For Washington, there is a path to the Pac-12 championship game.
It is a rather precarious route.
Instead of rewarding the North and South division winners with a trip to Las Vegas on Dec. 2, as has been the case in previous seasons, the Pac-12 opted to let programs’ winning percentages — and, inevitably, an increasingly convoluted set of tiebreakers — determine the participants in the 2022 Pac-12 title game.
At 10-1 overall and 8-1 in Pac-12 play, No. 5 USC has already secured a spot.
Its three potential opponents are No. 10 Oregon (9-2, 7-1 Pac-12), No. 12 Washington (9-2, 6-2 Pac-12) or No. 14 Utah (8-3, 6-2 Pac-12).
Rather than flooding The Seattle Times’ print edition entirely with tiebreaker rules, we’ll simply state that the following must occur for UW to salvage the No. 2 seed:
- Washington must beat Washington State,
- Oregon State must beat Oregon, and
- Cal must beat UCLA, OR both UCLA must beat Cal and Colorado must beat Utah
But even if UW doesn’t get to Vegas, a Rose Bowl berth could still theoretically be in the cards.
Let’s say UW beats WSU and USC tops Notre Dame, then conquers either Oregon or Utah in the Pac-12 title game. If USC earns a spot in the College Football Playoff, the Rose Bowl would then have the freedom to decide which Pac-12 program takes its place.
This wouldn’t be the first time a Pac-12 program that didn’t participate in the conference championship game was selected for the Rose Bowl, either. In 2016, UW defeated Colorado in the Pac-12 title game to earn a playoff bid. Rather than settling on the Buffs, the Rose Bowl opted instead for USC — which had defeated both UW and Colorado in the regular season.
This part is important: USC was ranked No. 9 following the 2016 Pac-12 title game, ahead of No. 11 Colorado. Should all of this play out, it’s likely the Rose Bowl would invite the top ranked Pac-12 team that isn’t USC.
And even if UW is left out of the mix, it’ll find an opponent in postseason play. The Pac-12 bowl ties include the Alamo Bowl against Big 12, Las Vegas Bowl against SEC, Holiday Bowl against ACC, Sun Bowl against ACC and L.A. Bowl against Mountain West.
The top 12 teams in the College Football Playoff rankings are also nearly guaranteed a spot in a New Year’s Six bowl. And of that group, the Cotton Bowl could extend UW an at-large bid.
UW, by the way, was slotted at No. 17 in the most recent CFP rankings. The next set of rankings will be released Tuesday.
The Kienholz question
UW could soon be scrambling for a new quarterback commit in the 2023 class.
Lincoln Kienholz — who announced a verbal commitment to UW on June 29 — will take an official visit to Ohio State this weekend, 247Sports reported Monday. Four-star quarterback Brock Glenn flipped his commitment from Ohio State to Florida State hours after the Kienholz report was published.
“Right now I’m still 100 percent committed to Washington,” Kienholz told 247Sports. “I want to take this visit as an opportunity to go check it out and if I really like it go from there. Right now it’s a possibility.”
Kienholz — a 6-foot-3, 185-pound passer from Pierre, South Dakota — is ranked as a four-star recruit and the No. 18 quarterback in the 2023 class by 247Sports.
While college coaches are prohibited from publicly mentioning unsigned players, UW coach Kalen DeBoer was asked Monday for his philosophy on committed recruits taking visits to other schools.
“When you’re committed, you’re committed,” he said. “Every situation is different and I think that’s part of … times change, but they also stay the same. When you give your verbal commitment, it is that. But everything is different, and every situation you run into has its own pieces to it.”
The six other quarterbacks UW offered in the 2023 class have verbally committed elsewhere. With Washington also failing to sign a signal caller in the 2022 cycle, and redshirt junior starter Michael Penix Jr. — who leads the nation with 3,869 passing yards — likely eyeing the NFL, there would be an obvious urgency to replace Kienholz if he de-commits. (Three-star Garfield QB EJ Caminong is also committed in the 2024 class.)
College football’s signing days are Dec. 21 and Feb. 1.
About the current quarterbacks …
After Penix was pulled as a precaution in the third quarter of Saturday’s 54-7 win over Colorado, sophomore Dylan Morris — the primary starter last season — completed 4 of 7 passes for 66 yards with one touchdown and one tough-luck interception, while adding 32 rushing yards.
UW offensive coordinator Ryan Grubb credits Penix, in part, for accelerating Morris’ growth.
“I wish more people could see it — the interaction between Dylan and Mike, whether it’s at practice or in a game, just talking back and forth about what they’re seeing,” Grubb said. “There’s been growth in that room. Those two guys (Penix and Morris) for sure have grown together. I think Dylan sees all the things Mike does really well in the offense and is able to execute.
“Dylan’s preparation, honestly, is second to nobody on this team. He is as prepared as anyone on this football team. As far as getting in and executing the calls, he does a really good job. I think Dylan got hit more than Mike has all year in like three series (on Saturday). Two of the hits he took were on completions, and I thought that said a lot about Dylan’s toughness and his confidence in the play. So he’s doing a great job. That’s a tough job. He probably gets a fifth of the reps that Mike gets. Just to be able to know the offense and execute it at a high level says a lot about his preparation.”
As for redshirt freshman and former five-star recruit Sam Huard, who last played against Portland State on Sept. 10?
“He’s learning. He does a great job,” Grubb said. “I think the things that Sam does well that fits into this offense is he throws a really good deep ball. I think there are some intermediate throws that he does a nice job driving on. He has to continue to work on having a quick release and things like that, getting the ball out on time on short throws. But all the way back to his high-school film, I think what he’s shown he can do is throw a good deep ball.”
- Grubb has been named one of 15 semifinalists for the Broyles Award, which honors college football’s top assistant coach. “It means we’ve got a great staff. I mean that,” Grubb said. “It’s a little bit clichéd, but it takes all of us coaching our rooms individually. I think they do a fantastic job in each one of their collective rooms and we click really well together as a staff. So it certainly has a lot to do with that. And I do think we have great kids.”