The Huskies have moved up one spot to 19th in the AP poll, but stayed put at 23rd in the USA Today Coaches poll. Last week, the Huskies entered the rankings after decisively defeating the Boise State Broncos 38-6 in the season-opening, stadium-opening game at the new Husky Stadium last Saturday.
On a bye this week, the Huskies benefited from a bit of attrition and moved up one slot despite not playing any football. This is the first time that Washington has been ranked in consecutive weeks since September 2003, and it’s also Washington’s highest ranking since that year, when the Huskies held the No. 18 spot for one week in September.
Next week, the Huskies have a chance to improve on their position via an actual on-field performance. The team travels to take on Illinois at Soldier Field on Sept. 14 in what is basically a home game for the Illini, who received seven votes in the AP poll as a result of a surprise 45-17 home victory over Cincinnati and a 2-0 record overall.
Washington is favored to win that game by just over seven points, and most Husky fans will likely expect at least a two-score margin of victory following such a dominant opening performance. A win of that magnitude could signal that Washington’s road woes are coming to a close, but even a close win will represent a march towards a very realistic 4-0 start, with a home cupcake against FCS Idaho State followed by a home contest against Arizona to open the conference slate.
That kind of positive start could have UW up in the top-15 for the roadtrip to Palo Alto on October 5, where the Huskies will likely face a top-5 Stanford team in a key conference contest. It’s very possible that either Oregon or Stanford competes in the national title game, given that both are currently in the top-5, with Oregon seemingly the most likely at No. 2. If that is the case, the second place team, presumably Stanford or Washington given the early struggles of Cal and Oregon State, would have a Rose Bowl shot.
Of course, Stanford deserves to be favored and deserves the benefit of the doubt. Washington may have defeated the Cardinal at CenturyLink Field last year, but they have been the better program overall and many favor them to beat out Oregon for the Pac-12 North championship. But if Washington wants to surprise the nation and earn a chance at the Rose Bowl, it will need to win at Illinois and against Arizona to start.