LOS ANGELES CA - OCTOBER 02: Head coach Steve Sarkisian of the Washington Huskies pumps his fist after a Huskies field goal in the third quarter against the USC Trojans at the Angeles Memorial Coliseum on October 2 2010 in Los Angeles California. Washington won 32-31. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Losses: Eastern Washington (FCS), Hawaii, Nebraska
Returning Teams: Stanford (Thursday), @Oregon, USC, @Arizona, Oregon State, @California (Friday), Utah, @Colorado, @Washington State
Additions: San Diego State, @LSU, Portland State
Year in and year out, the Huskies have played one of the toughest (and frequently the toughest) schedules in the country. Nebraska, LSU, Oklahoma, Ohio State, Notre Dame, BYU, Boise State, Syracuse and Michigan have all been on the docket at some point in the last decade and that's in addition to the grueling nine game Pac-10 round robin.
The addition of Colorado and Utah and the ensuing division split did Washington no favors, with the Pac-12 North being the stronger of the two divisions. The teams that UW missed last season and will miss this year are Arizona State and UCLA, two teams that are and were very beatable, as evidenced by both programs firing their coaches and hiring two brand spankin' new unimpressive ones, probably ensuring their continued mediocrity for years to come. Add to that the unlikelihood of Colorado turning it around any time soon and the few years of transition Arizona will be undergoing, and the Pac-12 South looks to become the North's whipping boy over the coming seasons -- even more so than they were last year.
The schedule last season was pretty straightforward. All the Huskies had to do to make a bowl game was win their home games against teams that they were better than or of simlar talent. And that they did, going 6-0 in those games. The rest of the schedule was not so kind, as the Dawgs were unable to beat a ranked team, going 0-4, and dropped a game to a team that most would call inferior in Oregon State, and mustered their only road win of the season against Utah.
Perhaps the biggest factor of the schedule that people are not talking about for the coming season is the disparity of that home/road split. The Huskies play one fewer home game, and probably won't be able to rely on getting bowl elligible simply by winning those games with both Stanford and USC coming to town. The home issue is further compounded by playing those games a CenturyLink Field; the effect may be minimal or nonexistent, but right now we just don't know how the team will respond to playing every game off campus.
Most talked about with this schedule has been the first half, where the Huskies will play three preseason top 5 teams and Stanford on top of that. Even the opening opponent, San Diego State, has won 9 and 8 games the past two years. Certainly a brutal stretch, probably the most difficult in college football, and one that has fans worried about a sub .500 start that could leave the team scrambling to get to a bowl game. But if those fans are looking for respite in the second half, they'll be sorely disappointed. Yes, the teams are not nearly as high profile, but four of the final six on the back end are on the road, and road games in the Pac-12 are never easy.
The Verdict: Worse
LSU on the road is a much tougher game than Nebraska on the road, and San Diego State is a better program right now than Hawaii, so the nonconference portion is undoubtedly harder. In the conference, unless the Huskies can find a way to win some road games this is going to be a long and frustrating year. An upset or two would make things more palatable, but they're upsets because they're unlikely and hard to count on. In order to see improvement in the W column the Huskies are going to have to beat the teams that they're better than or equal to regardless of the game's location, or upset a couple teams. And those are really hard to do.