Washington football’s new season begins with day game

SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 10: A general view of the exterior of the stadium prior to the game between the Washington Huskies and the Idaho Vandals on September 10, 2016 at Husky Stadium in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 10: A general view of the exterior of the stadium prior to the game between the Washington Huskies and the Idaho Vandals on September 10, 2016 at Husky Stadium in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images) /

As students stormed the field at Arizona State late Saturday night, Washington  Football faithful collectively realized that UW ‘s season had changed. With five conference games remaining, it’s already win or go home for the 6-1 Huskies.

One devastating loss is all it takes in today’s college football landscape to take a leave from relevance. Two missed field goals, a touchdown called back due to a holding penalty, and a miracle pass completion on fourth down all led to a stunning Washington Football team loss at Arizona State.

The 13-7 defeat marked the second time in Chris Petersen‘s tenure that Washington scored single-digit points, the other coming against Alabama in the Peach Bowl. Now, Washington’s head coach must prepare his team for a five game season in which winning out is the only option.

Washington’s remaining schedule is brutal–they face the 17th toughest remaining slate in the country (according to ESPN’s Football Power Index). That’s tougher than the remaining schedules of every other playoff contender but Georgia.

The first day back at work started well for the Huskies, as a 12:30 p.m. kickoff time was announced for its homecoming game versus UCLA.

Out of the spotlight

The first seven games of the season for Washington all kicked off at 5 p.m. PST or later–8 p.m. EST. This led to the controversial exchange between Petersen and a number of ESPN analysts.

In the end, announcer Mark Jones called Petersen “irascible” and “cantankerous”, Kirk Herbstreit claimed Washington “should be thanking” ESPN for airing Pac-12 games, and sideline reporter Quint Kessenich lined up cupcakes on Husky Stadium’s field to demonstrate the teams UW has faced in 2017.

Whether Petersen’s mild remarks affected the Pac-12’s scheduling or not, the UW/UCLA matchup is slated for 12:30 p.m. PST, 3:30 p.m. EST in two weeks. Washington finally has its chance to play in front audiences on both the west coast and the east coast. The Huskies need all the national coverage possible to jump back into the national conversation.

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Battle for the North

With a loss in conference, Washington is no longer in the driver’s seat in the Pac-12 North division. Both Stanford (5-1 Pac-12) and Washington State (4-1 Pac-12) have a shot at stealing the division crown away from UW. The combined record of Washington’s remaining opponents is 22-11.

The Huskies have a bye in week eight to recuperate, then play at home back to back weeks, against UCLA (3-3) October 27 and Oregon (4-3) November 3. Neither game is an easy one, but they provide a Washington offense with ample opportunity to put up big points.

Washington’s margin of victory at home this season is almost 40 points in three games at Husky Stadium. Expect Petersen to rally the Huskies to huge wins in weeks seven and eight.

November 10 is when the college football world discovers what Washington is capable of. UW travels to Palo Alto to face Stanford for a 7:30 p.m. Friday kickoff.

Just like a year ago, the country is sleeping on Stanford after a pair of early losses. Assuming the Cardinal dominate Oregon State this weekend, they move to 6-2 on the season and 5-1 in Pac-12 play. Stanford visits Washington State for another monumental Pac-12 North matchup just six days before hosting UW.

If Washington can survive a stout Stanford defense and a Heisman candidate tailback in Bryce Love (1387 rushing yards and 11 scores through seven games), the tough road only continues.

Washington returns home to face Utah on November 17 in a rematch of UW’s thrilling victory in Salt Lake City a year ago. The Utes are no cupcake either–a missed two point conversion in overtime is all that prevented them from a huge win at USC last week.

Battle for the state

Finally, if Washington can rattle off four consecutive wins to remain in the race for the North division, it may come down to the Apple Cup on November 25. Both UW and WSU have looked dominant aside from this past week. If both teams manage to enter Rivalry Week unscathed, the winner would earn a Pac-12 Championship Game berth.

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Petersen’s teams have dominated the Apple Cup, having one three straight. This year, Washington State appears to be a more complete team, with defense winning as many games for the Cougars as the offense.

Ultimately, it comes down to a trio of contests–Stanford at Washington State, Washington at Stanford, and Washington State at Washington–to filter out the top three teams in the North.