On November 12, the number 4 ranked Washington Huskies football team, who had gotten off to their best start of a season since 1984, lost to the number 20 ranked USC Trojans 24-13. The Huskies started the season 9-0, their best start since 1991 when they won the National Championship. USC struggled early in the season, getting blown out 52-6 in the season opener against Alabama, who is considered to be the best team in college football. USC then proceeded to lose games against Stanford and Utah, starting the season off with a surprisingly poor 1-3 record. After the rough start, USC was able to win 5 in a row heading into the matchup with Washington. Despite the win streak, UW was still favored by 7.5 points.
The game started out with promising drive by Washington that failed to go anywhere but featured a few nice catches by wide receiver John Ross. On USC’s first possession, Darnold marched the ball down the field connecting with his receivers with ease, until pressure from Washington linebacker Keishawn Bierria forced Darnold into making a wobbling throw that was intercepted by Washington’s freshman safety Taylor Rapp. Washington was unable to do anything with the turnover. At the end of the second half, Washington’s defensive line was completely dominated by USC’s bruising offensive line. In the second half, the defense played better but the offense continued to sputter.
Quarterback Jake Browning looked off all night, and besides a long 70-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter to brilliant receiver and future NFL star John Ross. The final score was 26-13, ending with Jake Browning being tackled in his own end zone for a safety. Overall, the Huskies look to now be out of contention for a playoff spot in the 2016 CFB playoff, as a weak out-of-conference schedule and national bias against the PAC-12 put a damper over any remaining national hype.
The Huskies are now ranked sixth in the National Bowl System’s playoff rankings. Washington has the lowest ranking in the nation among teams that share its record of 9-1. USC completely dominated the Huskies in all phases of the game, and despite USC’s improvement throughout the year, this is still the team that lost to Alabama 52-6. Washington does not deserve to be in the upper echelon of teams. Against a team such as Alabama, the Huskies offensive line would be obliterated by NFL quality players like Tim Williams, Ryan Anderson and Jonathan Allen. Washington simply would be unable to score, and Washington’s defense isn’t elite enough to contain Alabama’s freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts for an entire game. At the end of the day, the College Football Playoff committee wants to schedule playoff games that would generate the most money. Washington is a team that rarely sells out games, and is in a relatively obscure regional market in the world of college football. From the perspective of the playoff committee, there is really no reason to include Washington in the playoff unless they had gone undefeated and had won the Pac-12. A blowout against a nationally obscure team is not what most college football fans would want to see, for the fourth playoff seed is much more likely to go to a one loss team such as Louisville or Ohio State, bigger name schools who battled tougher opponents all season.
Despite starting 9-0, the Huskies could very easily miss the Pac-12 championship. The Washington State Cougars are undefeated in conference play, and a win over Washington would crown them the winner of the Pac-12 North. The Apple Cup this year is hosted in Pullman and the Huskies have played worse on the road than at home this season and a talented and experienced quarterback such as Luke Falk could easily tear up a secondary that has looked very unsure of itself as of late.
If the Huskies win both the Apple Cup and the Pac-12 championship, there is still a chance they could be selected by the Bowl Committee for the playoff, but for this to happen two teams from Ohio State, Clemson, Michigan or Louisville need to lose another game in the final two weeks of play. Unlikely, but indeed possible. Even then, the Bowl Committee would have every reason to favor a team with a worse record over the Huskies for the fourth playoff seed.