On paper, the Huskies appear to be in the best position of any of the four contenders to win the North.
Not since the days of Marques Tuiasosopo and Rick Neuheisel have the Washington Huskies been to the Rose Bowl. That was 18 years ago.
No. 15 Washington, following its overtime loss at Oregon, has effectively been eliminated from consideration for a return to the College Football Playoff. There are still enticing postseason possibilities for the Huskies in the second half of the season.
“Guys understand there’s still a lot of football to be played and a lot to play for — a Pac-12 championship and hopefully a Rose Bowl,” senior linebacker Ben Burr-Kirven said. “Guys understand that we have to go out and keep doing our jobs and keep winning games. We have a lot of guys have been here through tough losses before, and we know what it takes to get back on track.”
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The Pac-12 North is up for grabs, and four teams are jockeying for position in the race to the conference championship game. (Note on tiebreakers: If two teams are tied atop the division at the end of the regular season, the Pac-12 uses the head-to-head result as the first tiebreaker. If three or more teams are tied, the second tiebreaker in intra-divisional games; the third is record against the next-highest placed team in the division. More details here.)
Here’s a primer on the contenders in the North and predictions about what could be in store for the second half of the season:
WASHINGTON (3-1 Pac-12 record)
— Saturday vs. Colorado
— Oct. 27 at Cal
— Nov. 3 vs. Stanford
— Nov. 17 vs. Oregon State
— Nov. 23 at WSU
Toughest game: Stanford. Some seem to have written off the Cardinal after back-to-back losses to Notre Dame and Utah, but Stanford already has one major comeback (at Oregon) this season and it is a different team with Bryce Love.
Outlook: The Huskies’ second-half schedule puts them, on paper, in the best position of any of the four teams to win the North (even though Oregon holds the head-to-head tiebreaker). UW also should benefit from having its bye after Stanford. Predicted Pac-12 record: 8-1 and a return to the conference title game.
WASHINGTON STATE (2-1 Pac-12)
— Saturday vs. Oregon
— Oct. 27 at Stanford
— Nov. 3 vs. Cal
— Nov. 10 at Colorado
— Nov. 17 vs. Arizona
— Nov. 23 vs. UW
Toughest game: The Apple Cup. An argument could be made for Oregon and Stanford as the Cougars’ toughest to come, but Mike Leach’s 0-4 record against Chris Petersen looms large.
Outlook: Really like the Cougars’ chances this weekend at home against an Oregon team they’ve defeated three years in a row. But it’s difficult to envision WSU coming through both road games against Stanford and Colorado unscathed. Predicted Pac-12 record: 6-3.
OREGON (2-1 Pac-12)
— Saturday at WSU
— Oct. 27 at Arizona
— Nov. 3 vs. UCLA
— Nov. 10 at Utah
— Nov. 17 vs. Arizona State
— Nov. 23 at Oregon State
Toughest game: Washington State. With “College GameDay” in town, Pullman will be as raucous as ever this weekend, and the Cougars are coming off a bye.
Outlook: Could certainly see Oregon having trouble in a few weeks at Utah, against a Utes team that seems to have found its footing. Husky fans will typically root for Oregon’s opponent in any situation, but that will be especially true in the second half. Predicted Pac-12 record: 7-2.
STANFORD (2-1 Pac-12)
— Today at Arizona State (6 p.m., ESPN)
— Oct. 27 vs. WSU
— Nov. 3 at UW
— Nov. 10 vs. Oregon State
— Nov. 17 at Cal
— Nov. 24 at UCLA
Toughest game: Washington. Husky Stadium was as loud as it has ever been two years ago when a top-10 Stanford team came to Seattle in UW’s 44-6 rout.
Prediction: A healthy Bryce Love could make all the difference, but Stanford’s defense isn’t what it has been in recent years and the Cardinal might have the most difficult remaining schedule of the four North contenders. Final Pac-12 record: 6-3.