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Mailbag: Championship Game Edition

Happy Husky

Right to it.

Chris Denton

Will the Apple Cup impact recruiting?

UWDP: Probably not really. Maybe for any player the Dawgs and Cuogs were going head-to-head to land, but I don’t really think there are too many of those at this point.

It impacts recruiting mostly because it was win #9, and the one that secured the Pac 12 North and a trip to the conference championship game. It keeps Washington on the minds of recruits an extra week for good reasons. I guess that actually counts as an impact....


How well does this team stack up vs Utah now that we are nearly at full health? If we prevail who do you think we play in the Rose bowl? Who would we match up best against? Thanks!!


If we win the P12 Championship Game, we probably get Ohio State or Michigan in the Rose Bowl. What do you think about those matchups? Ohio State has elite atheletes on offense (and d-line), and Michigan’s defense (other than last weekend) has been stout. Seems like a potentially more difficult match up either way than Penn State last year.


So if we beat Utah and go to the Rose Bowl, who would we play? If tOSU goes into the playoffs do we play Michigan or Northwestern? Michigan has the better record but NW went to the big10 championship game. I’m assuming Michigan at this point but I cannot find a source that tells me definitively. Thanks!

UWDP: I like Utah as much as any team in the Pac 12 that isn’t the Huskies. I don’t want to insult the Utes. But Washington is just a better team right now. The addition of a receiving target in Bryant that can pressure the entire middle of the field is huge, but the offense seems to be turning a corner outside of that. Maybe not a corner, but rounding a long, slow bend at least. They aren’t “there” yet, in that they haven’t played a full game, but there’s been improvement each week since the Cal debacle. And that includes the Apple Cup. It’s not the 2016 version of Chris Petersen’s offense, but it’s tracking closer to being like the 2017 version, that was disappointing to some, but still good enough to score 35 or so points a game and win comfortably. Utah has improved as well since the first matchup, and it’s going to be a good, close game. But Washington should win a low-scoring game.

The B14G championship game is Ohio State vs Northwestern. Should the Wildcats pull off the upset, that’s probably the least difficult matchup the Huskies could possibly face in the Rose Bowl. If Ohio State wins, they’ll most likely be waiting to see if they’re bound for the playoffs. I tend to think they’d get in over Oklahoma based on the strength of the win over Penn State and the dominating performance against Michigan. If that’s the case, we’d almost undoubtedly see Michigan in the Rose (the Rose would definitely not take Northwestern). If Georgia happens to beat Alabama in the SEC championship game, then neither Oklahoma nor Ohio State would be likely to make the playoff (two SEC teams, again), and Washington would face Ohio State.

The margin between the Buckeyes, Wolverines and Huskies is razor-thin by advanced stats; The teams are #7, #8, and #9 by F+ and FEI, and #8, #9, and #10 by S&P. Ohio State has a dynamic passing attack that would play to the strength of Washington’s defense, and really is only mediocre defensively. I think that’s the “better” of the two matchups in terms of likelier win. But I’d take either.


Jason Shelley appears to be a more efficient QB, than Tyler Huntley although he lacks a big arm. Shyne is a power back but not as explosive as Moss, so is this Utah offense better or worse than the one the Huskies faced on the road and what might the Huskies do differently on defense and offense?

UWDP: The Utah offense is much better right now than the one Washington faced in mid September. It’s a much simpler offense, with more single read pass plays, and more emphasis on overwhelming teams at the point of attack with numbers in their power running game. I don’t really think Jason Shelley is more efficient than Tyler Huntley was after the simplification of the Ute offense, as Huntley went on a massive tear over the last four games he was healthy: 66 of 90 for 889 yards, with 7 TDs and 2 INTs. He also added two more TDs on the ground. Shelley seems a little streakier as a passer and less refined reading defenses. He’s probably a more dynamic runner. But it’s a small sample size for him, and one of those games was played in conditions much like the Apple Cup. It’s not fair to read too much into that game, even though it’s a third of his total action. Shelley has played against three bad secondaries thus far. Washington is a HUGE step up in sophistication and ability.

Armand Shyne had a big game against Oregon’s not-very-good defense, struggled in the snow at Colorado, and was not effective against BYU much of the game. He had a critical TD, though. He’s a fairly big back, too.

Washington is more dynamic on offense with Hunter Bryant in the lineup. But as i already said, they’re also just playing better football right now, too. Utah’s defense is very good, but Washington struggled last meeting with simple things, like figuring out which defender to block. Most people will likely remember Jake Browning’s terrible interception and his running for his life, but that was the worst game the offensive line played all season. By a decent margin.

I really don’t think Washington changes a thing against the Utes, on either side of the ball. We won’t see much of the dime defense we saw in the Apple Cup, but lots of the base nickel (and hopefully we see the continuing emergence of Joe Tryon at OLB). Offensively, Washington just doesn’t change too much. Maybe slight variances in the emphasis between run and pass, but balance is really the key.

There’snow excuses

Without snow, would UW have won?

UWDP: Yep. It was going to be 41-24.


Gaskin is awesome. How does he rank all-time any position?

UWDP: Up there.

This is going to come down to personal affinity, age, etc. But have at it below in the comments.


Why is it that more teams are not able to replicate the ability to control the Air Raid offense like UW has done? I thought that it was a combination of scheme and great players, but other teams (like USC) have players haven’t had the same kind of success. And Cal was able to do it without the same level of players. So it would seem to be more related to scheme-so why don’t more teams look at the schemes that UW and Cal have shown to work?

UWDP: In the slow-to-change, nepotistic, copycat world of football coaching, most teams are still cycling through the last trend. I think you’ll see more and more of it as time goes on.

The nickel as a base isn’t exactly new, though. The 3-3-5 has been around for decades, and it’s what Rich Rodriguez used when he had his run at West Virginia. Nebraska used to have its “Peso” DB.

I turned on an NFL game a few weeks ago sort of randomly, and there it was - the Husky defense. I wish I could remember who it was.


Do you think Mike Leach cares about the Apple Cup?

I get the impression that he cares about it, but only in the way that he cares about every game Wazzu plays. He doesn’t really care about the rivalry of it (not sure Coach Pete does either). It seems he knows he is at a recruiting disadvantage in the league but also knows that his system beat 80-90% of the teams in it most of the time and can win 9-10 games a year, pretty much every year. It seems he also knows there are certain systems it will have a lot of trouble beating (UW’s, sometimes USC’s) but that’s a tradeoff he’s comfortable with for the rest of the wins.

If this theory is correct, how does that work out in the long-term? Will WSU fans take the 9-10 wins and make peace with basically never winning their rivalry game? Or will this wear on the fanbase to the point they get tired of Leach? It seems pretty rational to me to give up the rivalry game and trade that for a perennial competitiveness but also emotionally frustrating, especially because the Cup comes at the end of the season and has an element of hope-dashing to it, plus, you know, rivalry hate.

UWDP: No, I don’t think Mike Leach cares about the rivalry really, nor does Petersen. I think that’s true of the majority of coaches, regardless of what they say for public consumption.

I agree that Leach is smart enough to see that the Air Raid is more or less effective against certain teams, but I really think it has far more to do with talent than it does scheme. I think you can make a case that the design of the Air Raid maximizes talent better than many offenses, while minimizing the returns a team like Washington could get with better players at most positions.

I’d be wary of trying to establish patterns with Leach, the Air Raid, etc. with the Apple Cup. Washington wins about 70% of the time. That means there’s almost a 12% chance of winning any six games in a row. I think what we’re seeing is more likely just randomness, and WSU is probably going to win again, sooner than we’d like to see (and maybe even at a really bad time for the Huskies). WSU fans are already frustrated with Leach, and frankly, I hope they get to the point they get him fired, because I think there’s an incredibly low chance of the Cuogs doing better. Very likely, they do worse.


It looks as if our team is playing top 10 football again. What changes made this happen? ( undefeated 2018 season if we played the second half just like the first two quarters?)

UWDP: I don’t think there was some sort of magical shift in scheme or personnel. There were a few small tweaks, but I think it’s mostly about things like confidence and momentum.


How many pushups will Coach Pete assign Coach Lake for calling out Mike Leach on his inability to tweak his one dimensional offense?

UWDP: Two or three, I hope.

I don’t think Chris Petersen could ever say that he “likes” that sort of thing. Nor could he ever let a play like Jake Browning’s point against Oregon go unpunished. But I absolutely, positively think he likes swagger from his team. And he’s not going to tell Lake to dial it back, because it’s important for the players on the team to have that one coach with the brashness on the staff to rally around. Walking the tightrope between confidence and overconfidence is one of the most difficult jobs for a coach to manage. Petersen does a great job of it. Part of it is letting Lake talk, I think.


Not a question but it warms my heart this holiday season that no 1st grader in the world has ever had to spend a Christmas with WSU having the apple cup

UWDP: Long live the streak.

King Husky

Is this Utah team better or worse than the team we faced earlier this season?

UWDP: It’s definitely better. Offensively, the UW game was probably the Ute’s low point of the season.

Washington is better too.


I was reprimanded a couple of weeks ago after the unfortunate loss to Cal. I was distraught and wondered what was left for this Husky Team? I was told the Rose Bowl! The Apple Cup was awesome! I can now see Pasadena clearly:) Do we now close strong on 2019 recruiting?

UWDP: Yeah, I think the Huskies close well. Others know far more about this than I do, but things have been looking really good in the last few recruiting updates here.


What’s your recommendation for managing redshirts for the rest of the year?

UWDP: I don’t think the coaching staff is close to needing to burn the redshirt of one of the freshmen right now, outside of some crazy string of injuries at a single position. I think a couple of guys have played their four games, so they should be done for the year. Guys that have played three or fewer will maybe play.

Trey Adams can only play a possible four, so he might very well be the starting left tackle the next two weeks.

Hunter Bryant, obviously, isn’t going to get a redshirt. I struggle with the decision to play him against Oregon State - he only took about 10 snaps - but no one asked me my opinion. Clearly, the decision has been made that this is a full year for him. He helps the team. I don’t love the decision, but I’ve made my peace with it.


Will Dawgs finish in the top 10 this year?

UWDP: That obviously means winning out, including a win over a top 10 B14G team most likely.



Will Browning get drafted? If so, what round? Will he be a good NFL QB? How does he compare against the top draft eligible QBs in the nation?

UWDP: Most teams in the NFL are absolutely desperate for QB play. Yes, Jake Browning will get drafted. Late, like the 5th or 6th round. The safe bet with every QB entering the NFL draft is that no, he won’t have a good career. Odds of that being correct are overwhelming.

The NFL draft with quarterbacks is largely about potential to succeed in the NFL. Jake Browning doesn’t have the same physical tools as lots of other guys.


2018 Huskies versus 2016 Huskies... who wins?

UWDP: 2016 version, probably like 24-6.


How did other teams get “fooled” by the stemming of an undersized Coug defensive line? Seems like you just zone block them the way they stem and let the back read the blocking. Am I missing something?

UWDP: I know an awful lot of Husky fans are really unimpressed with Washington’s offense (and most certainly at least at times, rightly so), the answer is that it’s just better than most of the other ones in the pac 12. Even in 2018. It’s not dynamic, but it’s also not really reliant on anything but its own execution for its success. It also doesn’t have a fatal weakness - like no running attack (Stanford) or quarterback (lots of teams) or a weak line (lots of teams). An offense that strives for balance is the worst type of matchup for Washington State’s defense. Truth is, it’s the worst kind of matchup for every defense.


Is Gaskin the most patient runner you’ve ever seen? Who would you compare him to stylistically?

UWDP: He’s definitely up there. I don’t watch a ton of NFL football lately, but Le’Veon Bell and Ladanian Tomlinson are two that come to mind. Marshall Faulk.


Did Byron Murphy get pulled during the game? Saw him miss a few tackles and it looked like Taylor got a lot more reps in the second half.

UWDP: Byron Murphy was definitely out there. I don’t really recall him missing tackles.

Myles Bryant was out most (maybe all?) of the second half. Usually, Elijah Molden would come in for him, but since he was already in as part of the dime package, the defense needed someone else with good coverage abilities to play up tight. Enter Keith Taylor, who did a great job over the slot - something he hasn’t done before this season.


I love the battle between Leach and Lake. Who leaves their respective school first? When?

UWDP: I think Jimmy Lake is going to need a pretty good opportunity, likely as the head man, to leave. I can’t see him taking a job at a football black hole or a small school; he’s going to be able to wait for something pretty good (sort of like Justin Wilcox at Cal). I think Mike Leach will leave as soon as someone else will give him a job.

As of right now, there doesn’t appear to be a major coaching carousel for the 2018 offseason. I think both are at their respective schools in 2019.


If you win a power 5 conference you should be in the playoffs. For a 8 team playoffs why can’t they just used the bowls that already conference tie-ins. Such as the following

Rose Bowl: Big Ten vs. Pac-12

Sugar Bowl: SEC vs. Big 12

Orange Bowl: ACC vs. At-large

The Cotton, Fiesta and Peach Bowls (will be rotated) At-large vs At-large

Now, with this format seeding will be the issue as #1 will likely come from the SEC and if #2 was from the Big 12 it wouldn’t necessary be fair. I think there should be some kind of benefit for the #1 and #2 teams to have some-kind of benefit.

To have a benefit for higher ranking in the tie-ins playoff system; they can have the semi-finals games at whoever has the higher ranking stadium. College football is all about home-field advantage and that should be apart of the playoff system. The championship game can be at whatever major bowl game

An 6 team playoffs would provide a benefit for the top teams as #1& #2 would get a bye. But that format would be challenging doing the bowl tie-ins. Do you think more teams should be allowed in the playoffs? I just think with the bowls tie-ins the rose bowl won’t lose it lore.

UWDP: I’m personally of the opinion that the Rose Bowl lost the lore it had as a Pac 8/10 vs Big 10 championship matchup a long time ago. As much as I was against the idea of the BCS as we were heading in to it, knowing it was going to create non-traditional Rose Bowl matchups, I got over it fairly quickly because you know what? The BCS created some really, really good football games for me to watch. And it turns out, that’s what I actually care about.

Here’s the other thing: the actual tradition of the Rose Bowl, arguably, is the best team in the east vs the best team in the west. That’s why teams like Notre Dame, Harvard, and Alabama have played there. The football fans that belong to that tradition are now dead, so they don’t get a voice in the “the Rose Bowl tradition” debate, so we dismiss that as the “real” tradition out of hand. And since the only real constant appears to be change, when I die, the tradition of the Pac8/10 vs Big 10 dies, too.

More great matchups and upsets and cinderella runs. Give me the NCAA basketball tournament on field turf. The FCS model, with first round byes and 24 teams and a December filled with me neglecting holiday parties and christmas shopping and my family. Give me quarterfinals all day on December 26th (a great new tradition). Yep.


are you of the mind that chris petersen turned a page in his coaching career for this apple cup? i am. this team took it back to “who cares about the record? we’re here to (expletive deleted) you up” type of football and i was very pleased with the result. maybe they figured out how to have fun again.

UWDP: No, I’m of the mind that that’s been the idea this whole season, and they’ve just gotten better at it the last few weeks. I expect to see the same thing again this Friday against Utah, and then in the Rose Bowl.

Mike Pitzler

How do the referees decide which offensive holds to call?

UWDP: Randomly, I think.

Leach Ain’t No Genius

Can we retire the canard that Mike Leach is a coaching genius? Once again, his multiple flaws were exposed in the Apple Cup.

Unwilling/unable to adjust his gameplan to take into account his opponents’ strengths, let alone weather conditions. Reluctance to have his Heisman-candidate QB throw downfield. Indecision regarding whether to attempt to convert a 4th-and-10 or punt with about 10 minutes remaining in the 4th quarter resulted in a delay of game penalty. Punting the ball to Washington, never to touch it again. Having 3 time outs remaining at the time of said punt, but using only one, allowing the rest of the time to slip away.

If not for the long kickoff return we gave up to the Cougs in the 2nd quarter and the fumble in the 3rd quarter the the Cougs recovered at our 23-yard line, would WSU even have scored? Wow, what a genius coach he is.

A meaty ragu

If the cougars continue to have good seasons (like 8+ wins) under Leach but continue to lose the Apple Cup, how long can the streak get before they fire Leach for not being able to beat the huskies? It seems to me they would be hard pressed to find a better replacement that could get better results with the types of recruits available to them.

UWDP: As my man Joe Theisman put it, I try to reserve the term “genius” for actual geniuses - guys like Norman Einstein.

Washington State recruits mid-40’s level talent, and wins at a Top 20 level. Washington being better isn’t mutually exclusive with Leach being a good coach. I think he is.

No, he’s not a genius.


This was a different Husky team than we have seen the first 11 games. Play calling was aggressive even long passes were very effective arriving on time. What changed? Who called the plays?

UWDP: Bush Hamdan in the booth and Jake Browning on the field, same as always. Nothing changed except the execution.

Do you actually think play calling has an effect on the timing of throws?



End of the regular season, how about sharing your awards list

UWDP: I think the offensive MVP is Myles Gaskin. On defense, I’m forced to split it between Greg Gaines and Ben Burr-Kirven.

On offense, Jaxson Kirkland nudges out Cade Otton for Freshman of the Year, and on defense, the late push by Joe Tryon gives him the nod over Ariel Ngata.

Elijah Molden is Most Improved on defense, Aaron Fuller on offense.

Coach of the Year is Pete Kwiatkowski, because he held the defensive line together with silk thread and positive thoughts.


What % chance do you give UW of beating Utah?

UWDP: 75.51%


As a human, we like to look for patterns. Do you think you can derive anything significant or at least speculate as to why there are so few two loss teams? We have the usual couple to few unblemished regular seasons, handful of one loss, and then pretty much a drop off to 3 loss teams. Wow me with your analysis please.

UWDP: I think you should look at how rare it is to have one undefeated P5 team, then 2, and then 3 (yes, Notre Dame counts). That’s the actual rarity this year.

Jimmy Lake

Likelihood Jimmy Lake is hired as D-coordinator at U$C?

UWDP: 3.14159%

No way he’s joining a sinking ship.

Gary from MI

Are the PAC 12 game officials really that bad when compared to the other Power 5 game officials?

UWDP: “Our refs are the best in the entire country!”, said no football fan ever.

I think I read somewhere that Pac 12 officials average more penalties called per game than officials of other conferences when they officiate neutral site and bowl games (meaning, using officials that aren’t affiliated with either team’s conference). I don’t think the difference was significant, but I don’t recall exactly.

Maybe they’re worse. I think it’s more “a thing” with fans and the media, though. I hope everyone chooses to argue their anecdotes below.....

All for this week, Dawg fans. Enjoy the wild atmosphere of the Pac 12 Championship game!!