Path To The College Football Playoff: Washington
What does Washington have to do to get back to the College Football Playoff?
What’s Washington’s path to get to the College Football Playoff?
It was the breakthrough season Husky fans were waiting a long, long time for.
Chris Petersen needed a little while to build the program up, and after a few seasons of great defenses, it all came together with a Pac-12 championship and a trip to the College Football Playoff as just the second conference program to ever get into the big tournament.
Okay, so it helped in a big way that the Pac-12 wasn’t great. And yeah, it was a huge help that Oregon was awful, Stanford was down, and the College Football Playoff committee completely ignored the strength of schedule and cut the Dawgs a massive break by putting them in over Penn State. Whatever.
Washington got in.
And now we know how this is all going to work. Win the Pac-12 title, do it with one loss or fewer, and you’re in the CFP.
Can U-Dub do it again? What is Washington’s path to the College Football Playoff?
Step One: Get The Groove Back In The Secondary
One of the nation’s top pass defenses has to restock the shelves, losing future NFL starters Sidney Jones and Kevin King on the corners, and Budda Baker at safety. However, just five starters are gone overall from one of the nation’s top defenses, and Petersen and his staff have cranked up great defenses after losing far more big-time bodies, but this defensive backfield was special.
Fortunately, with Rutgers, Montana and Fresno State to start the season – before starting out the Pac-12 season at Colorado – there’s time to put everyone in the right spot, find a new No. 1 target to replace John Ross, and fill in the other holes for a team that doesn’t lose all that much.
Outside of the secondary, of course.
Step Two: Do Some Muscle Flexing Early
Washington got away with having a technically lousy schedule last season – at least in terms of production from the opponents, not brand name – but this year the scrutiny might be a bit harsher.
Again, none of it matters if the Huskies with the Pac-12 title with one loss, but it wouldn’t be a bad idea to rip through the first half of the season.
Any tweaking that has to be done shouldn’t be a problem early, going to Rutgers and facing Montana and Fresno State. However, the Huskies need to …
Step Three: Survive the Road
The schedule looks like an breeze early on. Out of the first nine games, Washington has to face just one team that went bowling last year – Colorado. However, the opener at Rutgers is a long road trip, and starting with the date against the Buffs, the Huskies have to go on the road for four games in five Pac-12 dates.
They’re going to be better than Colorado, Oregon State, Arizona State and Arizona, and they should be able to handle Cal at home. However, the Pac-12 title rematch with the Buffs will be emotional, the Sun Devils will be better, and the Wildcats almost pulled off the upset last season. There can’t be a slip before …
Step Four: Oregon and Stanford. Win Those Two, The North Is Over
Both the Ducks and Cardinal will be far better, and the Stanford game is on the road. At this point in the season, Washington should have its Pac-12 fate in its own hands if it beats the teams it’s supposed to.
Come into the showdowns with Oregon and Stanford 7-1, and the Dawgs have to win out. Come in unbeaten, and they should be able to afford one slip, since both of the Pac-12 big boys have tougher schedules against the South – both have to play UCLA, and Stanford has to deal with USC.
Step Five: Get to the Pac-12 Championship.
And win it to finish 12-1.
Beating Utah and Washington State after dealing with Oregon and Stanford won’t be easy, but if Washington plays up to its talent level and potential, it should be the favorite in every game except for, maybe, the trip to Palo Alto.
There other four Power 5 conference champs won’t be unbeaten – they just won’t be – and at least one will have at least two losses. Go 12-1, beat the South – preferably USC – and it’ll be off to Pasadena for one of the CFP semifinal games.
So … What Are The Chances Washington Gets Into The 2017-2018 College Football Playoff?
It’s not going to all fall into place two years in a row, but if you like speculating, buy low on the Dawgs doing it again.
It won’t be easy with all of those early road games, Stanford might be better, and USC would be a far tougher Pac-12 championship opponent than Colorado was last year – if the Trojans get there – but don’t count out a repeat.
The team is still loaded, Jake Browning is still at quarterback, the defense is still special, and the schedule isn’t all that bad.
Last year was just the beginning, and if nothing else, being in the College Football Playoff discussion should now be a regular thing.