Three straight seven-win seasons, two consecutive bowl losses, a four-year record of 26-25. Do these sound like elite results? Are they even good results?
That’s debatable and it depends a lot on context. From one viewpoint, Steve Sarkisian took over a football team coming off a 0-12 season and led them to a 7-6 record two seasons later. Another is that a football program that holds four national championships and 14 Rose Bowl appearances hasn’t won more than seven games since 2001.
Since Rick Neuheisal was dismissed, the program has hit rock bottom twice and seen just four .500 seasons, one of which came the year after his departure. The other three have come in the past three seasons, under Sarkisian.
He may have turned Washington into a respectable football program once again, but can Sark meet higher expectations?
All three of his last recruiting classes have been ranked in the top-25, but the Huskies have been ranked a total of two weeks over those three seasons in the AP top-25. They were No. 22 in 2011 after blowing out Colorado to improve to 5-1, but dropped out once and for all that season after losing, 65-21 at Stanford.
Last season, the Huskies were once again ranked for one week. This time it came after a defeat of the Cardinal. The AP voted them No. 23 after upsetting the No. 8 Cardinal, 17-13. They proceeded to lose 52-21 at No. 2 Oregon the next week to drop out again.
Sarkisian’s only other top-25 ranking came after UW upset No. 3 USC in the ‘Miracle on Montlake’ in 2009.
According to AP voters, the Huskies have been one of the 25 best teams in America just three of the possible 64 weeks since Sarkisian took over.
With the arguably the most talented roster in the past decade, this is the season that Sarkisian needs to break the trend. Anybody should be able to win six or seven games with a roster that includes Kasen Williams, Austin-Seferian Jenkins and Shaq Thompson. If Sark doesn’t do more, Scott Woodward may take notice and send him packing.
What will earn him another year on campus? Probably an 8- or 9-win season and a respectful bowl appearance. Another three? Give me 11 wins and a BCS bowl. Want a statue on campus? Win a damn championship!
In all seriousness, there is a very real chance that the man we all worshiped three years ago will be fired if the Huskies don’t perform this season.
As refreshing as a couple winning seasons were after years in the basement, the University of Washington won’t stand for mediocrity for much longer. What was once a football powerhouse thought it had its man to return them to the promise land. Four years later, they sit in the same spot they were three years ago: a talented team with little to show.
This will be the season to know if they’ve got him. The Pac-12 North rivals the SEC West (nobody comes within a mile of the East) as one of the hardest divisions in college football, but there will be no more excuses. A 10-win season will mean beating the teams you’re supposed to while beating at least three of Oregon, Stanford, UCLA, Arizona State and Oregon State.
It is a tall task facing Sarkisian and the Huskies, but every elite program makes the jump at some point. This is the Huskies time.