After sitting in the student section of CenturyLink Field and watching the Huskies defeat San Diego State 21-12, I didn’t feel any wiser about the 2012 team. It was a win, and while it was in no way resounding, it also never felt like Washington was in real danger of losing. The opponent wasn’t highly ranked, but also wasn’t an FCS instant win. I suppose the mood after the game was one of mild disappointment, just in that nothing amazing happened, but everyone understood that a win is a win.
Now, after having watched the Huskies get absolutely manhandled by the LSU Tigers 41-3 a few days ago, I do feel a little wiser. Unfortunately, it’s more that dark, foreboding wisdom of an old sea captain or grizzled war veteran rather than the whimsical knowledge of an all knowing wizard like Dumbledore or Gandalf. I don’t know any secrets, I haven’t gathered any info, I’ve just learned to adjust my expectations. I headed into Saturday’s game barely containing my child-like excitement with a thin layer of realistic, faux-journalistic haughtiness. I wrote about how the Huskies would lose, and listed out all the reasons why, but by the time kickoff had arrived, I all but expected Washington to surprise me with some sort of magical performance.
When they didn’t, the spell was lifted, and I realized just how foolish I had been. That fan-child inside of me didn’t die, because every true sports fan must keep that part of themselves alive, but it certainly retreated for the time being, and now when the Huskies are gearing up to play Oregon or USC and someone asks me “Do you think we can beat them?” I’ll grab out the corncob pipe, draw on a few fake scars, and mumble about how ridiculous it is to expect a program defining moment.
If, and when, the Huskies are at some point ready to reclaim their spot as a national power program, which they certainly are not at the moment, they will just do it. When it happens, a few people will have seen it coming, but most will have not. Once it does happen, everyone else will act as if they did. This change might manifest itself in a slow buildup of talent and a gradual on-field improvement, or it could involve the sort of sudden upset of a top-5 team we were all hoping to see in Baton Rouge. But until it does happen, and I believe that at some point in the next few decades it is bound to occur, it does no one any good to expect it every week of every season.
So right now, I’m doing my best to take stock of what I realistically expect from the Washington Huskies this season. I do not expect them to beat Oregon or USC. Those teams currently appear to be much better than UW. I do expect them to beat Stanford, as the Cardinal does not look all that impressive. All of the sudden, it looks as if Oregon State is a serious team, if their upset of Wisconsin wasn’t just a single week miracle. If they continue to play at a high level, it’s very possible Coach Sarkisian’s team will lose to the Beavers. It’s too early to tell. Nothing Cal or Utah have done in the first two weeks of the season has impressed much.
After all this soul searching post-LSU, where does that leave the record? Well, if the team loses to USC and Oregon, as well as to Oregon State, while still beating Stanford, Utah, Cal, and everyone else like I think they are still capable of doing, that would leave them with a regular season record of 8-4.
Well damn. 8-4 is exactly the record I said I expected the team to earn at the beginning of the season. So maybe, just maybe, one bad loss and a rash of injuries has set off such a smokescreen of doom and gloom that I’ve forgotten that this is what every reasonable person expected to happen in the first place. A win at SDSU and a loss to the Tigers.
So I guess no one needs to string up Coach Sark just yet. After all, if a 1-1 record after two games was what just about everyone expected, perhaps those prone to overreacting mid-season need to take a few big steps back and attempt to gain a little vintage, preseason perspective.
I’ve been trying for a whole day, and I promise, the view is a lot better from back here.