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Week Four Debate: Do the Huskies Deserve Their Ranking?

The Huskies are ranked No. 9 in the AP and USA Today polls. The question is, do their accomplishments merit such high accolades?

NCAA Football: Idaho at Washington Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

Washington is the proud owner of a 3-0 record, and enters Pac-12 play this week against Arizona with a top-10 ranking for the third consecutive week. That is a feat the program has not accomplished since the 2000 season that culminated in a Rose Bowl win over the Drew Brees-quarterbacked Purdue Boilermakers. The Huskies’ ascension this season has been nothing short of meteoric — after failing to earn a single vote in last season’s AP top 25 poll, Washington is now recognized as the ninth-best team in the country, ahead of such college football blue-bloods as Florida State, LSU, Texas and Oklahoma. It’s only natural to wonder, then: have the Huskies legitimately improved such a vast amount in such a short span of time, or are the Dawgs merely a good team that has yet to become great?

Buy: The Huskies Look the Part of a Top-10 Team

A frequent theme of head coach Chris Petersen’s interactions with the media has been his insistence that there is no use in worrying about circumstances outside of his control, such as bad weather and inconvenient kickoff times. Instead, says Petersen, the only things worth his focus are the things he can directly affect: variables such as his players’ conditioning, their diets, and what they spend time practicing, for example.

With that in mind, let’s talk about the teams Washington has beaten this year. Even the biggest homer on Montlake would have to admit that Washington’s schedule so far has been as gentle as a lover’s caress. However, the Huskies can only play the opponent they are scheduled to play, and to their credit, they’ve proven themselves up to the task.

In this season’s first three games, Washington has outscored its opponents 148-30; limit those numbers to the first half, and the results are a somehow-even-more-dominating 97-3. Furthermore, the offense has scored a touchdown on its first possession of every game this season, which is something last year’s squad didn’t do until game No. 11 against Oregon State. Washington hasn’t played a marquee opponent yet, but elite teams beat up on inferior competition, and don’t give them one iota of hope that they’ll be able to make their game a competitive one. That is exactly what they’ve done, and you can’t ask anything more than that.

Sell: Let’s See Them Beat a Team Worth Mentioning

After Washington fielded an offensive attack that could charitably be described as anemic for much of the 2015 season, things took a turn in the final three games when the Huskies outscored Oregon State, Washington State, and Southern Mississippi 141-48. That explosive output gave way to the hype train that was UW’s most recent offseason, and the team’s hot start against Rutgers, Idaho, and Portland State has only inflated Washington’s reputation as a potential playoff contender even further.

To reiterate: Washington is viewed as the in-vogue pick to break into college football’s elite this year because they have beaten Oregon State, Washington State, Southern Miss, Rutgers, Idaho, and Portland State in consecutive games. That’s crazy; there are probably at least 30 programs nationwide that could do the same without breaking a sweat.

In addition, you’ll notice the names that are conspicuously absent from that list: Stanford. Oregon. Arizona State. Utah. Basically, any team that was a Power 5 conference contender last year. In fact, the two most recent instances of Washington beating a team that went on to play in the Pac-12 title game were when it bumped off Stanford in 2012 at CenturyLink Field, at a time when the Cardinal was mired in a quarterback battle between Josh Nunes and Kevin Hogan, and last year when it beat a USC squad that would fire head coach Steve Sarkisian within a matter of days before rebounding and winning five of its next six games.

There’s no question that Washington is talented. But until they beat the best, it’s difficult to argue that they deserve to be ranked among the best.