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Mailbag: “Spooky Season” Edition

Answering your questions on Halloween about a scary effort against Stanford and a spooky slate of matchups coming up over the next month

NCAA Football: Washington at Stanford D. Ross Cameron-USA TODAY Sports

Is the over under for UW v USC going to hit 100? -KPreston

No, it won’t. But here are the combined point totals for USC’s games so far this season:

84, 80, 66, 70, 89, 84 (3OT), 68 (loss), 66 (loss), 99

Right now the line for it has opened at 76.5 which would essentially the midpoint for a Trojans game so far. In USC’s losses though this season they’ve been held in the high 60’s. They easily could’ve lost in regulation against Arizona which would’ve been in that same range. They also could’ve easily lost to Cal had the Bears made a 2-pt conversion in the final minute which would’ve been 101.

Still, if you think that Washington wins the game then it’s reasonable to take the under because when USC has struggled it has generally been because the offense doesn’t show up as expected. The Trojans defense has given up at least 34 points in 5 straight games so it’s hard to imagine Washington scoring less than that unless Michael Penix Jr. catches yet another illness this week.


Defense still seems to be an issue this year—56th rated against the run; 116th against the pass; and 96th overall, according to NCAA stats. Having not looked at last year’s rankings, have we gotten worse? Is this concerning, since we struggled last year too? It just seems to me that the defensive coordinators have had enough time to fix things. -ORKris

Looking at pure yardage stats when trying to assess the quality of a defense is not the way to go. Every analytically inclined statistic shows that Washington’s defense has improved this season in the categories that matter most.

I get why the key thing everyone is harping on this week is the defense. That was the worst performance of the season for the unit as a whole given the context of the opponent. We also are only one week removed from the score being UW’s offense- 8, UW’s defense- 7, Arizona State’s offense- 7. Where the one ASU touchdown was on a drive that started at midfield due to an offensive touchdown.

This season’s defense is certainly vexing for people who prefer a certain style on that side of the ball. Washington hasn’t been able to get sacks this year and haven’t officially recovered a fumble (the refs completely blew ZTF’s strip sack on the 1st possession against Michigan State). They’ve been able to get their hands on the ball for some pass breakups and interceptions but overall they don’t create a lot of negative plays.

That means that offense usually have been able to move the ball methodically down the field at times. Stanford had 13 points at halftime and 160 passing yards but were averaging just over 5 yards per attempt. It is really difficult to win a college football game, particularly against Washington’s offense when you can’t move the ball downfield in the air.

Where last week’s game differed from previous games is that Stanford ended up being able to complete several shot plays in the passing game. Ashton Daniels completed 4/7 passes on throws 20+ yards downfield. Oregon and Bo Nix is the only other team that completed more than 2 deep passes on the Dawgs. Washington is also the only team in the country that hasn’t given up a 20-yard run. They’ve chosen for a bend don’t break style of defense that limits explosive plays. That has worked, except when the QB can complete a long pass against them.

Washington’s defense is 32nd in SP+ right now. They’re 55th in EPA per play on defense. Those numbers were both better before the game against Stanford. If the Huskies can get back Tuli Letuligasenoa and one of Kamren Fabiculanan or Asa Turner for the stretch run then this defense is good enough to go undefeated in the regular season when paired with a top-5 offense. There just doesn’t appear to be enough depth on the defense to withstand the injuries they’ve sustained and still be a wannabe national title contender.

Are the Huskies going to put together a top-10 defense like we saw at the height of the Chris Petersen era with this defensive staff? Probably not. So if that’s your expectation for fixing things then you’re probably ready to move on. They’ve gotten better from last year though for sure. It’s also certainly not a guarantee that trend continues next year after they lose 7 defensive starters. Washington will need to import multiple instant starters in the portal similar to what we’ve seen from Jabbar Muhammad if the Huskies are to take another leap next season.

NCAA Football: Washington at Stanford D. Ross Cameron-USA TODAY Sports

Seems surprising that we don’t have more success in short routes over the middle given OL protection issues were seeing. Feels like we still are forcing deep throws even with all the blitzing were seeing. Was McMillan the only good option and that’s the reason? -Toddshav

It’s hard to have short routes over the middle when the area where most of the pressure is coming in is through the middle. It isn’t exactly correct though that the Huskies have abandoned the middle of the field. Here are Washington’s numbers between the numbers on throws fewer than 10 yards past the line of scrimmage per PFF:

Boise State- 13/14, 127 yards, 9.1 YPA

Tulsa- 15/15, 183 yards, 3 TD, 12.2 YPA

Michigan State- 7/7, 43 yards, 2 TD, 6.1 YPA

California- 3/3, 28 yards, 1 TD, 9.3 YPA

Arizona- 16/19, 139 yards, 7.3 YPA

Oregon- 8/9, 65 yards, 7.2 YPA

Arizona State- 10/12, 78 yards, 6.5 YPA

Stanford- 6/9, 75 yards, 8.3 YPA

It’s possible that the injury to McMillan did change some of the play calls given that he got hurt just before halftime against Michigan State. That game plus the next against California had the fewest attempts in that range of any this season. But only 40% of McMillan’s targets came in that zone so it isn’t as if that’s the only place he is ever targeted. Washington’s effectiveness on a yards per attempt basis has been about the same the last 4 weeks with a drop off in the number of throws since the Arizona game which played a unique defensive strategy.

When you get consistent pressure coming up the middle though it makes it harder to throw those little curl or hitch routes in the middle of the field. Otherwise, you end up with passes tipped into the air like we saw against Arizona State turning a touchdown into an interception.


On the Rome’s pass interception play, could that be called as pass interference?-acwai

The game was reffed by a Pac-12 officiating crew. They just as easily could’ve called it a giraffe against the special teams and a 15-mile penalty on the moon.


What happened to the Parker twins who were touted as helping the D line?- Gu1966

Jayvon Parker has played 161 defensive snaps appearing in every game so far this season as one of the reserve linemen. He actually has the highest PFF grade of any of our DL players at 79.2 (next is Tuli at 76.4). They’ve credited him with 6 QB hurries in 98 pass rush snaps which is 2nd among our DL only behind Jacob Bandes despite Parker playing the 5th most plays at the position. It’s fair to wonder if he should be seeing a little bit more time, especially with Tuli out right now as some of the veterans in front of him, especially Faatui Tuitele have really struggled.

His brother Armon has yet to appear in a game for Washington so far. He was injured all of last year and has been banged up partly this season. At the time the pair committed to Washington though they were unranked so even if Jayvon never ends up being more than a good rotation player at the DL and Armon never gets healthy it will be outperforming reasonable expectations based on their recruiting rankings.


In the rushing statistics from the Stanford game the “team” had a minus 3 yards rushing. What is team rushing? -GaryfromMI

They assess the team’s rushing total when it comes to kneel downs at the end of a half or a game. That way they aren’t penalizing the individual quarterback’s statistics since they weren’t running a real play but at the same time they have to account for every yard somehow.


UW WBB had a commitment from Annika Soltau, 6’4 highly acclaimed international from Germany. They desperately need players of her size as they have an abundance of guards.

Articles have talked about their 4 US freshmen but no one mentions what has happened to Annika. (I have sent the question to the Times and the Husky staff, to no avail). Can you please fill us in on her? -Dawg4Ever

Yes, I’m taking a WBB question in the mailbag. Sue me.

I was also extremely excited about Soltau and was looking forward to her filling out a major piece of the roster. Unfortunately, per it appears that Soltau decided to stay and play professionally in Germany this season rather than come over to the States. I haven’t been able to find any other sourcing but that explains why she hasn’t been included in anything for the Huskies since the initial commitment announcement. Hopefully she’ll be able to be a part of the 2024-25 recruiting class but I’m not counting on it given this delay. It feels like normally when there’s a roadblock like this it doesn’t end up coming to fruition.