There’s no denying Washington’s potential after its second consecutive dismantling of a Pac-12 power program.
EUGENE, Ore. — Chris Petersen is going to ban this column from campus and lay into any player who reads it. He is going to wince at every word, cringe at every paragraph, and possibly punch a wall before getting to the tagline.
Few people despise hype quite like the Huskies football coach, but this isn’t hype — it’s truth: Washington is a legitimate national-championship contender.
Some might say UW’s No. 5 ranking already suggested as much, but its body of work wasn’t sufficient. Yes, the Huskies beat then-No. 7 Stanford by 38 points, but there wasn’t an Exhibit B to confirm that was something more than just a really good night.
But that 70-21 win over Oregon Saturday? That four-quarter quashing where Washington racked up 682 yards of total offense? That record-setting victory that erased 12 years of pain in one fell swoop?
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That did it. A College Football Playoff appearance shouldn’t be the hope anymore — it should be the expectation.
“It’s real,” Huskies receiver Dante Pettis said when asked what people are thinking when watching his team play. “It’s not just hype anymore.”
The general feeling going into this season was that UW was a year away. Jake Browning was a sophomore, the offensive line was unproven, and last year provided little evidence that such a rapid ascension was imminent.
Sure, the Huskies were talented — something voters acknowledged by ranking them 14th in the AP preseason poll. But to suggest they would play with the dominance they’ve displayed these past two weeks would have been ludicrous.
Like Pettis said, though, this is real. Teams don’t score 114 points against two big-name programs if it isn’t. They don’t win two games by an average of 43.5 points, either.
You kind of get the feeling the rest of the Pac-12 is starting to look at the Huskies like they’re Archbishop Murphy. Um…is there any way we can just not play them?
“(People) are probably thinking that we just came out of the woodwork,” Huskies linebacker Keishawn Bierria said. “But me and some of the other guys that have been here for a while, we knew we were on the rise.”
Most people knew that the Huskies had one of the best defenses in the country. What few predicted is that they’d have one of the more prolific offenses, too. Heading into Saturday, they were 15th nationally in offensive efficiency, and will likely crack the top 10 after that scoring spree.
Before the game, there was some musing in the press box that the absence of Chico McClatcher — the Huskies’ second-leading receiver — might hamstring Washington’s ability to move the ball. Not so much. Receivers were to Browning Saturday as pasta is to Italians. There was no such thing as a bad option.
To their credit, Washington players have been reacting to the blowouts intelligently. They show pride in the wins but emphasize how much work remains.
Petersen’s message of “blocking out all the noise” seems to be resonating, and the risk of the Huskies becoming full of themselves seems low.
The risk of them losing anytime soon does, too.
It’s easy to get caught up in the moment after an impressive performance or two. College football history is littered with teams that were invincible in the first half of the season, then invisible when it mattered most.
It’s also important to remember the Huskies’ recent history. They needed overtime to beat Arizona, handed the Ducks their fourth straight loss, and beat a Stanford team that, upon closer examination, might not be anywhere close to the force pundits thought it would be.
Utah on the road will tough. So will Cal, which beat Utah. So will Oregon State, which beat Cal. And so will Washington State, a rival that seems to be on the rise.
But the Huskies proved something against the Ducks on Saturday. They didn’t just end a streak — they ended any doubt about whether they belong in the national-championship conversation.
This isn’t just hype. This is real.
And it’s going to be real fun to watch.