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Week 8 College Football National Rankings: Does UW Deserve to be Back In?

In a crazy season of upsets galore, Mississippi finds itself as a number one candidate and UW is still on the outside looking in.

Danny Shelton has a message for voters: "Not so fast, my friends"
Danny Shelton has a message for voters: "Not so fast, my friends"
Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

There are few superlatives left in the dictionary or corollaries left in my memory bank to describe the strangeness of the 2014 college football season.  All I can say is that there are two teams from Mississippi in the top 5 and another two from the state of Alabama that are not.

Incidentally, I blame Lane Kiffin. But, that's another article.

The question I'd like to raise here is whether or not the Washington Huskies deserve to be ranked in the top 25. To be more precise, I'd like to explore the idea that human voters should consider the Huskies worthy of such distinction at this point in the season. The computers and analytics will churn out what they will, but the polling always comes down to a subjective determination that is derived in part from how a team "looks" relative to whatever expectations they started out with.

To start this discussion, it would be useful to identify some basic criteria that might make a team worthy of subjective appreciation from a voter of the media or coaching persuasion.  I think that there are four things that really matter in this regard:

  1. Basic wins, losses and "credibility" stats
  2. Presence of a high-performing "name" player (and absence of a non-performing name player)
  3. Establishment and maintenance of an easily recognized "team identity"
  4. Perceived quality of schedule, conference and head coach

To the first point, UW easily meets the criteria.  5-1 with the lone loss coming to a ranked Power 5 opponent is a record that compares favorably to everybody else in the nation. In fact, there are at least four teams still in the rankings (depending on which) who have suffered two losses with some of those losses coming to teams like Boston College and Utah - unranked teams to start the year.  Beyond the wins and losses, UW has strong leadership in some of those "credibility" stats that pundits like to cite. They lead the nation in turnover margin at a ridiculous +14, they have two of the top five pass rushers in the nation, and their QB play, believe it or not, is in the top 30 as measured by rating. Beyond that, they don't have any obvious blemishes in terms of huge statistical deficiencies that would jump out at a voter. Even in their weakest areas, they are merely "average" compared to the rest of the nation.

As to "name" players, the Huskies may well be suffering from the lack of a standout on offense, despite the fact that John Ross is one of only five players in the nation with two plays of over 80 yards on the season.  On defense, however, they are shining. Shaq Thompson is a legit Heisman candidate with four defensive TDs scored. Hau'oli Kikaha leads the nation in sacks with 10.  Danny Shelton is fifth in the same, as a NT!  Marcus Peters is tied for fourth in the nation in interceptions. Defensively, UW is churning out stellar individual outputs from its players in statistical categories that draw voter attention.

The idea of a team identity that is recognizable is the one area most likely holding UW back.  It is hard for voters to synch the EWU game (and the first half of GSU) with efforts like Illinois and Cal. While it is easy for us fans to see that the identity is forming around defense, turnover margin and rushing offense, the execution of that has been inconsistent.  It's not surprising that voters are confused by UW.

What voters won't be confused by is the credibility of the staff and the conference. Chris Petersen is a giant among coaches as proven by his two Bear Bryant Awards. He will be given a long leash by voters given his reputation and his accomplishment. However, his 5-1 record has not been built on an overly impressive schedule and, as such, he is likely still in that "prove it" zone in the minds of voters. This is understandable.

For the most part, I don't think UW has earned a trip to the top 25 yet. We could argue that UW is better than ranked teams like Arizona State, Marshall, UCLA and even Clemson.  In fact, we'd probably have a good case. However, we all would agree that it is better to earn the recognition than to back into it.  Beat Oregon next week and all of that will take care of itself. Even Chris Petersen would agree with that.

Week 8 College Football Rankings

AP Coaches Sagarin
1 Mississippi State Mississippi State Auburn
2 Florida State Florida State Ole Miss
3 Ole Miss Ole Miss Mississippi State
4 Baylor Baylor Oklahoma
5 Notre Dame Notre Dame Baylor
6 Auburn Michigan State Alabama
7 Alabama Alabama Georgia
8 Michigan State Auburn TCU
9 Oregon Oregon Texas A&M
10 Georgia Georgia Oregon
11 Oklahoma Oklahoma Florida State
13 Ohio State Ohio State Notre Dame
14 Kansas State Kansas State Michigan State
15 Oklahoma State Oklahoma State Ohio State
16 Arizona East Carolina Stanford
17 Arizona State Arizona Kansas State
18 East Carolina Arizona State Clemson
19 Nebraska Nebraska Florida
20 Utah Stanford UCLA
21 Texas A&M Texas A&M USC
22 USC Clemson Tennessee
23 Stanford Utah Utah
24 Clemson Marshall Nebraska
25 Marshall USC Arkansas
For a composite Top 25 college football ranking, visit