Before I head out to Husky stadium for a UW football game, my wife will always ask me the same question: "Are they going to win today?" Depending on the opponent, my answer usually varies from "They better" to "Today is a tough one." Sure, I have an occasional bold prediction mixed in. I was pretty confident about last year's Apple Cup and proclaimed that a win was very, very likely. The truth is though, gambling aside, predictions are pointless. Whether it's me, Lee Corso, or someone who actually knows what they are talking about, predicting the outcome of a game or a season is really just hot air and guessing.
I'm not your friend, Corso. Quit calling.
So what are we to make of the lofty expectations placed upon the Washington Husky Football team in 2016? I guess we can enjoy it. It will be fun to see that little number in parenthesis in front of the team's name on the TV scoreboard. It might be a (13). It might be a (17). It may even start as a (14), then rise to a (9) if some teams above them lose in the early weeks as the Dawgs roll through their non-conference schedule.
Or is it a burden? What if the team has been reading their press clippings and thinks they can just go through the motions? What about other teams being more fired up to play a Husky team that is highly ranked? Perhaps the presumption of greatness will evoke such high anticipation that a stumble in one of the first four games will cause a dumpster fire so large in magnitude that the comments section of this blog will become a place of accusations, apologists, and anger? Well, fail to massacre Idaho and Portland State and the latter will happen regardless of how many games the team is supposed to win.
‘Supposed' to win; there it is. Last season UW was supposed to win four games. However, while beating Oregon State senseless was a lot of fun, I don't recall a tremendous amount of celebration when the four-win total was eclipsed as the team went to 5-6. Prior to that, as the season unfolded and losses to Utah and Arizona State had fans losing faith, some pointed to the prediction of four wins to say the season was not a disappointment. I was not buying into that. Most fans were not buying into that. Why? We knew after the Boise State game that this team had another solid defense, something the experts didn't see coming. Why else? Because predictions don't matter.
What are predictions based on? Well, when it comes to predicting a college football season, the formula seems to be a mix of how the team did last season, how many years the coach has been there, and how much talent is gone/returning; especially at key positions. Looking at the Huskies heading into 2015, you had an 8-6 football team with a coach entering his second season and four defensive players drafted in the first 44 picks of the NFL draft. Add to that a huge question mark at the QB position and season-ending injury to the top playmaker on offense and the pundits cannot really be blamed for anticipating growing pains for the young Dawgs.
But Husky fans have seen enough bad football teams over the last decade to know that Chris Petersen's 2015 squad was not void of talent. Players like Budda Baker, Sidney Jones, and Elijah Qualls were impact freshmen ready to step up. There were plenty of question marks, but as someone who has followed this program for almost 40 years, I was seeing something that good Husky football teams had in the past: athletes who showed up in reserve rolls and on special teams that would one day be key contributors. If quarterback play was at least even with what Cyler Miles provided in 2014, this should be a near .500 team. Jake Browning played admirably for a true freshman and despite offensive struggles early in the year, the Huskies finished with three consecutive wins and a 7-6 record. UW had surprised the prognosticators, but the fan base was hardly blown away.
What are we to make of the 9-3 predictions which, if achieved or surpassed, will likely yield a major bowl bid? Nothing. Nothing at all. It simply tells us what we already know; that UW has a good football team with a manageable schedule. And this season the Huskies fit nicely into the Athlon Magazine formula: A good coach entering his third year. A wealth of young talent returns on both sides of the ball. Very few key contributors lost, and a QB who has proven to be a potential star. As far as the predictions of Washington in the CFB playoff, that's just people not wanting to be boring and go with Ohio State, Alabama, Clemson, Florida State, Oklahoma, etc. No one holds these prognosticators accountable for the picks, so why not take a flyer just in case you guess right?
So there you have it, UW is supposed to be great this year. Do we really worry about "big heads" and underachievement because everyone will be "gunning for the Huskies?" I'm not worried about stuff like that. I don't think Chris Petersen is worried about stuff like that and if he is as good of a coach as I believe he is, no one on the team is worried about stuff like that. Jake Browning would look at you like you were an idiot if you asked him if he is worried about stuff like that. Petersen will tell you he is worried about Stanford and Oregon, and as we get closer to September 3rd, he is worried about Rutgers. Something tells me Browning isn't worried about anything at all. What the hell good does that do? He just wants to get better and lead his team every day in practice, meetings, and on game day.
I hope I'm not coming across as a downer, because I really am excited for this season. While I'm not making any predictions for 2016, I will offer this opinion: This team is built to handle success and achieving it will have nothing to do with what is predicted.