For more than a decade, the Washington Huskies watched their hated rivals to the south rise to the upper echelon of college football. This rise was accompanied by the annual beating the Ducks put on the Huskies each fall for 12 straight years.
As Ducks fans are painfully aware, the decade of domination over the Huskies has ended. The Ducks are 2-4 and licking their wounds after being thrashed by the Huskies less than two weeks ago, and the Huskies are undefeated and ranked 5th in the nation.
While Washington fans have reason to celebrate their success and relish in the Ducks’ struggles (most Ducks fans, myself included, would do the same thing if the roles were reversed), the Ducks’ poor play may hold the Huskies back from reaching the College Football Playoff.
The Playoff committee lists strength of schedule as one of the four key criteria when determining the four teams to place in the playoff, and the Huskies’ schedule is soft.
Unfortunately for the Huskies, a dominating performance against the Ducks this year doesn’t mean as much as it would have in years past. The Huskies’ cream puff non-conference schedule that brought them wins over Rutgers, Idaho and Portland State only proves to the selection committee that the Huskies are not awful, because even bad teams could go 3-0 against that schedule. Washington lacks quality wins.
The SEC, ACC, and Big Ten each have multiple teams positioned to claim a playoff spot. Each of those top teams in those conferences have schedules that will enable them to pile up wins the committee will deem more impressive than anything Washington’s schedule will allow.
Should B1G teams Ohio State and Michigan both run the table – save the year-end loss one inflicts on the other – they could have a strong argument they are more deserving of a playoff berth than a Washington team that also finishes the year with one loss. The same thing could be said for Alabama and Texas A&M in the SEC, or Clemson and Louisville in the ACC.
If the Huskies run the table and finish undefeated, however, it is hard to see them being left out of the playoff. With all the struggles of the “Dysfunctional 10” Big 12, an undefeated Washington team would get in over anyone coming out of that conference or any one loss team in the other three P5 conferences that did not win its league’s title. A 12-0 Husky team would be a shoe-in; however, if the Huskies stumble, they might end up wishing the Ducks were a Top-10 team like years past – a victory to hang their hat on.
The Huskies’ remaining schedule is also not too terribly difficult, which will hurt their resume should they lose just once. The best team remaining on the schedule might be the only other team that is undefeated in Pac-12 play, Washington State. The Cougars already lost to an FCS school and a Mountain West team this year.
If the Huskies’ best win of the year is over WSU and they trip up at Utah or against USC and finish 11-1, we could easily see the Huskies miss the playoff.
Oregon’s 2010 team is the last Pac-12 team to finish undefeated in the conference. Even in a down year for the Pac-12 (is the best non-conference win by a Pac-12 team this year UCLA on the road over a 4-3 BYU team?), going undefeated is tough. The ESPN computer models only give UW a 26 percent chance of finishing undefeated in-conference.
I’m sure Husky fans have been praying for the Ducks to fall on their faces for years, but sometimes you have to be careful what you wish for. In this rebuilding year for Oregon, it would be somewhat ironic and enjoyable for Ducks fans to see the Huskies fall short of the playoff because the one year the Huskies get revenge against the Ducks, the win is not meaningful enough to push their resume over the top. In this depressing year for Ducks fans, seeing an 11-1 Husky team left out of the playoff could provide some small semblance of joy.
Salt Lake City, Utah
Top Photo by John Sperry
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