We already know quite a bit about the Washington Huskies football schedule in 2016. We know that the non-conference schedule is a bit of a cupcake. We know that starting the Pac-12 slate with a trip to the desert followed by Stanford and Oregon is brutal. We like the idea that getting some of these new starting QBs early in the year may be an advantage. Facing the Cougs after Luke Falk has already dropped back over 500 times? That increases the chance of WSU starting a backup QB in the Apple Cup for the third time in the past five seasons.
But there is more to it than just who you are playing, where you are playing, and what point in the season you are playing them. Just as UW has an identified "rough stretch" early on, each opponent that the Huskies face has a context to which the Washington game fits into their schedule.
Below is the full Pac-12 schedule (Click to open to a legible size).
The first and most obvious thing that jumps out to me is that UW faces zero teams coming off a bye week (and only one game -ASU- is against a team that is just one week removed from a bye). Probably not a huge deal, but there may be some advantage to no opponents having two weeks to lick their wounds and prepare solely for Washington.
Let's break down each Pac-12 game focusing on the opponent schedule leading up to their matchup with UW. I have also included the game each team will play after the Huskies for those who like to factor in potential "looking ahead" variables.
Arizona Wildcats - Sept 24, Tucson, AZ
The Pac-12 opener for both teams, there isn't a lot to digest here. Arizona will have had a challenging game against BYU, but could easily be 3-0 and still a pretty average football team heading into their fourth consecutive home game. Note, BYU is not ranked #2, that number refers to a key on the full schedule regarding where the BYU/UA game is to be played.
Stanford Cardinal - Sept 30, Seattle
OK, here we may have something. Those are two tough games coming into a Friday night matchup with the Dawgs. I think what most of us would love to see is a couple wins against the LA schools setting up a really important game pairing two undefeated teams who could likely be ranked in the top 10. Then there's the other side of the coin: UW has to beat out Stanford to win the North, so if they drop a game, boo hoo too bad. Personally, I don't really want to see Stanford come in having lost a couple close ones and in a desperate situation. That never bodes well. One thing for sure, their new QB will be battle tested by the time he faces UW.
Oregon Ducks - Oct 8, Eugene, OR
For the second year in a row, the Huskies get Oregon fresh off a game against Wazzu. Last year the return of Vernon Adams and Darren Carrington for Oregon's matchup with UW was the difference, but I didn't like the fact that they were coming off a loss to the Cougs the week before. It put them in dire straits badly needing a win. A desperate, talented team is dangerous. I'd prefer the upset of the Ducks be dealt by Nebraska or the Buffs, then a look-lousy-while-edging-WSU game would be the perfect set up. Perhaps the Cougs give away a game they should have won. There should be a name for that.
Oregon State Beavers - Oct 22, Seattle
The Huskies get two weeks to prepare for a home game against the Beavs. Gotta feel for OSU who is rebuilding and will have played a physical Utah team the week before. If the Dawgs have a let-down opportunity in their Pac-12 schedule, this be it. I never really worry about teams 'looking ahead," but there is a hint of potential to relax when you have just watched two weeks worth of Oregon State film. That said, this is far from some kind of trap game.
Utah Utes - Oct 29, Salt Lake City, UT
OSU could be a trap for Utah. Chances are the Beavers will beat someone in conference this year, and most likely it will be at home. Or, the Utes could simply follow script and destroy them. Either way, the following week features a huge Pac-12 South game at the Rose Bowl against the Bruins. The Dawgs will come to town fresh off a likely pummeling of OSU. It's hard to get a read on this matchup; just a great football game. Both teams should have a lot on the line in Salt Lake City.
Cal Bears - Nov 5, Berkeley, CA
A tough stretch for Cal following their bye. Oregon will exhaust the young defense, then it's off to Troy for a Thursday night game against a USC team that has won the last 12 games in this series. This potentially sets up well for UW if Cal has a rough year. Normally I don't like playing teams that have lost a few in a row, but if a they have had their spirit broken that's a different story. Add in a whisper quiet Memorial Stadium crowd negating the fact that it's a road game and we could possibly see something like what happened in Corvallis last November.
USC Trojans - Nov 12, Seattle
If we stick with the 'Cal sucks' script, Southern Cal wipes the field with the the Golden Bears, then hosts Oregon. In dropping four of the last five games against the Ducks, USC has surrendered 48, 62, 53 & 47 points in the losses. Oregon is a BIG game to USC. They would celebrate and relish a win. Trojan teams of late have followed a lot of big wins with losses. So, yeah; double down on your U of O disdain on November 5th. I'll order up a little sideways rain for the 12th.
Arizona St. Sun Devils - Nov 19, Seattle
Ten. 10. TEN. Yes that is ten games in a row Washington has lost to ASU. Before that, UW won 9 of the previous 12. Nothing really special about this part of the schedule for the Sun Devils other than it's pretty tough. They play at Eugene, have a late-season bye before hosting Utah, then come to Montlake where they seem to win a lot.
Washington St. Cougars - Nov 25, Pullman
It's the damn Apple Cup, throw out the records and the blah blah blah.. yes we have all heard it enough times. Probably matters not who has played who leading up to this game, but let's stay on task and remain analytical. Coug fans have a nice little warm up set before they begin hiding rocks in snowballs and roll out the whiskey stained red carpet for their friends from the west. Anything can happen in these games however, as last year's Colorado game saw star QB Luke Falk carted off the field in what was a scary moment no matter who you cheer for.
So there you have it; one game at a time, next stop Levi's Stadium, Dec 2.
It's only hype if it doesn't happen.