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Mailbag: Double-Digit Dawgs Edition

Answering your questions on UW’s bowl outlook, Apple Cup officiating, and the future under DeBoer

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 26 Washington at Washington State Photo by Oliver McKenna/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Had UW won at ASU, do you believe the Dawgs would be in the CFP conversation? Why? Or, Why not? -kdawgSW

This is a year with only 3 potential undefeated conference champions so almost by definition the Huskies would’ve been in the conversation otherwise. Right now there are also only 2 other one-loss teams out there with Ohio State and USC and the Huskies if they had beaten ASU would be about to play USC.

Let’s go ahead and put forth a not that crazy hypothetical. On UW’s final drive of the ASU game with 31 yards to go and under a minute left we’ll say that Luciano’s shotgun snap doesn’t fly over Michael Penix Jr.’s head. Instead it’s a normal snap and Penix finds Odunze for 15 yards down to the 16 and he gets out of bounds. Then Grubb dials up the perfect play to find McMillan for a TD with less than 10 seconds left from the 16. DeBoer knows our secondary is decimated and decides to go for 2 and Penix runs in on a read option to win 46-45 with 3 seconds left.

Now in this circumstance the Huskies finish 11-1 (8-1) and move up a couple spots in the advanced metrics. The analytically inclined would say UW is overrated but losing only one game, on the road on a Friday night against a top-20 team, is still a good resume. USC has a better loss still (by one at Utah) and they have wins by a field goal at OSU and at UCLA versus UW wins by a field goal against OSU and at Oregon. Their win versus Notre Dame is better than any 3rd win on UW’s schedule but the resumes would absolutely be comparable.

It’s hard to imagine that Washington in that case wouldn’t slot in right behind USC in the CFP rankings when they come out tonight in that universe. Maybe Ohio State is ahead of UW right this second but throw in an additional potential win over USC in a Pac-12 title game and the Huskies almost certainly control their own destiny at that point. It would be a conversation of 12-1 Pac-12 champ UW with wins over USC, Oregon, and OSU versus 11-1 Ohio State non-division champ with wins over Penn State, Iowa, and Notre Dame but vastly better computer metrics.

F***ing Tempe.

So in a two-way tie breaker between UW and either Utah or Oregon, UW would win BOTH scenarios and go the the P12 championship. This doesn’t make a lot of sense. Did the P12 rules makers screw up? -Penix4Heisman

I will say that I understand the logic behind the Pac-12 multi-team tiebreaker rules. The goal is to try to compare apples to apples as much as possible by only looking at common opponents. When you don’t play a round robin schedule that definitely makes sense. Look at who played better against the teams everyone played and reward the team that beat the highest set of teams.

That being said.

This is by far the best argument I’ve heard for why the system is messed up. Washington did indeed win a head-to-head tiebreaker with both Oregon and Utah but when all 3 teams end up tied, Utah wins. I’ll admit it’s pretty hard to make that one make sense. I don’t think it would’ve been unreasonable to in prettier language make the tiebreaker steps for a 3-team tie be:

1. If one team went undefeated versus the other teams in the tie, they advance.

2. If one team wins a head-to-head tiebreaker with every other team involved in the tie, they advance.

Then make steps 3 and beyond what they actually were as far as common opponents.

What would be a better end to the UW season, a rose bowl appearance and a loss or a cotton bowl victory? -Lockerstalker62

It’s a reasonable question. When fans of other teams talk about the Huskies in the Petersen era they bring up Washington’s 0-3 record in NY6 bowls. If in 2018 UW had gotten to play Central Florida and beaten them instead of losing to Ohio State would the team and the era have been thought of more fondly in hindsight?

At least in that year it was a previously undefeated UCF team. This year’s Cotton Bowl would be between the Huskies and either an 11-2 Tulane team or a 10-3 UCF team. You get to claim a NY6 victory but this year’s AAC winner is one of the worst best G5 teams in several years. Still a dangerous opponent but it would feel like an empty win and even playing Texas in the Alamo Bowl would probably be more impressive.

We’re already in an era where the Rose Bowl isn’t available for the traditional Big Ten versus Pac-12 matchup. We’re also in an era where the Big Ten has raided the Pac-12 for teams and may precipitate the Pac-12 no longer existing in a few years. The time for the Rose Bowl mattering as something other than just “a good bowl game” may be ending.

For a large portion of the fanbase though it’s still the sign of a truly great season and merely getting to the game is a massive deal. Give me Ohio State even if it’s going to kill me seeing Emeka Egbuka absolutely toast Jordan Perryman on a post route.

Also, there’s technically still a world where TCU loses to Kansas State and Ohio State jumps them for the #4 spot in the CFP meaning that Penn State goes to the Rose Bowl instead. Although the entire college football world may mutiny if that happens.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: JAN 01 Rose Bowl - Washington v Ohio State Photo by Adam Davis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

If the current QB commit moves on what are the best alternatives? -abq

As of right this second, Kienholz is still technically committed to Washington and he doesn’t hold an offer from Ohio State as far as we know. His “interview” with Steve Wiltfong after returning from Columbus was 2 sentences and he didn’t really say anything. I’ve seen enough of the college football recruiting world to think it’s only a matter of time before he flips but the longer it goes, the better the chances Grubb and DeBoer can get back in his ear and keep him in the boat.

Of course, the longer it goes if he does eventually flip to OSU then the worse position UW will be in as they close in towards the early signing period. At this point there isn’t anyone completely uncommitted who the Huskies are likely to think is worth bringing in on scholarship. They have to hope they can flip someone and keep the chain reaction going.

The two names that make the most logical sense are Gabarri Johnson and Aidan Chiles. Johnson committed to Missouri after seeming lukewarm interest from the Husky coaching staff but is local and with a full-court press would seem possible to secure a flip. The UW coaches really liked Chiles but seemingly told him he was behind Kienholz on their board and he went ahead and committed to Oregon State rather than waiting for Washington. After the relative seasons that each school had it doesn’t seem like it would be difficult to convince Chiles that he has the potential to put up much better numbers in DeBoer’s system.

There of course could be other names that we don’t know about that the Husky coaches have reached out to and are waiting to bring in for a visit until Kienholz decides one way or the other. Regardless, Washington should be expected to bring in at least one quarterback from the transfer portal. So far the top names have been guys like Hank Bachmeier from Boise State or Cade McNamara at Michigan but expect the talent pool to grow in the coming weeks. Given that UW took someone who threw more interceptions than touchdowns last year and turned them into the nation’s leading passer you would think the Huskies would have a great argument for any transfer QB who cares about more than an NIL signing bonus.

10-2 was a great season, but can UW keep it up? With Penix and his top two receivers likely gone next year how can Deboer and Grubb replicate an offense good enough to overcome the many deficiencies with the defense? -El Rojo Grande

I don’t know why at this exact moment of time there’s any reason to believe that the Huskies under DeBoer can’t keep it up except for that it’s really hard to win 10 games on a consistent basis. Washington got lucky not playing either of the 2 teams that ended up making the Pac-12 title game but they also had to play 3 of their 4 toughest conference opponents on the road.

It’s certainly possible that the combination of Penix plus Odunze/McMillan is a level of talent at those spots that the Huskies are never again able to match under DeBoer. At the same time, Penix was coming off a terrible season for Indiana and had never played more than 6 games in a year when he came to UW as a transfer. Is it crazy now that DeBoer has shown proof of concept with a transfer that he can’t get someone with even more raw talent in the future?

The same goes at the wide receiver spot with JaMarcus Shepherd as the position coach there. He churned out multiple All-Americans while at Purdue and definitely helped Odunze and McMillan level up. A receiving corps led by Ja’Lynn Polk, Taj Davis, and Giles Jackson is a step down for sure but with further improvement there’s reason to think it should still be an above average group even without a transfer or a breakout performance.

And if we take it for granted that this is the pinnacle of UW’s offense in the DeBoer era (which we shouldn’t) there’s plenty of room for the defense to improve and compensate for it. I think it’s reasonable to expect this to be the nadir of cornerback play for the Huskies under DeBoer. We’ll see if we ever find out but I’m convinced that Perryman was never fully healthy after his week 1 injury this year because he locked down Odunze for much of preseason camp then struggled the rest of the year. The other starting corner missed 4 games. The #3 corner Julius Irvin missed the last 7 games of the year. The #4 corner Davon Banks missed the last 3 games of the year. That’s an incredible string of injury bad luck at one spot and UW is bringing in a really good recruiting class of DBs.

Perhaps more to your point is that Washington could have an equally good analytical profile and still have finished 8-4 this season. UW’s win probability was 7.2% late in the 4th quarter against Oregon. That easily could’ve been a close loss. So too could’ve been games against OSU, Cal, or Arizona. Overall I think UW’s close game luck came close to evening out with a 4-2 record in games decided by 8 points or fewer but DeBoer would be wise to have an even better team in the future to guarantee winning 10 games.

I fully understand the hesitation to buy in to what has happened. I cover men’s basketball. I’m aware of the Mike Hopkins situation. You always have to have a grain of salt when the coach largely has a previous administration’s players and the win-loss record is better than the advanced stats would say. Given DeBoer’s previous coaching track record though I think it’s safe to at least say that this isn’t a Hopkins/Lake situation even if we look back in a few years and find there has been an 8-4 or 7-5 record in the mix.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 24 Stanford at Washington Photo by Jeff Halstead/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

I don’t tend to be a “screw the refs” kinda person, breaks can go both ways — but this Apple Cup seemed to have a tremendous amount of bad reffing (no holding calls, missed targeting review on Westy, etc) That being said can you explain what that bizarre penalty on the UW defense was late in the game that had KDB so mad? They were intentionally clapping to confuse the offense? What? -Doogannash

Yes, that is what the refs called. I know I’ve seen that call go against one of my teams before and thought it was the Huskies but can’t remember the exact circumstances. It is a penalty if a defense attempts to simulate the pre-snap noises of the opposing QB to try to get the offensive line to jump early. That can include clapping. However it should also be reasonable to think that there are legitimate reasons for the defense to clap beyond trying to draw someone into a false start.

On the broadcast you can hear 3 claps just before the snap but you hear those same claps after the penalty is called so it is more likely that was someone near the booth than a mic from on the field. The broadcast was zoomed in on Alex Cook until just before the snap and when they show the entire field there’s no one clapping on UW’s side. Since I have no idea beyond that what the penalty was I can’t really speak to how egregious it may have been. But you’d certainly hope in such a high leverage spot that it would have to be indisputable and caused a false start in order to warrant that call.

That play could have ended up being a huge part of the outcome but I had a bigger issue with...

How the heck did the refs miss the targeting when Westover got hit late in the game?It sure looked like that was targeting.- Rordanny

Well I have a very good explanation for why it looked like targeting to you, Rordanny. Because it was very clearly a textbook example of targeting. The Washington State defender launched with the crown of his helmet and hit Westover straight in the face.

Now sometimes the ref isn’t at the perfect angle to see a play. I get that. But that’s why there’s a replay system where the booth is supposed to buzz down when there might be targeting for them to review it and make sure.


If the Pac-12 has shitty refs because they don’t get paid enough as a second job, fine. The one thing I want from the officiating is to take player safety seriously. It should be the number one priority from the conference. A few weeks ago they did a targeting review on a play where the defender literally did not make contact with a Husky player. It was utterly disgraceful that they didn’t stop play to look at it and if I was DeBoer I would be spitting mad furious and on the phone with Kliavkoff that night. If you build a system in place to have checks and balances and very obvious things are slipping through the cracks, it suggests the system is broken and needs a thorough examination.