But this is a new season in a new year with a new (kinda) team. Husky fans are understandably optimistic about the product that Chris Petersen and staff are bringing to the field. With a top 10 ranking, a Heisman candidate QB, an offensive line stocked with NFL prospects and a defense as stingy as ever, there doesn’t seem to be any team in the nation that UW can’t at least compete with.
Unfortunately, the UW out-of-conference schedule leaves something to be desired. All of us know that simply winning all three of our matchups against Rutgers, Fresno State and Montana will fail to impress the committee that will ultimately pick college football’s final four. What UW needs is a convincing showing against a juicy out-of-conference opponent.
That leads us to today’s 30 Day Countdown discussion topic. If you could pick one non PAC 12 opponent to schedule a game with this season, who would it be?
The guidelines for today’s discussion are straightforward. First, consider this game an addition. We are not trying to "swap out" one opponent for another. Second, feel free to apply whatever lens you wish to the consideration. If you favor a rematch against a long-forgotten rival, go for it. If you wish to see a stretch game where UW gets the opportunity to assess where it is at relative to the nation’s best, say so. If you want to see a strategic game that is both highly winnable but also likely to impress the selection committee, so be it. Finally, consider the game to played on a neutral field for the purposes of debate.
Here are my candidates.
You are a glutton for punishment if you are eager to hang your "We Want ‘Bama" sign off of your front porch again. The Tide are returning an absolutely loaded team complete with a steamrolling rushing attack, a viper-like defensive secondary and a sea of big uglies on both sides of the line of scrimmage who stretch as far as out as the Pacific.
Still, it would be intriguing.
The Huskies return most of the starters who went head to head against the Tide at the end of last season. The speed and strength of Alabama would not be a surprise to any Husky player the second time around. Whether or not that means UW can compete is an open question. But it would be an interesting barometer for the team and for Chris Petersen.
I can hear the refrain in my head as I type the words. "Bring on Urban Meyer"!
There is some logic to seeking out a matchup against the Buckeyes. First of all, this is rival that has some history with UW. The Huskies have played the Buckeyes eleven times in their history with the bad guys owning a lopsided 8-3 all time advantage. The Buckeyes have won the last three matchups including a definitive 33-14 smack down of UW in Seattle in 2007. An opportunity for a little revenge, especially against a coach that many view as more than just a little smug, would be welcome to many fans.
Beyond that, a win over Ohio State would be viewed as a major chit to be cashed in during the playoff selection process. The Buckeyes are a perennial favorite of the college football aristocracy and are always a major player in the debate whether or not they actually win their division.
Now we move towards the point of view that some will take regarding playoff positioning. This argument, as it goes, will start from the premise that the only thing that matters is the college football playoffs. Thus, we should seek out an opponent who is equal parts "eminent" and "eminently beatable".
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Penn State Nittany Lions.
Penn State is a good football team. The Sporting News has them as the #6 team in the nation to open the preseason. They sport two darkhorse Heisman candidates in RB Saquon Barkley and QB Trace McSorely. In fact, their offense projects as one of the best in the country.
But that defense of theirs is beatable as seen against USC in the Rose Bowl. They also have some significant question marks along their offensive line. Given that they are a team that seems to live or die by the big play (again, take a look at the Rose Bowl), UW would seem to present a solid challenge.
When you consider that the Nittany Lions are an east coast team that the east coast biased media seems very eager to crown with the "comeback" label, a win against them might carry a little extra weight in the playoff discussion. That is, of course, assuming that Penn State takes care of the rest of its business as it did during last year’s regular season.
The Sooners are on this list based in large part on the argument just presented for the Nittany Lions. Oklahoma is enjoying a generous ranking in spite of suffering a major disruption as a result of the sudden retirement of Bob Stoops after 18 years as head coach.
Pundits are probably expecting minimal disruption given the escalation of Offensive Coordinator Lincoln Riley into the head role. But I’m not so sure that the transition will be all that smooth. For every Jimbo Fisher kind of transition, there seem to be two Mark Helfrich situations. We all know how well that went for Oregon.
Even without the disruption of a coaching change, UW matches up as well as one could hope against the Sooners. While Baker Mayfield presents a challenge behind one of the NCAA’s projected best offensive lines, OU is breaking in a bunch of new skill position talent to go along with its 33 year old head coach. In addition, that Oklahoma defense looks just as porous and prone to giving up the big play as they were a year ago when they were one of the worst among "good teams" in the NCAA. Obviously, UW was one of the most explosive offenses in football a year ago.
So, this is a legit choice for a signature win if you want to go that route. The only concern I’d argue is that I’m not so sure that the Sooners can survive their own conference schedule unscathed. A couple of losses in the Big 12 might make the whole thing a moot experience.
Penn State Nittany Lions
I can certainly understand the argument that a rematch against Alabama would not only serve as a barometer for the progress that the team has made since the Peach Bowl but also a test of Chris Peteresen’s ability to adapt lessons learned from our first go round with the Tide.
But for me? No thanks. I quit the practice of self-flagellation after my priest told me that raising two children was punishment enough.
My preference would be to schedule a team that UW not only matches up well against but who can further the argument for UW as a playoff team ... even in the event that they don’t win the PAC 12. Oklahoma might suit that criteria, but I think the Nittany Lions might be a more interesting matchup. A convincing win over Penn State - a team that has plenty of east coast bias buoying its rankings and who went toe-to-toe with USC in the Rose Bowl - might just do the trick.
Who do you got? If you could add one game to the UW schedule for whatever reason, who would it be? And why?
What one out of conference opponent would you add to UW’s schedule in 2017 if you could?
This poll is closed
Alabama Crimson Tide
Ohio State Buckeyes
Penn State Nittany Lions