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Mailbag: “The Mailbagiest Mailbag That Ever Mailbagged” Edition

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 16 Washington Practice Photo by Jeff Halstead/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

What a stupid title.

You have questions, I have answers that will not satisfy you.

Drew_D: Given how things have gone in the other conferences it seems likely that the PAC12 will cancel at least a few games this year. How does this impact the chances of a PAC12 champion making the Playoff given how thin their margins are?

Larry Scott: Understanding there is A TON of football to be played .. what percent chance would you assign to a 7-0 PAC champ being invited to the CFB playoff? How is this going to work when other conferences are 1-6 games ahead of us? Other conferences will just wait for us to finish? Gross.

Charlotte_Dawg: If a Pac-12 team runs the table with a short schedule, what are their chances of making the CFP?

UWDP: I think that there’s approaching zero chance that the Pac 12 has a representative in the playoffs this season. For a few reasons.

Number one, I really don’t think any team is good enough. I don’t think we see an undefeated Pac 12 team this year.

But even if we do, number two, we’re halfway through the season, and the highest-regarded conference team is currently sitting at #12 in the polls, with only one other team even ranked. And about those polls....They’re a self-fulfilling prophecy at this point. I doubt anyone actually believes that Cincinnati or BYU are two of the ten best teams in the nation, but there they be. And both have probably an even money shot of finishing the season undefeated, at worst. Indiana is #13? Marshall? Coastal Carolina? Liberty? Are we actually being serious here?

No, we are not. This isn’t a real football season, because if it was, we’d demand a hard reset on things like rankings in order to preserve our intellectual honesty. But since we can’t, those rankings are the baseline for the playoff rankings, and right now, it’s a Bearcat world, and the rest of us are just happy to live in it.

Max Vrooman: I thought we got rid of you?

UWDP: There’s still time, person pretending to be Max Vrooman.

LockerStocker22: Would it have made more sense to expand the CFP this year rather than in the next five or so years (assuming it happens in 5 years if it all)?

UWDP: I’m not sure it would necessarily make more sense to do it this year versus any other, but with all the other nonsense surrounding this college football season, I suppose no one would notice if we figured out a way to get the entire SEC into the playoffs in 2020.

I’m in favor of expanding them, for sure. But the FCS model. Go big. It’d be awesome.

Nick6: Will Coach Lakes energy lead to less flat performances and will the overall energy of the program help recruiting?

UWDP: I don’t personally believe that Chris Petersen was unemotional, nor that the Huskies played “flat” more than other teams. I think emotion, especially when it’s manufactured, is a double-edged sword, and that there were far bigger factors in the Huskies’ performances - the bad ones - the last few years other than emotion.

I think Jimmy Lake definitely brings a great amount of positive energy to the team, and with certain aspects of attitude and preparation and culture, he represents an improvement over Chris Petersen. But it’s unlikely that he’s silver bullet that “fixes” anything about the team. The biggest thing that can carry a “flat” team to a win, when they just aren’t playing their best, is being good. Better than the Huskies were last year. I think people tend to dismiss how difficult it is to play at peak levels over the course of a whole season. The 1991 team certainly looked flat a few times for example (USC, Oregon, and ASU certainly come to mind). “Flat” just becomes a catch-all for not playing well.

Jamie Lyle: Who wins the line of scrimmage on both sides Saturday night?

UWDP: Washington should be better on both sides of the ball up front, by a good margin. That was the same case in 2018 and 2019 as well, and it didn’t quite work out the way it should’ve. But Washington has more talent across the board, by a fair margin.

Of course, that was all before we found out this game was a no-go....

Side note - for those that weren’t Husky fans in the early 90’s, this is the 1990 Husky defense. There are 17 (!!!!!!!) underclassmen in the two deeps, on a team that likes to rotate bodies throughout the game. Freshmen and sophomores are backing up freshmen and sophomores. And in most cases, these are crazy-talented young guys, not young guys being forced into action too early due to recruiting misses or lack of depth. And of the 13 sophomores that are in that group, there are really only two that weren’t regulars in the rotation last year as freshmen (Julius Irvin and Dominque Hampton).

RockDawg: Brad, welcome back, glad you’re doing these for another season, Do you think we will see any Wildcat formations in short yardage downs with the Pro style offense we are supposed to be employing?

UWDP: To most fans, the differences between the 2019 offense and the 2020 version will be very subtle. The team mostly ran a pro-style offense last year (and over the last few years), in that it was predicated around multiple formations, motion, and a fairly sophisticated design (particularly in the passing game).

Yes, I think the wildcat will be here, mostly because Jimmy Lake’s primary influence in terms of offensive philosophy is Chris Petersen. I don’t love the concept, but it’s fairly effective. I’ve made my peace with it, I suppose.

RaguDawg: Brad, your over/under for the number of question you’ll get this season from my cousin Ragu?

UWDP: Well, if this week is any indication, then the over/under is 0.5. RIP Ragu.

Birdman: I’m jumping the gun a bit, but let’s say Jimmy Lake has a 6-year run comparable to Peterson’s (a rose bowl, a CFP, a few p12 championships). Do you see him leaving or is UW really his dream job?

UWDP: With each passing year, football moves to becoming more an more an offense-centric game. Nick Saban said that even he believes that good defense can’t beat good offense anymore, look at Kliff Kingsbury’s rise, etc. But being the head man is still more about managing people, and Lake needs to show he can make the transition from being the in-the-huddle teacher to being a program manager.

If he can, and he’s obviously had great mentoring from Pete Kwiatkowski and Chris Petersen, then there’s no reason to think that he can’t match Petersen’s record at Washington. I never really put much stock into any of the “dream job” comments any coach makes, mostly because the next guy that suggests “this job is a great stepping stone to the one I really want” is going to be the first. Lake will probably have opportunities to make slight steps forward with other college positions, but I think it’s more likely that, if he leaves due to unmitigated success, it’s to an NFL job, where the league will look to capitalize on the assets he brings to the position.

gopher: I’m worried about the new OC and his reliance on pounding the rock. Jonathan Smith was much maligned by fans, but he was imaginative and innovative and its showing in how he is turning the Beavers Program around. I know it’s way too early to know, but what has he shown in the past that inspires confidence in his ability to create an exciting and productive offense?

UWDP: It’s funny how popular Jonathon Smith has become here at Washington, with the rosy shine of hindsight applied....

The answer is genuinely “not a ton.” He hasn’t had “hair-on-fire” success that generates media buzz. He’s had success at virtually every stop, though, in a mostly steady, upward trajectory. And like with most coaches, when you really dig in to the factors that he is credited for (or blamed for), they’re almost always more complicated than they seem on the surface. Good head coaches, and coaches with a lot riding on being correct in hiring him, have kept Jim Donovan employed for the last 15 years. That’s about the best I can say, besides adding that Jimmy Lake and a few other guys that know a crapton more about football than me, and have a lot more riding on the outcome than I do. While that sounds incredibly lukewarm, I’ve also consistently said that I think that “flash” from the offensive coordinator is overrated and overvalued, as long as the system meets certain baselines of competence and aggression, and that talent and execution are far more important.

If Donovan doesn’t work, it’s not terribly painful to replace him.

2003 husky grad: With this season being essentially a freebie for eligibility, I started wondering how this will affect the statistical history books down the road. With 7-9 extra games in a full college career, my assumption is that a few big career records (TDs, sacks, yards, etc.) might be broken by current players. Who and which all time records do you think will be broken as a result of these extra career bonus games?

UWDP: It’s certainly possible, but at the same time, it’s also hard to see anyone threaten records and then stay in college for a fifth season. You’d mostly be talking about guys that lack NFL measurables but are fantastic college players - guys like Myles Gaskin, Jake Browning, etc. Maybe Dylan Morris wins the QB job and becomes a 4.5 year starter, and breaks Browning’s TD record or Cody Pickett’s yardage record. Most likely, though, given the current makeup of the roster, a guy that is putting up major numbers is going to be off to the NFL before he has a chance to play five (or 4.5) seasons.

Interesting thought, though. What record(s) would you suggest are most likely to fall?

Darin Johnson: What innovations can we expect due to the extra-long layoff between seasons? Single wing? Lonesome polecat? Flex defense?

UWDP: Full house backfield, 5-2 defense.

LockerStocker21: Who do you think is the most important player in Husky history?

UWDP: He clearly says “most important,” not “best.” Interesting.

Jake Locker is obviously very much in the debate, because he signed with Washington when every last shred of rational thought said “RUN FAR, FAR, AWAY!!!”

I’d argue Steve Emtman is the best player.

I think very strong cases could be made for Bob Scholredt and Hugh McElhenney, but I’m not the most qualified to make them.

I’m down to two: First option, Warren Moon. Junior college QB that came along early in Don James’ tenure and led the team to an unlikely Rose Bowl win even though he wasn’t the most popular guy amongst all the fans. Second, Marques Tuiasosopo, because without his senior season, the history of Husky football in my lifetime is significantly more bleak the last 30 years, and who knows how important that season really was in keeping the program from fully drowning in the decade that followed.

LockerStocker23: If you could change any one thing about the PAC-12 what would it be?

UWDP: Since I’m answering this question on November 5th at 2:00 MST, it’s that Cal wanted to play a football game on Saturday.

In general, I think that there are powers that be that see football as a necessary evil. I think there’s room between emulating the SEC and where the conference is as a whole in wanting to be a football power.

User Name: Is it safe to say that we’re ‘stacked’ at WR and RB?

UWDP: No it is not.

Iadawg: Wilner and Vorel are predicting a 4-3 season. Do you think they are being overly pessimistic?

UWDP: I’d say that 4-3 is overly pessimistic, yes. Of course, I’m a fan, and I can rarely bring myself to predict the team is going to lose.

Darin Johnson: When it’s all said and done, who’s better: the Huskies in 2020 or 2019?

UWDP: By most metrics, the Huskies had one of the greatest disparities of any team between their results and performance in 2019. Even just normalizing that, the team could be “worse” in 2020 and still have a better record.

Better record in 2020, better defense, slightly worse offense.

Darin Johson: Going back to 2015, the Huskies rank among Power Five teams in terms of on-field production exceeding roster talent has been 21st, 5th, 14th, 24th, and... 35th.

Since the glorious 2016 season there is an obvious and unambiguous trend. Impossible to deny. The Science has spoken. So I ask you: was getting rid of Christ Petersen a bigger a relief than getting rid of Steve Sarkesian? Tyrone “Junior” Willingham? About the same, right?

UWDP: Wow, I’m surprised they were only 35th last year, I would’ve guessed way lower than that.

I think it’s a much bigger statement about Jonathon Smith, who obviously propped Petersen up until the inevitable collapse of the house of cards.

MTMD: How many recruiting questions do you think you will get even though you never answer them?

UWDP: I would guess only one this week.

MTMD: Do you think we will get EE and JTT? :)

UWDP: Make that two.

Simple fact of the matter is that if the conference doesn’t play football games this year, it is voluntarily speeding along the irrelevance bullet train that the mismanagement from the top has aimed at us fans.

Everyone Ever: Do you think this is the year we finally Fire Smith for his playcalling?

UWDP: Probably need to finish firing Nick Holt first.

RunningFaster: Having had most of a year to observe recruiting and practice decisions, but no game decisions yet, how confident do you feel in the offensive coaching staff?

UWDP: Unfortunately, I haven’t actually observed anything, but I’m going to remain cautiously optimistic.

I’m nervous, but I think that the team is pretty talented, and that’s more important.

RunningFaster: What’s your anticipated over/under on D/ST touchdowns by the Huskies this year? Turnover margin? Kyler Gordon flips (back or front)?

UWDP: 1.5 on the TDs. +5.5 turnover margin.

Otis: Kamari Pleasant? That was meant as a joke right?

UWDP: First off, I wouldn’t put too much stock in the depth chart.

Second, why not? He’s a senior, and when he’s been healthy, he’s run ahead of Sean McGrew most of his career. It’s hard to say if being listed first on this depth chart is a nod to seniority, or maybe Richard Newton is a little banged up, or....

It’s pretty clear this staff wants a downhill runner. Pleasant fits that bill. Newton does too. I’ve never thought Pleasant was a world beater, but I’ve never been down on him.

But most importantly, I wouldn’t put too much stock in the depth chart.