It’s weird how things always play out in college football. They always seem to play out the way you didn’t think they would. Besides the constant present of top-ranked Alabama, everything else kind of follow form in the most chaotic way. This is what makes the current College Football Playoff format exciting to watch from week to week.
There are no gimmes. Riding high off of one victory doesn’t amount to squat should you lose the following week.
The University of Washington, and the way they’ve played the last two seasons, is a good example of this. Last year, the Huskies barely got over the .500 mark with a not too impressive 7-6 record. This season, Washington (No. 4) is among the top four teams in the country and will be participating in the 2017 College Football Playoff Championship semifinals.
Talk about the flip of a switch. That is just the way it goes in college football. One minute you’re down. The next minute you could be on top of the college football mountain. Last season, Washington was nowhere near that mountain, toiling in football mediocrity.
Among those seven wins they recorded, zero was the number when it came to beating quality opponents, unless you call beating up on Sacramento State and Washington State great victories.
Oh sure, the Huskies did beat Cody Kessler and that USC squad at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. That was sort of eye-opening.
But coming into the 2016 season, the sense was that Washington was going to be good. How good? No one really knew for sure. They had a pretty good quarterback coming back in Jake Browning. The Huskies’ defense could also beat the snot out of you. Add the return of speedster John Ross to the picture, Washington looked like contenders.
They were picked to finish second to Stanford in the Pac-12 Conference preseason poll. Yes, the same Stanford team that demolished the Huskies 31-14 last season. Stanford, of course, with the great Christian McCaffrey, had just rolled through Iowa in the Rose Bowl.
The Cardinal was the consensus pick as the best team in that preseason poll. Polls don’t mean a hill of beans when you start to play the games on the field. This is where Washington would earn their keep this season. Except for a one-game hiccup against Adoree’ Jackson and USC in their lone defeat of the year, the Huskies dominated all season.
You might say they kicked tail and asked questions later. Stanford was on that hit list, getting stomped by the Huskies, 44-6. They smashed Cal (66-27) and put Washington State back in its place with a 45-17 thumping.
Then as if to certify their 2016 butt-kicking trail, the Huskies then went out and lit a match under the Colorado Buffaloes in the Pac-12 Football Conference Championship Game with a 41-10 coronation victory. Take that, doubters and haters.
Interesting enough, Washington (12-1) managed to beat Colorado (10-3) with a pedestrian outing from Browning, who only completed 9 of 24 passes for just 118 yards. Those numbers are not going to get it done against Alabama in the Huskies’ semifinal matchup with college football’s defending champions. But that’s another story for another day.
Washington really didn’t need Browning to be Superman against the Buffaloes. That’s because the Huskies basically manhandled Colorado in just about every major category where it counted. Washington dominated the time of possession (38 minutes to 21 minutes), outgained Colorado in total yards (383 yards to 163 yards), totaled more first downs (22-9) and came out on top in the turnover category (0-3).
That seems like a pretty dominant performance. But it was two plays in the second half by defensive back Taylor Rapp that snuffed out Colorado’s chances of winning the game. Rapp had a pick six interception and came up with another errant throw to help Washington increase its lead.
“I was just back there on the post, and I saw the quarterback threw the ball, and I saw it was a little high. So I was converging on the receiver,” Taylor said on his interception return. “You know, it’s just reaction, got the ball, and my teammates obviously did an incredible job blocking and making a lane for me.”
Washington running back Myles Gaskin talked about the Huskies’ overwhelming performance during the game and the season.
“It’s a great feeling,” Gaskin said. “Just being out there and doing our assignments with our brothers. I know everybody says that, but those are really like my brothers, and just knowing that we’re firing on all cylinders and everybody is having fun and we’re doing it for each other, it’s one of those feelings you can’t explain. People are going to say it’s fun, but it’s more than that. I’ve got nothing but love for these guys, on the offensive side, defensive side, T. Rapp, doing his thing, everybody. First play coming out in the second half, to get a pick six, it’s a great thing.”