are the Cougs.

I dunno. I think it’s safe to get a little excited for this year. I think we have more than a fighting chance in all of these games. We needed the offense to make a huge leap forward, and so far they’ve done just that. Now, I think we can compete, especially with the likes of some of these other high-scoring teams in our conference.

What a pleasant surprise!

I’m Intrigued By The 2022 Husky Football Season

I can’t call this a proper season preview, because I really know next-to-nothing about this team as it stands right now.

I also can’t really say why I’m intrigued by the upcoming football season, other than the usual excitement that comes with a new year. We’re all on the same level and there’s limitless possibilities. Once the games start, obviously we’ll have a better idea; my excitement or intrigue or whatever could dissipate as early as week 1. But, there are reasons for optimism that leave me thinking this team should be better than it was in 2021. So, you know, maybe I won’t be let down until week 3 or 4.

For starters, it doesn’t appear that this coaching staff is out of its league when it comes to recruiting. There have been a number of impressive “gets” – from faraway lands like Louisiana, for instance – that show me we could be in good hands.

But, even in the short term, I fundamentally believe this coaching staff will do more with Jimmy Lake’s players than Jimmy Lake & Co. ever could. This is a proper head coach, with a legitimate background in offensive production. And the players who remain left over from the previous regime were drastically underperforming their potential. There’s no doubt in my mind that Kalen DeBoer and his staff will right the ship in a hurry.

I’m also greatly encouraged by the number of high-rated defensive recruits we’re bringing in. Part of that may be residual Jimmy Lake positivity, because say what you will about him as a head coach, but he could coach up the DB room like nobody’s business. With our recent history of high profile success in getting our secondary players into the NFL – as high draft picks, no less – the University of Washington has taken the mantel of DB-U. But, obviously, Lake isn’t here anymore, so the defensive coaches we have now must be worth their weight in salt, at least from a recruiting perspective. If that carries over into coaching on the field – and we manage to see little-to-no drop-off in defensive production in the actual games – then I think that bodes very well for a dramatic turnaround in our overall fortunes from a win/loss standpoint.

One of the biggest areas with room for improvement is the quarterback position, and I think there’s a lot to like with the Huskies, even if they may not compare super-favorably on a national stage, or even among conference foes. Michael Penix Jr. seems to have the inside track as the starter, since he transferred over here from Indiana, where he has experience in the DeBoer scheme. Then, there’s the incumbent starter, Dylan Morris, who’s had a couple of up-and-down seasons, but nevertheless has a lot of potential to be harnessed by a coaching staff who knows what the fuck they’re doing offensively (I really can’t say enough shitty things about Jimmy Lake & Co. when it comes to the Husky offense shitting the fucking bed). If Kalen DeBoer can turn Jake Haener into a top-tier college quarterback, then there’s no reason why he couldn’t do the same with Morris. And, to top it all off, those two guys have a 5-star Sam Huard breathing down their necks. It appears there’s a legit 3-way quarterback competition going on, and the winner of that should be all the better for what he’ll have to go through in winning the job.

I’ll also say that the schedule is pretty damned reasonable. No USC or Utah makes our road in the Pac-12 (for now) that much easier. All of our non-conference games are at home (including the first leg of a home-and-home series with Michigan State). The rest of the home games are all very winnable, with Stanford being the toughest (the others being Arizona, Oregon State, and Colorado).

Obviously, the toughest game on our slate is at Oregon; that’s always a nightmare. Though, we get that game in mid-November, which will hopefully give our team time to gel (I kinda doubt it’ll matter though). There are also back-to-back games at UCLA and ASU that will really test our resolve. The other road games are at Cal and Wazzu for the Apple Cup (on a Saturday this year, for the first time in what feels like forever).

It’s not all sunshine and lollipops, though. There are lots of holdovers on the O-Line, but that was a unit that largely underperformed last year (and I believe we kept the offensive line coach, who ends up being one of the few – if only – holdovers on the coaching staff). Maybe the scheme will help clean things up in protection; I guess that’s gotta be our hope.

I would say the wide receiver group is largely unproven at this level; they kinda scare me, if I’m being honest. I have no doubt the talent potential is there, but will they produce when the games start? Can we count on them in big moments to come up with big catches? There’s been so much turnover, the only names I remember are Jalen McMillan, Rome Odunze, Taj Davis (vaguely), and Giles Jackson & Ja’Lynn Polk (who are both transfers who haven’t done much of anything in a Husky uniform). For a team who hasn’t had a true standout receiver since the John Ross/Dante Pettis days, I’d like to see some of these highly-rated guys start panning out.

Then, there’s the front seven on defense, which is hopefully going to be the ZTF Show. But, who’s going to ascend around our stud pass rusher? Especially when you figure this is probably our last year with ZTF, and there’s an outside chance that any sort of significant-ish injury might lead him to leave prematurely to get ready for the NFL Draft.

There aren’t many other front seven guys who are ringing any bells with me. Edefuan Ulofoshio is returning from injury and won’t play until midseason or later. We all hope Sav’ell Smalls takes a big step in his development. That’s kind of it as far as the front seven is concerned; I look forward to learning who’s good and who’s not. But, if they play collectively as bad as they were last year – getting gashed on the reg in the run game, while getting nothing done with the pass rush – then it won’t matter how much better we are offensively. If we can’t stop the likes of Oregon, UCLA, and the like, we’re gonna be screwed.

Finally, there were A LOT of Husky defensive backs who went to the NFL last year. Who steps up behind those guys? If we’re going to hold onto the title of DB-U, we need to spot those guys in a hurry and put them in positions to succeed.

Of course, the huge overarching caveat to everything is the fact that – as always – we need to temper our expectations. There’s a reason why the Huskies are largely expected to finish anywhere from the middle of the pack, all the way to the very bottom of the conference. Sure, there are surprise teams every year, but how often do those teams make the leap from middle of the pack to the very top? Seems unlikely. But, that’s why there’s intrigue! We don’t know yet how these players are going to respond to the new regime. A quality coaching staff can make all the difference, especially in the college game.

But, we’ve seen it go the other way all too often. Growing pains in learning a new system. And, in this case, there’s a new system on both sides of the ball. You almost have to bank on there being extra losses built in just for that reason alone. Maybe the new regime is stuck with guys they wouldn’t have normally recruited, because you literally can’t turn over the entire roster from scratch in one offseason.

There’s also some fear built in, because we’ve seen what happens when this team picks wrong in a quarterback battle. Jake Haener is a prime example. We opted to go with one year of Jacob Eason because we believed at the time he gave us the biggest upside to getting back to the college football playoffs. That turned out to be a miserable mistake (one that I was certainly wrong about at the time, as were a lot of Husky fans). What if we go with Penix and lose one or both of Morris and/or Huard (who go on to success elsewhere)? What if we go with Morris and he continues to make terrible decisions with the football? What if we go with Huard, but he’s just not the 5-star guy we all thought he was? There’s a lot riding on this! The repercussions could be massive, and there’s no guarantee that this coaching staff will be able to get the most out of who they choose. Nor is there a guarantee they’ll be able to restock the QB room next year if we have multiple defections.

So, I’m not going into this season with sky-high hopes. I’m just waiting to be pleasantly surprised. I’m open and receptive to winning football, but I need the team to cooperate. Considering the shitshow we’re likely to see out of the Seahawks, it would be nice if we had ONE good football team in the Seattle area.