A Flip Of A Coin Decided The Seahawks Vs. Bucs Game

I mean, let’s be real here. The Seahawks’ defense wasn’t going to stop anything the Bucs threw at them. If they’d won the overtime coin flip, they would’ve marched right down the field and scored a touchdown, and we’d all be bitching and moaning about how Russell Wilson never got a chance to touch the ball in overtime. There’d be the side that just wants to watch good QBs get a chance to be clutch in the extra period, and there’d be the other side that would (correctly) argue that a defense should be able to keep the other team out of the endzone for a chance to deserve a possession in this scenario.

Funny how I haven’t heard too many arguments from the national media lamenting the fact that Jameis Winston never got a chance to touch the ball in overtime. Because that guy’s trash, but much like Matt Schaub the week before, we made him look like a flippin’ genius!

Winston threw for 335 yards and 2 TDs and it could’ve been even better, had that receiver not run himself out of bounds in the back of the endzone in the second half. I don’t know how he managed to do that, but it was a gift to the Seahawks and I’ll cherish it always. To be fair, Winston did have a Dave Krieg Special with his fumble (where he went to throw it, but the ball squirted backwards out of his hand), and should’ve had a pick in the endzone in the first half, but it weirdly bounced into a different receiver’s outstretched arms for a touchdown. I was waiting all day for a truly terrible decision, but it never came. Winston played well. But, he also didn’t really need to work all that hard, because his receivers were open all day.

Mike Evans should have games like this every week; I don’t understand why he isn’t the most dominant player in the NFL. I was on him (for fantasy purposes) since his rookie season; he’s truly great. In this one, he caught 12 balls for 180 yards and a touchdown. We just couldn’t cover him. Even the one time Shaquill Griffin made a seemingly great play on a ball towards his side, Evans just snatched it away and ran down field like Griffin wasn’t even there! Evans is a total stud who deserves a better quarterback like nobody’s business.

Yet, you could argue (especially since the Seahawks ended up winning) that Evans was outplayed by Tyler Lockett, who caught 13 for 152 and 2 TDs. This game went almost exactly as I predicted, with both passing attacks just FEASTING on some trash secondaries. Over 51.5 points was the easiest bet on the board all day, and I hope Vegas took a beating over that one. I don’t know who was in charge there, but that dude should be fired.

***

Anyway, for as happy as I was about Lockett, I think this was a really important turning point for D.K. Metcalf. His numbers weren’t as eye-popping (6 for 123 and a TD is nothing to sneeze at, though), but this is more of a Smell Test game for him, and he passed with flying colors. For starters, that crosser he took 53 yards to the house was a thing of beauty; it was – dare I say it – Julio Jones-esque!

But, even better was his catch in overtime. 3rd & 6 from the Tampa 35 yard line. We were clearly NOT in field goal range (more on that in a bit) and everything about this screamed 4-Down Territory. I don’t think you throw a deep back-shoulder fade like this without knowing that you’re DEFINITELY going for it on fourth down. We might never know the answer, but it didn’t matter, because Metcalf made a phenomenal play on the ball and managed to land in bounds to pretty much seal the victory. This came on the same day where he got pushed out of bounds without getting his second foot down to kill a drive and you couldn’t help thinking that was a rookie mistake in a rookie season chock full of rookie mistakes.

This was easily Metcalf’s best game as a pro, and it couldn’t have come at a more opportune time. For starters, it came in the same week the Seahawks claimed Josh Gordon, who from a talent perspective feels like an older version of Metcalf (I’ll do a full write-up on the Gordon deal later this week). But, while Metcalf has always been featured pretty heavily as this team’s #2 receiver, it’s been very spotty. Heading into this one, he’d only caught 23 of his 45 targets, and you had to wonder if the pre-draft haters were at least a little on the nose with him. Granted, a lot of the balls thrown to him are 50/50 balls with a guy all over him, but he’s 6’4, 229 pounds, that’s what he’s here for is to catch the majority of those deep 1-on-1 passes. Well, I’ll be interested to see how the rest of his season shakes out from here, because that catch in overtime was the biggest of his career to date. Regardless, the more times he comes up big in big moments, the better it should prove to be for his career in Seattle. I thought there was a better-than-decent chance that D.K. Metcalf could turn into a superstar when the Seahawks drafted him (his size, his raw talent, the fact that he dropped so far in the draft and the resultant chip on his shoulder, and the nature of this offense being one very suited for his skillset), and given his season to date (29 catches, 525 yards, 5 touchdowns) I think we’re well on our way. Paired with Lockett, we could be talking about two of the very best receivers in all of football in a couple years.

***

All those words and we haven’t talked about the other breakout player from this one: Jacob Hollister! What an absolutely fascinating career he’s had to date. He was originally a quarterback in high school, and was Oregon’s 5A player of the year. He was set to go to college in Nevada, but ended up transferring both schools and his position to tight end.

He went undrafted, but signed on with the Patriots as a rookie in 2017 and played the full season as the team’s third tight end. Feels like the perfect situation, right? He was injured for much of 2018 and had to be placed on IR. But, you had to figure, with Gronk retiring after last season, this would’ve been his time to move up the depth chart.

Instead, the Patriots traded him to the Seahawks for a 2020 7th round pick, which at this point looks like the steal of the century. Bill Belichick doesn’t get fleeced like this! He’s the one doing the fleecing!

Yet, Seahawks fans had to wonder heading into this season, as Hollister found himself on the Practice Squad, behind the likes of Will Dissly, Nick Vannett, George Fant, Luke Willson, and eventually Ed Dickson when he returns from IR. I’m honestly – first – surprised that Hollister even qualified for the Practice Squad (I don’t totally understand the rules there, and quite frankly I don’t WANT to understand). Secondly, I’m surprised he wasn’t picked up by another team (you would’ve figured many teams – but particularly Miami or Detroit, who have head coaches familiar with him – would’ve been more than willing to bring in a former Patriots tight end, with their pedigree at finding talent at the position). Maybe he was about to be claimed, because the Seahawks promoted him just ahead of the Cleveland game, which was fortuitous with Dissly getting injured on that very day.

The Seahawks have been undermanned at tight end ever since, as we’ve waited for Ed Dickson to return to game shape (he should be back in the next week or two), with only two true tight ends on the roster in Willson and Hollister (with Fant as the proverbial blocking tight end, who has actually had to fill in more at the regular offensive line spots with injuries to Duane Brown in recent weeks). Willson is a known commodity, but Hollister has been a fascinating player to watch develop over the last few weeks. He didn’t do a whole lot in his first couple of games against Baltimore and Atlanta (combining for 5 receptions and 38 yards), but he exploded in this one with 4 catches, 37 yards, and 2 touchdowns (including the game-winner in overtime). You had to feel great for him as he was hoisted on the shoulders of his teammates during the celebration.

I guess the knock on him is his blocking? I dunno. Anyone’s better than Jimmy Graham, I suppose, so maybe that’s why it hasn’t bugged me too much. Anyway, with Hollister, Willson, and Dickson when he returns, tight end should be a cool position of strength for this team at just the right time. I’m glad the Seahawks didn’t panic and make a deal at the deadline for an O.J. Howard or something, because we wouldn’t have had this great moment.

***

It feels criminal I’ve gone this long without talking about our MVP. Russell Wilson threw for 378 yards (8.8 yards per attempt) and 5 touchdowns against 0 interceptions. That brings his season numbers through 9 games to 2,505 yards, 22 passing touchdowns, and only 1 interception. It’s now just a two-man race between Wilson and Lamar Jackson for the MVP Award, and I think it’ll be neck-and-neck between the two the rest of the way, assuming both teams keep winning and looking impressive on offense.

Wilson generally had all day to throw, which deserves some kudos for the O-Line. They also did their best in the run game (against the best run defense in football) in helping us go 22 for 145 on the ground (including Carson’s 105 yards, much of which came on his manly-man 59 yard run).

You take the good with the bad though, and Carson had two more fumbles in this game (one of which luckily went out of bounds on that 59 yard scamper). He’ll be in the final year of his rookie deal in 2020, and there’s already rumblings that he might hold out or otherwise demand an extension. But, with all of his fumbling issues (on top of his prior injury history), I just don’t see how you can trust him with a big-money contract. Maybe if he plays out his deal, has another big year, and finds a way to fix his fumbling problem, you could consider it. But, right now, I think he’s costing himself millions of dollars every time he puts the ball on the turf, and a smart team would just let him walk and continue to plow resources into the position through the draft.

***

I’ve said all I can say about the offense, so let’s talk about the defense.

That’s 34 points and 418 total yards. The Bucs were 7/15 on 3rd/4th downs. The Seahawks got a couple sacks, which was a couple more than they usually get, and the Bucs only averaged 3.8 yards per carry (“only”). But, I just don’t know. There really isn’t a way to fix this. Our pass rush just gets locked up on every damn passing play. We try to counter by doing stunts, but that just leaves gaping holes for the quarterback to run through for huge gains. We blitz, it gets picked up; we rush four, huge pocket for the QB; we rush three, the other team has all fucking day to throw the ball.

The Bucs were always well-suited to make this one a game though. Elite passing offense, a head coach in Bruce Arians who knows our team very well and has had a lot of success with his Cardinals coming into Seattle and prevailing. And that defensive line – even without Gerald McCoy – is a fucking monster. I always believed in Vita Vea since his days at the University of Washington, but boy is he a load! Husky defensive tackles don’t always pan out in the NFL, but he looks like the best of the bunch so far!

As I said before, I just don’t know, though, when it comes to the Seahawks’ defense. K.J. Wright looks seriously slow and old. The Seahawks need to start working Cody Barton into the scheme more. And, while Bobby Wagner finally got his second sack of the season, he also had one of the dumbest roughing the passer penalties I’ve ever seen. He always likes to get an unnecessary shove in there well after the ball leaves a QB’s hand, and it’s always dumb on his part (regardless of how weak the shove might’ve been; it’s 2019, figure it the fuck out already, the refs are going to protect the quarterback). That one was on third down, which turned a would-be field goal attempt into an eventual touchdown, which was at least a 4-point swing, if not a 7-pointer (had he missed the field goal, which was a distinct possibility).

***

Oh yeah, can’t leave this post without saying something about Jason Myers.

He’s awful.

Unfortunately, I don’t know what you do about it. At least a third of the NFL has issues at the kicker position. It seems like more than ever teams are shuttling kickers in and out every week. But, not every team made the big investment this past offseason like the Seahawks did. Jason Myers is here to stay, at least through his year if not through next year as well. And, again, unless there’s some college kicker who deserves to be selected in the draft, there really isn’t a lot the Seahawks can do. Stephen Hauschka isn’t walking through that door.

Jason Myers just has to get better. He needs to flush this game as soon as humanly possible and get to work on improving his accuracy. The Seahawks are too conservative at the ends of halves to not have a kicker who’s able to make a 40-yarder.

I knew as soon as the Seahawks got into Tampa territory at the end of regulation that they needed to AT LEAST move the ball another 10 yards. Why settle for a 40-yarder when you have the best quarterback in the game going up against one of the worst secondaries in the game? We still had a time out left! Chuck it down inside the red zone and let’s make this automatic! Especially on a day where Myers had struggled so savagely.

Luckily, again, the Seahawks won that overtime coin flip. Because if we hadn’t, this post would’ve been MUCH different.

People Are Saying The Huskies Suffered The Worst Loss Of The Chris Petersen Era

My beer pong game had been struggling considerably the last couple tailgates, so I invited my brother over for a marathon binge sesh. From around 4-7pm on Saturday, we went back and forth, and by the time the Husky game started, I feel like I finally started getting my groove back. We’ll see about maybe running it back next week before tailgating season resumes.

That has nothing to do with the game on Saturday, it’s just an explanation for why I don’t really remember a whole lot about what happened.

I remember feeling invincible early, I remember mistakes just killing us throughout, and I remember feeling totally helpless by the end. That, no matter what we did, we just couldn’t get out of our own way. We made a mediocre team look like world beaters, but I can’t use that old excuse again. I can’t say “the better team lost” because the better team actually won. Stanford took it to us, and we had no way to stop them.

This was certainly one of the poorer coaching jobs we’ve seen from this regime, and that’s more of a Getting The Kids Prepared sort of angle. WHY DO THE HUSKIES CONTINUE TO PLAY LIKE SHIT IN GAMES THAT START AFTER 7PM??? It makes no sense, and I’m starting to get the feeling that since the coaches hate starting late, it’s bleeding into the players, and we’re all using it as an excuse to not play like we usually do. It’s like how the Seahawks used to lose all the time on the road in 10am starts; it’s mind over matter, and right now these late starts are IN OUR HEADS.

But, was it the worst Husky loss in Chris Petersen’s tenure here?

Well, let’s take a quick trip down memory lane. With the turnover in personnel, I’m hard pressed to care too much about the first couple seasons (though, that loss to ASU in 2015 – where we had a 17-0 lead in the first half before blowing it 27-17 – certainly still sticks in my craw).

I’d have to start with 2017, again a game at ASU. The Sun Devils were 2-3 heading into that one (much like Stanford was this past weekend), whereas the Huskies were undefeated. At that point in the year, nothing was pointing to ASU being anywhere NEAR our league – especially since we were #5 in the nation at that point, coming off of a 2016 season where we made the playoffs – but if memory serves, it was another late start. We weren’t great on defense, but still held them to 13 points. Once again, it was the offense that faltered, where we only scored the lone touchdown in losing 13-7. Considering the expectations heading into that season – a repeat trip to the playoffs, with the hope we’d maybe make it to the championship game – I still believe that’s the worst loss of the Petersen era (regardless of the fact that we would go on to lose in Stanford four weeks later).

I also think the game last year at Cal ranks as a worse loss than this one on Saturday. That one was particularly brutal, because he finally benched Jake Browning, only for Jake Haener to come in and throw a pick-six to cost us the game. And, don’t forget the loss to the Ducks last year, where we settled for a long field goal late in the game, with a kicker who couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn. I’d even be tempted to put this year’s Cal game ahead of the Stanford loss, for no other reason than it was a home defeat and we’re ALWAYS supposed to win in Husky Stadium.

The point is, let’s have a little perspective here. Saturday’s defeat wasn’t the worst. Sure, it’s fucking annoying that we can’t go into that mausoleum of a stadium and win a fucking game, but good teams are supposed to be tough to play on the road. The Cardinal are as banged up as can be, but they’re still coached by a really smart guy, and they’re helmed by a 5-star recruit at quarterback. I never expected to go in there and walk all over them – in spite of what my bravado might force me to say in my drunken reverie.

At the same time, all of these terrible losses have a theme, and that theme is the offense letting the team down. I won’t let the defense off the hook entirely; I mean, what the fuck was up with that wide open 42-yard touchdown?! The secondary is supposed to be among the tops in the game, but they’re still battling some frustrating growing pains. It’s clear the defensive line is a real problem, though. Dude ran for 151 yards on 33 carries; that’s not the D-Line of a Top 10 team in the nation; that’s a fucking joke. This staff needs to re-TRIPLE its efforts in beefing up the front seven on defense. You have to love what they’re doing in recruiting secondary, O-Line, quarterbacks, and the skill positions on offense; but they’ve been seriously neglecting the D-Line and the chickens are coming home to roost in 2017. For the longest time, we’ve gotten by with one good guy. Vita Vea, then Greg Gaines, but we don’t even have ONE guy this year. No one we can count on to plug up the middle, or get a huge pressure when the chips are down. That’s not going to cut it if we want to be the class of the Pac-12 and try to bring a championship back to the northwest.

But, I mean, when is this offense going to pick up the slack? We’re always waiting for the defense to make a big play; when is it the offense’s turn? Eason is still getting burned by his receivers dropping balls, but he also doesn’t look like the savior we all hoped he’d be. He’s got all the arm talent in the world and he might be destined for better things in the NFL, but we might be better off if he leaves school after this year so we can start fresh with someone else who we can grow with over a couple years.

These games are always even more disappointing when you see how the running game was abandoned. Whatever the over/under is on rushing yards for next week’s Arizona game, I’m taking the over. No one is better at over-correcting for a neglected rushing attack than Coach Pete.

It sucks, because it feels like we’re overdue for some wacky shenanigans with a few Top 10 teams. The Huskies lost in Week 2; if we could’ve run the table against a relatively weak schedule, we might’ve put enough distance from our lone defeat that could’ve allowed us to sneak into a playoff situation. Not only is that dead, you really have to wonder if our chances at a Pac-12 Championship Game are in jeopardy. We’re now 1-2 in conference; even if we beat Oregon and run the table, we still need a lot of help. At just the midway point in our season, that’s a terrible feeling to have.

I’m glad the Huskies aren’t ranked anymore; we don’t deserve to be in the Top 25. I hope this is a wake-up call to everyone in the program. We can’t just coast through life on our reputation and our high school recruitment rankings. And, for the love of God, we’ve GOT to figure out a way to win these late night games! We’re in the Pac-12, we’re going to be playing this late quite a bit!

The Huskies Won The Apple Cup, Await Their Bowl Fate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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