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Washington Huskies Football Preview 30 Day Countdown: Pick an Opponent


Hey Des, how many more days do we have until UW football?



Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

Last year around this time, I challenged you all to vote on an opponent that you would like to add to the 2017 schedule. Among the options I included were Alabama and Penn State: one team that had already beaten us and another that would (unbeknownst to me at the time) go on to do the same.

Ironically, I had wriwritten tten that my selection for a team that I would add to the schedule was Penn State. My logic was focused on the fact that with a weak out of conference schedule, a team like Penn State could help us to dramatically beef up our playoff resume. I also thought that the Nittany Lions were a team that UW matched up very well against and one that we ought to be able to handle more times than not.

The bad news is that I was totally wrong about Penn State – they were better than us and they proved it. The good news is that I apparently have a super power that allows me to will teams onto our schedule.

Now that I’m aware of this super power, I can use it to do some good in this world. With UW already sporting Auburn on its 2018 schedule, there really isn’t a need to consider this exercise one focused on enhancing our odds for a shot at the national title. ESPN has already projected UW to have a 51% to have a top four “strength of record” rating should they beat the Tigers on a neutral field on Saturday. That would be good enough to make the CFP in most years.

Thus, we can focus purely on entertainment value using whatever metrics we wish. Revenge, skills test, or attractiveness of travel venue are all on the table as possible motivations for selecting the one team that a majority of us would add to this year’s schedule if given the chance.

With that in mind, here are the candidates.

(1) Alabama Crimson Tide

“We wan’t ‘Bama”. Remember that refrain?

We are now more than a full year and a half removed from the throttling that Alabama applied to Washington in the 2016 season Peach Bowl. Even still, Husky fans continue to debate whether or not this game qualified as a “beat down” or as a “tight game that could have gone either way”.





Frankly, I don’t see any usefulness in this debate. While watching Jake Browning dissect the Alabama secondary for a sharp-looking opening drive TD pass to Dante Pettis was encouraging, we can’t ignore the fact that the UW offense failed to cross the 50 yard line on any subsequent drive for the remainder of the game. A great punting game and some tough defense was all that UW could muster as ‘Bama methodically and inevitably pressured UW into submission.

A rematch in 2018 would be interesting. UW has several players from that 2016 roster, including a big chunk of the offense, still on this team. The defense is deeper, Jake Browning is healthy and there are more playmakers with players like Ty Jones, Chico McClatcher and Quinten Pounds in a position to make an impact.

Alabama, of course, is still the gold standard of excellence in college football no matter what you think of their ethics (ahem, Ale Kaho) or their machine-like structure. To beat them – or even to compete with them – would be a great accomplishment and cement UW as one of the elite programs on the planet.

Interestingly, many outlets are projecting this very rematch in the 2018 College Football Playoff. For example, all but one of the SI writers on this panel have UW in the CFP with two of them projecting the UW / ‘Bama matchup. Similarly, ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit makes the same projection:

Even our friends at the SB Nation mothership see this match-up happening. So let’s just lock it in here.

(2) Penn State Nittany Lions

Revenge is a dish best served cold. Therefore, I would modify this nomination to clarify that we would like to see this rematch occur in a cold weather month in a cold weather venue.

There are very many Husky fans that were disappointed with how the Dawgs played in their Fiesta Bowl match up with Penn State. The UW defense, which had carried the team throughout the season, was obliterated by a much more prepared Penn State offense. The carnage was real and it was embarrassing. Consider the evidence:

  • Penn State converted 13 of 17 third downs for a 76.5% clip. Over the full season, UW allowed just a 38% conversion rate
  • Penn State racked up 205 yards rushing on a 5.3 yards per carry average. They were the only team to go over 200 yards against UW’s defense other than Oregon (which accomplished that feat mostly in garbage time) and the only team to go over 5 ypc
  • Penn State was a perfect 12-12 passing on third downs with their average per attempt/completion at 16.1 yards. UW’s ypa allowed during the season was just 6.1 yards
  • Penn State ran 79 plays compared to UW’s 59

While we all hope that UW’s defense was actually better than what showed up in the Fiesta Bowl, we don’t really know for sure. It is hard to ignore how soft UW’s schedule was and how that might have inflated the defensive statistics for the team.

A rematch with Penn State would provide the opportunity to demonstrate that UW’s defense has much more to bring to the table. Sure, Saquon Barkley and Mike Gesicki are off to the NFL, but Trace McSorley still has a lot of weapons to work with. It would be a great match-up and a good time for Husky fans.

(3) Notre Dame Fightin’ Irish


Notre Dame v Washington

In eight tries dating back to 1948, Washington has never defeated Notre Dame. Included in this eight game losing streak are two games that stand out: the 2004 affair where Tyrone Willingham, then the coach for the Fightin’ Irish, led Notre Dame to a 38-3 whipping over the Dawgs and the 2005 rematch where Tyrone Willingham, now the coach of UW, got thoroughly outclassed by Charlie Weis (?!?) in a 36-17 beat down.

It is time to wash the filth of the Willingham stain out of the mouths of Husky Nation.

The Huskies match up well with this year’s version of the Fightin’ Irish. Their offense is built around the rushing attack of RB Josh Adams (stud) and new QB Brandon Wimbush. Their defense is stacked, but is vulnerable to giving up the occasional big play.

Should UW take on and win a game against Notre Dame it would both boost its playoff resume and help fans repair the ongoing PTSD that the Willingham era has imposed on us all. Plus, a road trip to South Bend is always a good time and one that, in all likelihood, would draw the attention of ESPN Game Day.

The Verdict

Alabama

I don’t think Husky fans “want ‘Bama” as much as we want to chance to see our program take that next step up the ladder in the college football hierarchy. Beating two SEC teams in one season (in this hypothetical world) would have a dramatic and enduring impact on the perception of UW as a national power. It could also help elevate UW to the level of one of those programs that simply get the benefit of the doubt – as Alabama got a year ago with a less-than-perfect playoff resume – when it comes time to selecting “the best teams” for the annual CFP show-and-tell.

Poll

If you could add one out-of-conference opponent to the 2018 schedule, who would it be?

  • 33%

    Alabama

    (2 votes)

  • 0%

    Penn State

    (0 votes)

  • 33%

    Notre Dame

    (2 votes)

  • 33%

    Another team

    (2 votes)



6 votes total

Vote Now

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