clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Mailbag: Golden Breeze Edition

Answering your questions on the #8 Huskies as they prepare for their biggest test yet this Saturday

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 09 Tulsa at Washington Photo by Jesse Beals/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Do coaching/outside distractions i.e Mel Tucker sexual harassment case, hurt a team or make them focus? -KPreston

MSU coaching fiasco, what will be the effect? -Gu1966

Is the firing of Mel Tucker good news or bad news for the Dawgs at MSU? Sometimes the team rallies in situations like that, other times the wheels fall off -Cornerroute

I don’t think you can make a generalization. It’s also impossible to tell. Last year Arizona State fired Herm Edwards and then that next week the Sun Devils upset the Huskies despite their starting QB Emory Jones getting concussed in the first half.

Did that win happen because the players all hated Herm and suddenly were motivated in his absence? Did they all love Herm and wanted to pull together to win in tribute to him? Did they not really care and UW just happened to be banged up at corner and always plays poorly in the state of Arizona?

We the media (as if I actually count as part of it) will end up attributing a narrative retrospectively that seems to fit what actually happened.

If Michigan State ends up winning over Washington then I’m sure the narrative will be that they were extra motivated and focused in support of Tucker. Or maybe that Mark D’Antonio returning to the sideline was a huge strategic boost with all of his experience.

If the Huskies end up clobbering the Spartans then everyone will say that it was a massive distraction and cloud hanging over the program.

The truth is that Washington is traveling on the road to play a team that’s ranked 37th in SP+ right now. Considering the time zone difference and the quality of opponent, that’s a losable game for the Huskies.

It’s also true that Washington has one of the very best offenses in the sport and won by double digits against what was likely a more talented version of this team last year.

Will the Tucker situation influence the game? Most likely. Will we be able to definitively say what kind of an impact it had even after we see how the game goes? No. Will we try anyways? Yes.

Mel Tucker? WTF? -CrafterArtisan

I’m assuming this stands for Why The Fap? You’re going to have to talk to Mel about that. I very much would not have advised it. It can make you go blind. And also potentially void an $80 million contract.

What is actually going on with the defense? Groans and sighs while they perform on the field, and then you look at the scoreboard.... what is happening here? Why is everyone so confused? We have a bad defense, right? But they aren’t getting scored on... -Rhaego?

There are several different ways to evaluate defense. The most obvious and the most traditional of course is points per game. Washington right now is 27th in that category having given up 14.5 ppg. That stat isn’t exceptionally useful right now though because strength of schedules have been wildly different. Utah giving up 12 points per game seems a lot more impressive having played Florida and Baylor than UW giving up 14.5 against their schedule.

There are some more interesting ones out there of course. Here are a few with UW’s national rank at the moment.

Yards per Point: 24.8 yds (16th)

Points per Play: 0.193 pts (23rd)

Defensive SP+: 20.0 (33rd)

The last one takes into account strength of schedule and still suggests that Washington’s defense has been well above average and clearly better than last year.

The end goal on defense is always to keep your opponent from scoring but it’s possible to keep your opponent from doing that while also suggesting that you’re unlikely to be able to maintain that performance in the future.

There are three components that I think best speak to what is really going on with a defense: Success rate, Explosive play rate, and Havoc rate. Success rate is a measure of whether the opponent is able to consistently keep on schedule. Explosive play rate is a measure of whether you can keep the opponent from chunk plays. And Havoc rate shows how often a defense makes a big play like a turnover or a sack.

-Boise State managed a 36% success rate and Tulsa got to 41%. Average across FBS is right around 40% so on the whole UW has kept their opponents so far to pretty close to average.

-The totals were close to even in explosive play rate with 8% for Boise and 7% for Tulsa. The FBS average is about 8.5% so again the Husky defense was slightly above average.

-UW’s defense managed a 7% havoc rate against Boise and just 4% against Tulsa. Both of those are well below FBS average.

Given all of that, it’s fair to ask why isn’t Washington giving up more points? Opponents are about average moving the ball consistently and getting chunk plays and the Husky defense isn’t forcing much in the way of negative plays.

That means it’s largely about situational success. Both Boise State and Tulsa had below average success rates on 3rd downs and in the red zone. It’s unlikely those are going to continue in perpetuity but given Washington’s offense, if the overall success/explosive play rates stay the same then this Husky defense is still good enough to compete for a Pac-12 title.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 09 Tulsa at Washington Photo by Jesse Beals/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Is the feeling of an under whelming victory a factor of my own oversized expectations? Or is it a recognition this team could be special and maybe over looked Tulsa? -Deleted

I don’t think they overlooked Tulsa. But I think there is very real evidence that a few mistakes were the difference between this being a no-doubt blowout and a truly monumental beatdown.

I mentioned success rates above and you can see that no team in an FBS vs. FBS matchup had a bigger difference in their success rates than UW against Tulsa this week. That’s mostly because Washington’s offense had a staggering 61% success rate (99th percentile) on offense.

Tulsa’s defense clearly saw how Washington eviscerated the Boise secondary with the deep ball on the way to a 98th percentile explosive play rate. They instead played much more conservatively and tried to keep everything in front of them. That dropped Washington’s explosive play rate to below average (26th percentile) but resulted in that astronomically high success rate.

Ultimately, the Huskies were 3 plays away from a 53-3 victory. The Grady Gross field goal bounced off the upright. Jalen McMillan dropped a wide-open walk-in touchdown. Tulsa scored their one TD on a tight throw to the corner of the end zone on 4th down. All of those plays were inches away from going in the Huskies’ favor and I think you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who would’ve complained with a 50-point victory. Those plays represent a 17-point swing though and that’s enough to sway opinion for most folks.

I find it interesting though that you mention whether this team could be special. I’m curious what the average reader’s definition of a “special” team would be. Does Washington have to win a national title? Do they need to make the College Football Playoff? Do they need to make the Pac-12 title game in perhaps the strongest Pac-12 season since it expanded (or before it collapses)? This team absolutely could be special but that’s because the qualifications for that moniker probably vary from person to person.

What are we to make of what seems like the receivers (Bernard, for example) having better rushing success than the RBs? -HRsportsfan

It likely has more to do with the types of runs than the person doing the running. The Polk/McMillan/Odunze touchdowns all came on end arounds or wildcat looks that aren’t a standard rushing attempt. Bernard picked up 8 yards on a pair of carries so slightly more success than the standard backs but not by much.

The big problem is mostly that Washington’s offensive line hasn’t been able to open up much in the way of holes for the backs. So far the actual running backs have been hit at the line on 35% of carries per Sports Info Solutions. That’s not actually that far off of last year’s totals. Cam Davis and Wayne Taulapapa were both hit at the line about 31% of time last season. Given the level of competition, being worse than last year is probably not a great sign.

Washington has particularly struggled to run towards the right middle of the line where we have new starters Matteo Mele at center and Parker Brailsford at right guard. So far Washington has averaged less than 3 yards per carry on any run towards a gap to the right of the center. That includes 7 carries for just 17 yards running just right of center or behind the right guard (it’s slightly better around the right end).

When the Dawgs run left of center they’ve averaged better than 5 yards per carry even throwing away any kind of end around or reverse (although that does include the McMillan wildcat carry). Hopefully the chemistry and experience for Mele and Brailsford will improve but so far each has looked better pass blocking than run blocking.