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The Brotherhood Eats Cupcakes for Breakfast

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Had enough yet? Us too.

Arizona State Sun Devils v Washington Huskies Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

Brad defers until the second half, Darin kicks off

Chris Petersen's comments have ruffled the petals of the tender flowers at ESPN, whose comments, in turn, have ruffled the fur of Dawg fans. Who has the better of this debate?

Here's what Petersen said.

“I just want to say something to our fans: we apologize for these late games. And I’d also like to reiterate it has nothing to do with us or the administration. We want to play at 1 p.m. It hurts us tremendously in terms of national exposure. No one wants to watch our game on the East Coast that late, and we all know it. We haven’t had a kickoff before 5 p.m. this season. And so it’s painful for our team, it’s painful for our administration and we know certainly the most important part is for our fans.”

It's clear Petersen is focused on the difficultly late starts create for fans. Speaking as a fan with two young sub-fans, I can wholeheartedly agree that starting at 7:45 is a major problem.

The response from ESPN has been about as ungentlemanly as you could hope. Kirk Herbstreit suggested Petersen should be grateful for the exposure provided by the TV contract with ESPN. Larry Scott, Pac-12 Commissioner, confirmed this point when he described the deal: the network said there's value on the table if you're willing to start late, since there are no games competing for those time slots. And ESPN has provided viewership data that appear to confirm this: viewership for Pac-12 games, particularly East of the Rockies, is higher for later games.

So I would say that ESPN's argument is basically correct. Late starts increase exposure for the Pac-12, in addition to the huge revenue provided to the conference.

But I would also say that ESPN is being pretty obtuse. It's true that Petersen lamented lack of exposure, and it's true that the facts don't seem to bear him out. But it's also clear that his main focus was on the effect on Husky fans -- and point the commentators have completely ignored. As for gratitude, this is a two-way street. You should get the idea that either your customers or your suppliers should be happy to be working with you. That's a sure way to find out how competition works.

The statistics ESPN dragged out were for games starting "after 6:00" -- well, actually, they were for "after 9:00," since networks are unable to work the times zones, but you get the idea. Speaking for myself, there's a huge difference between a 6:00 pm kickoff, which is an evening game under the lights and home at a reasonable time, and a 7:45 pm kickoff. The fact that nobody thought to make this distinction is a bit annoying.

I wouldn't have expected the talking heads to be so bitchy about the whole thing. Interpreting Petersen's comments in the least-generous way possible, then piling on for the whole of Saturday is a teenage girl way to go. It would have been a lot cooler if they'd understood that he was talking to fans, that late starts are a real problem for them, and that even though the net effect may be positive, those benefits may not be distributed well. I have yet to see my ESPN check, for example.

Does "exposure" benefit me as a fan? Maybe. I guess all things equal I'd like voters and committee members to have more opportunity to see Pac-12 football. But it's much more important to me that I have an opportunity to see the Huskies.

"What about the playoffs?" I hear you asking. "Doesn't being on TV counteract the East Coast bias and increase the likelihood the Dawgs will be chosen?" And I've heard commentators make that point, too. Do you realize what an indictment of the playoff committee that is? Do the people who make that statement (not Dawg fans) realize that it practically concedes the point Pac-12 fans have been making for decades? That good Pac-12 teams can't get a fair shake? Or did they mean something else?

Conclusion: ESPN is right on the facts, Petersen is right on the actual point.

Remember when the Huskies were just starting to get off the mat under Coach Sarkisian? We would say things like, "That loss to Stanford is what happens when you run into a fully-developed program. Someday we've got to start being better than those teams, but we're not there yet." Well, the tables have turned.

Watching the Cal game, I thought, There's nothing Cal is better at. There's no way the Dawgs can lose. It was just a steady, relentless push, like a phalanx or like the Huskies' offensive line.

I heard a lot of complaining about the receiver screens, just like the first half against Oregon State. Honestly, I don't know what people are so upset about. Those plays are just frustrating for a defense who can't stop them. Easy pass, easy catch, little run, and driven out of bounds for a six-yard gain. Do you remember when teams used to do that to us? I do. I remember us talking about how good Keith Price was a putting those passes right where they need to be, and how awful it was for a year between Price and Browning. I don't hate those plays. I love them. Almost as much as a six-yard run.

You kind of raised this point in your mailbag a week ago, but how clever is Petersen to have a bad place-kicker? As you know, coaches kick field goals waaaay too often. In most cases, it's better to go for it. Having a bad kicker gives Petersen cover to play the odds and make the right decisions. Sure, there could be a game where a field goal matters. Maybe one in overtime. But until then I give a silent thanks to Vizcaino for his willingness to honk a few kicks for the good of the team. I nominate him for retroactive MPV last week.

Actual concerns:

  1. Pass rush is improving (or it looked like it against Cal), but still not really where I'd like it to be. Instant Reactions said the Dawgs blitzed a lot, but I did not see that -- four rushers is never a blitz. I think Bowman has been a pleasant surprise, but he's no Joe Mathis. [Edit: I watched the game again last night, and this was a dumb comment. The pass rush was very good. I don’t know what I was thinking.]
  2. Losing Ross has limited the offense compared to what we say last year. Even when McClatcher was healthy we didn't have the ability to go over the top anything like before. That's why it seems like we dithered around with OSU and Cal before we got it together. Last year we might have put up three touchdowns in the first quarter on deep passes. This year we rely on different tools.
  3. There are so many quality corners crawling around this place that I can't keep them straight. Was that Byron Murphy or Austin Joyner? Is Myles Bryant the one who's hurt, or is that Jordon Miller? It's a real problem. (Lack of corners used to be Problemo Numero Uno on Montlake, going back a decade or so. I can't tell you how happy I am to be past that.)

Brad sets up his return

I agree with your overriding point on the start times, exposure, ESPN being self-serving pompous asses, etc., and you could've saved A LOT of words if you'd just gotten right to it.

I don't watch Gameday, and was at the stadium for the Husky game, so I didn't hear any of this (except Chris Petersen's comments about the late starts a few days prior to the game) until Sunday morning. It makes it easy for me not to actually care about any of it. And I don't. Had I heard it, I probably would, at least more than I do.

ESPN views itself as having an effect on college football. It does, if you let it. If you don't, it doesn't. You know what I've found the last few years? I enjoy college football when I just watch the games. The stuff on the periphery actually detracts from my enjoyment of it, even in terms of the product on the field.

That being said, I've never had a problem with Kirk Herbstreit before. What he said sounds extremely douchey and unprofessional, if nothing else. But I don't care about his opinions very much, and since I enjoy listening to him call games, I'm not going to listen to him, except when he calls a game I'm watching. Anyone with a microphone in front of his face as many hours per week as he has one is bound to say something stupid. Lots of stupid things, even. I don't see a reason to ruin the only part of the college football season that really matters (those hours on Saturday between whistles) because ESPN has oversaturated the market with inanity and overstepped its bounds as a news reporter and instead views itself as a news creator. Because we allow it.

I don't mind the bubble screens either, really. Except when the timing breaks down, as it did a few times on Saturday. Then, it becomes a really long throw, and the risk increases without a commensurate increase in reward. But even four yards is a positive play.

Did you notice how much dime the defense actually played? They started out both halves in it. I don't know the exact number of times I saw this, but they'd have two down linemen (Gaines and Vea), plus the buck in a three point stance, with two inside linebackers. And all five would rush. That's actually a pretty clever defense. It allows your five best athletes to rush the passer, and your six best defenders to cover.

I think the question with Ryan Bowman is becoming, Who would you rather have in the game at a critical moment, him or Potoa'e?

As much as the offense misses Ross in reality, I think a significant portion of it is psychological. Jake Browning was comfortable enough throwing to Ross that he'd work the ball into smaller windows. He took chances throwing the ball to Ross that he doesn't seem willing to do with the receiving corps this year.

What happens when Byron Murphy gets healthy? What happens in 2018? The depth at cornerback is incredible right now.

Darin stays in his lanes

I think it's funny that you took four paragraphs to say, "Why didn't you cut to the chase?"

Anyway, I basically agree that the solution is not to let ESPN et al get under ones skin. It's just hard to avoid them. When I wake up on Saturday morning, I'd like to watch a show previewing the day's games. Lo and behold! ESPN has one. But it sucks. When I watch a game, I wouldn't mind a knowledgeable commentator saying interesting things. Lo and behold! ESPN provides them. But they suck. And so on.

I noticed the dime going back to at least Oregon State. As I recall, you argued it wasn't really dime because there were still three linebackers in the game. Something insipid like that. I saw Cal run the same thing on us a few times, too. I don't understand why teams aren't able to run more effectively against that. I get that five blockers versus five defenders isn't an overwhelming advantage, but fewer guys in the box means more room to run. It also means more cornerbacks on the field. And as we all remember from Whathisname -- the famous Denver Broncos run-game coach -- cornerbacks are s***ty tacklers.

I'd take Bowman over Potoa'e. Wouldn't you? Potoa'e started as a five and has gradually improved to a seven. Bowman started as a two and has quickly improved to a seven. It seems like Potoa'e should be better, but I think Bowman has played at least as well and has earned it.

Browning is right to feel more comfortable throwing deep to Ross than to anybody currently on the roster -- including Pettis. It might be psychological, but that doesn't mean it's irrational. Ross spent a lot more time wide open deep than anybody we have today. It's a missing piece, I would say. Is it fatal? I doubt it.

Why isn't Braydon Lenius more of a factor? Never mind. Are you as excited about Hunter Bryant as I am?

What is your take on the OL? I think they've looked pretty good against pretty bad competition. Both Oregon State and Cal are terrible up front, and Colorado wasn't very good either. The Huskies dominated, but they should have. When will they be tested? WSU has had some success. USC in the championship game (knock on wood)? Penn State in the Rose Bowl?

I see that the betting lines have the Dawgs as about 88% probability winners against Arizona State. I haven't seen the Sun Devils play this year, but they did beat Oregon. I assume Oregon is still really good, right? So ASU must be really, really good? Arizona State is another one of those teams that seems to beat the Dawgs more often than they have a right to. This probably isn't the year, though. The interesting question will be how many passes Carta-Samuels throws.

Brad returns it across the 30 to the 32

This was an actual dime though, unlike Oregon State. Six DBs. When your cornerbacks aren't sh**ty tacklers, and in fact are mostly extra linebackers on the field, that's an awful lot of speed to get out there at one time.

There are two things I don't get. First, the defense allows itself to get out-of-position on a fairly regular basis by not responding to alignment or motion. The only way they can reasonably expect to be successful on those plays is for one or more defenders to make a superlative play. Like, Myles Bryant has to defeat the block of a tight end, and then make an open-field tackle on a running back moving with a full head of steam type of plays. Or Ben Burr-Kirven has to take on an offensive linemen and then move laterally to make a tackle. And if that one play doesn't happen at the exact moment it needs to happen, the opposing offense is going to have a big play, because the defense isn't "sound". But that defender makes that one critical play more often than not. And by more often than not, I mean every single time. The defense is far more counter-puncher than it is aggressor, in that its most fundamental design is to take away any threat of a big play. But it's one hell of an attack dog too.

It doesn't make any sense. The success of the defense doesn't really fit any convention.

The second thing is after two years of being almost entirely static, we've seen more new looks through the first six games this year than in the last 25. And not minor tweaks, like moving the nose tackle out to an edge rush spot (like the team did with Vita Vea on Saturday, same as they did with Danny Shelton in 2014), but major, new fronts, and looks, and packages.

I really, really hope that the plan is for Benning Potoa'e to spend this entire offseason putting on weight. Lots of it. I've wanted him to move to tackle since the day he signed with Washington.

Hunter Bryant is Jake Browning's favorite new toy. Defenses will probably be better-prepared for that little multi-layered route with him running an out than Cal was, but it's pretty reasonable to believe that Chris Petersen is going to figure out new ways to get him in advantageous matchups enough times each game. Getting Drew Sample back helps a lot in that regard.

I think the offense in general is a little bit stagnant right now, in general. Success was new and exciting in 2016, and then they got that big-time matchup against Stanford early on. This year, the team has different expectations, and hasn't really played anyone. I don't think that's a good thing. If they get through to the bye undefeated, I think they might need a slight attitude adjustment.

That was a program-defining win for those upstart ASU Sun Devils, over those Dominant Ducks. Classic college football right there. You know what I think is meaningless? This notion that Washington "always struggles in the desert."

Go Dawgs!