UW co-defensive coordinator Jimmy Lake: "It’s very, very exciting for the fans. And I think it’s very exciting for recruiting, obviously. But at the end of the day, we’ve just got to keep doing what we’re doing."
For the first time since Nov. 4, 2001, the Washington Huskies are ranked among the top-10 teams in college football.
To which Chris Petersen … well, he might have gotten a cramp in his shoulders from shrugging so emphatically.
“Talk to me (after) Game 6, and then maybe we’ll have another conversation,” Petersen said Tuesday, some 90 minutes after The Associated Press Top 25 poll was released — featuring the Huskies at No. 8 this week. “I didn’t even know that until you told me. That’s how important it is to me.
“Our fans are really important,” he added, “so however we can play good football to inspire ’em is awesome. But it’s way too early to be talking about that (rankings) stuff.”
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The Huskies, after their 48-13 rout of Rutgers in the season opener, jumped up six spots after debuting at No. 14 in the AP preseason poll. Their No. 8 ranking is their highest since they were also No. 8 late in the 2001 season.
Petersen, for the record, does have a vote in the weekly coaches poll, which has UW ranked No. 11 this week.
Throughout the offseason, as the national spotlight on the program grew brighter and many projected the Huskies to win the Pac-12 Conference championship, Petersen preached to his team to block it all out, focus on themselves, yada, yada, yada.
The message seems to have worked.
“As a team, we really don’t try to focus on (the rankings),” linebacker Keishawn Bierria said after practice Tuesday. “We just focus on playing our game and winning every week.”
Even so, the excitement and buzz about the Huskies all around Seattle feels as great as its been over the past 15 years, that should resonate in ticket sales and in recruiting if the Huskies continue to win.
“We’re not going to focus on (the ranking) internally whatsoever, but I think it’s very, very exciting for the fans,” UW co-defensive coordinator Jimmy Lake said. “And I think it’s very exciting for recruiting, obviously. But at the end of the day, we’ve just got to keep doing what we’re doing. We’re focused on Idaho, and if we take care of business there we move on. … Maybe in February we’ll worry about where we’re ranked.”
The Huskies drew 58,640 fans for Saturday’s season opener against Rutgers at Husky Stadium. UW hasn’t had a home sellout since the 2013 Apple Cup — before Petersen’s arrival — and even with the new top-10 ranking that streak figures to continue over the next two weeks with Idaho and Portland State coming to town.
The real test will come Sept. 30, when defending Pac-12 champion Stanford, ranked No. 7 in this week’s AP poll, comes to town for a Friday-night, primetime game on ESPN. If both teams are still ranked as high, it would be the first matchup of top-10 teams at Husky Stadium since No. 7 Nebraska defeated No. 2 UW 27-14 on Sept. 20, 1997.