Mitch Light visited the Dawg Pound this week to share his reactions to UW's statement victory over Boise State and some of his thoughts on how the Pac 12 fits into the national picture. Mitch, like many other national sports media members, was interested in the opening of Husky Stadium and the way the UW team handled it's business against BSU.
Still a long way to go, but Washington made a huge statement. Huge win over Boise State.— Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch) September 3, 2013
For those of you unfamiliar with Mitch, he is the national editor for Athlon Sports and frequent guest on several national sports radio broadcasts. I often hear Mitch as a weekly guest on Bill King's Sirius XM radio show. Mitch has been at Athlon Sports since 2001 and moonlights as a sideline reporter for Vanderbilt. He is a huge college football fan and SEC expert - his father having been an Alabama alumnus. Despite his proclivity for the SEC, Mitch covers the whole nation and has even been to one Pac 12 game in his life - Washington's 28–17 win over Stanford in 2003. Good choice.
Here is my Q&A with Mitch Light.
Chris Landon (CL): Mitch, thanks for taking the time to do this Q&A. I heard you on with Bill King yesterday morning and you seemed high on UW following the big win over Boise State. What impressed you most about UW coming out of that game?
Mitch Light (ML): Probably the defense. I know Boise State has taken a step back offensively in the past few years, but it was very impressive to hold this team to only six points. Boise State got some yards, but really had to work hard for everything. When you can prevent the big play — which UW did — you are going to have success on defense.
CL: Many national fans know names like Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Keith Price as well-regarded talents at their positions. Were there any unheralded Husky players that jumped out at you as guys who may soon become part of the national conversation? If so, who and why?
ML: Jaydon Mickens is the first guy that comes to mind. He was terrific. The passing game will be very difficult to deal with if Mickens can emerge as a consistent weapon to team with Kasen Williams and Austin Seferian-Jenkins. On defense, Shaq Thompson looked very good. He’s obviously pretty well known to Pac-12 fans, but he’s a guy that will get some national buzz if the Huskies continue to win.
CL: In Athlon's preseason Pac 12 preview, your staff forecasted UW to finish 4-5 in the Pac and 7-5 overall noting that you were not optimistic about the Huskies offensive line and their "brutal" schedule. Now that you've seen the results of fall camp and the first game, what questions do you think UW has to address before they are considered legitimate contenders in the Pac 12 North?
ML: It’s only been one week, but I’ve changed my forecast for the 2013 season for Washington. This might not be a vintage Boise State team, but that was such an impressive performance. Now, is this team ready to challenge Oregon and Stanford for the Pac-12 North title? Not sure about that yet, but they have clearly made the move – at least in my opinion – from a top-40-ish team to a top-20-ish team. To specifically answer your question: Washington played so well in almost every phase that it’s hard to say what they need to do better to be a contender. I think the Huskies just need to prove they can do it again against quality competition.
CL: The Huskies new "up-tempo" scheme is not unique in the Pac 12 where teams like Oregon, Arizona State, Washington State, Arizona and now Cal all have similar hurry-up schemes. As a Nashville-based guy who sees a lot more SEC style smashmouth, what are your thoughts on the trend towards spread and hurry-up schemes in terms of how they may or may not translate into success for teams with National Championship aspirations?
ML: I don’t think the "up-tempo" scheme is unique to any part of the country. Sure there are a bunch of teams that do it out West, but there are also several that run it in the SEC — Ole Miss and Texas A&M are doing it well right now, for example. I think an up-tempo team can win the national title. It’s about talent, and Alabama has had the most talent (and great coaching) in recent years.
CL: Every year, the media picks their favorites going into a season, often based on last year's standings. Based on your own assessments, who are the teams in the Pac 12 that you think are "coming on" and who may be at risk for taking a "step back" in 2013?
ML: Based on Week 1, it’s fair to say that Washington is the fastest-riser in the Pac-12. Other programs that I believe are "coming on" are UCLA, Cal and Washington State. Cal and Washington State aren’t a threat to win any titles any time soon, but I like the trajectory of both programs. Utah is the one program that doesn’t seem to have a lot of positive momentum right now. Every other program — even Colorado — seems to be trending in the right direction.
CL: One of the frustrations that Pac 12 fans have is the strong national media focus on the SEC. One line of thinking is that the SEC maintains the illusion of dominance due to the infrequency in which the good teams in the conference actually play one another and the fact that their 8-game conference schedule generates an extra dozen wins for the conference every year. Where do you fall in your assessment of the SEC relative to the rest of the country and do you think that the SEC would be better served by playing 9 conference games a year per team?
ML: I do believe the SEC is the best conference in the nation, but not by as wide of a margin as many others in the media. This year, especially, with two top-5 teams and several other top-25-ish teams (Arizona, UCLA, USC and now Washington), the Pac-12 is clearly a very, very good conference. I do think the SEC should play nine conference games.