The Seahawks’ 8-1 odds to win the Super Bowl are better than everyone but the Patriots and Packers. The Huskies’ No. 8 preseason ranking is the highest of the century. And sitting at No. 24 is Washington State, which returns a slew of upperclassmen.
The year 2008 seems almost inconceivable right now. The worst football season in this state’s history sounds borderline fictitious.
You remember, right? The Seahawks went 4-12, the Cougs went 2-11, and the Huskies capped the Tyrone Willingham era by losing all 12 of their games.
It was the most miserable four months football fans in the Evergreen State have ever experienced — a hat trick of ineptitude, really. So why do those memories feel so distant?
Because this year might be the complete opposite.
If there was ever a season in which the three pre-eminent football teams in Washington could all thrive, this is it. The Seahawks’ 8-1 odds to win the Super Bowl are tied for second best behind the Patriots. The Huskies’ No. 8 preseason ranking is the highest of the century. And sitting at No. 24 is Washington State, which returns a slew of upperclassmen and a quarterback who is a potential first-round draft pick.
So, Washingtonians: Are you ready for some football? Hopefully. Because if you aren’t now, you probably never will be.
The headline act, as usual, is the Seahawks, who are coming off their fifth consecutive season with at least 10 victories and a playoff win. They return all of their defensive standouts and have a healthy Russell Wilson at quarterback with established receivers.
The main concern is whether the offensive line — which was nonexistent for much of last season — has improved enough to protect the QB and re-establish the running game. But even if the answer is “uh … no,” the Hawks should still be a formidable team capable of winning the division and, with a favorable bounce or two, returning to the Super Bowl.
Nearly as intriguing as their professional counterparts are the Washington Huskies, who just had their best season in 25 years. After reeling off 12 victories, winning the Pac-12 Championship Game and reaching the College Football Playoff, UW might have gotten even better. Remember, most viewed last year’s run as a program running ahead of schedule. This was the season in which the Huskies were going to hit their stride.
Returning quarterback Jake Browning was a Heisman Trophy candidate as a sophomore last year. Running backs Myles Gaskin and Lavon Coleman combined for 2,225 yards on 351 carries last season, good for 6.3 yards per rush.
All-conference offensive linemen Trey Adams and Coleman Shelton return. The Dawgs’ front seven is one of the best in the country. And though the loss of Sidney Jones, Budda Baker and Kevin King in the secondary looks glaring, the coaching staff is bullish on the younger guys on the back end who have been patiently waiting their turn.
It was clear in that New Year’s Eve loss to Alabama that the Huskies were still below the nation’s top tier of talent. That might still be the case. But when you look at the players returning — not to mention coach Chris Petersen’s track record — it’s not crazy to wonder if Washington can compete for a national title.
Third on this totem pole is Washington State (8-5 last year), but not necessarily for lack of potential. The Cougs still haven’t proven they can be consistent under Mike Leach, but they have shown they have one-punch power.
You can’t ignore their opening-game loss to Eastern Washington last year — just like you can’t overlook the 28-point drubbing Washington gave them or the disappearing act they pulled in the Holiday Bowl. But you also can’t ignore the 26-point hurting they put on Stanford, who finished the season ranked 12th in the nation.
Wazzu returns senior quarterback Luke Falk, who surely would have been drafted had he gone pro. Running backs James Williams, Jamal Morrow and Gerald Wicks — who combined for 2,649 yards from scrimmage last year — all come back as well.
And though receivers Gabe Marks and River Cracraft have departed, All-American lineman Cody O’Connell will wear crimson and gray once more.
As is often the case with Wazzu, defense could prove to be problematic. But when you’re capable of putting 40 points on the board every time you take the field, this can also be offset to a certain extent. And while it’s unlikely Washington State will find itself in the national championship hunt, it is more than capable of sneaking into the Pac-12 title game.
So there you have it: Three squads, three big opportunities. We haven’t seen that around here for a while.
It wasn’t long ago these teams were the laughingstocks of the nation. Now, they’re a long way from a laughing matter.