Happy Friday. Welcome to the mailbag.
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To the questions!
Ryan writes: Washington's schedule borders on criminal. If it was a SEC school or Baylor, you would have gutted and filleted them. Less than scintillating is a vast understatement. How about having played ONE team with a winning record? Shame on them. And kinda on you. I know you know better.
Ted Miller: "Borders on criminal"!
(Picturing Washington athletic director Jennifer Cohen being led away in handcuffs, calmly explaining to the College Football Police that she wasn't even the Huskies athletic director when the 2016 schedule was made and how could they miss a brilliant explanation in the Oct. 28 mailbag?).
Scheduling is two things: 1. What it actually IS; 2. Intent.
"What it actually is" is a problem for Washington. The Huskies' nonconference slate is obviously weak, and the Pac-12 at midseason is lacking other highly ranked teams upon which they could prove their awesomeness. I may be wrong, but it seems like we've noted the weakness of the Huskies' schedule oh, about 112 times since August.
Yet what's different for Washington as compared with Baylor is intent. There is no question that Baylor (and other schools like it) asks itself one question in advance of making a nonconference schedule: Let's find three certain wins, which means no Power 5 foes. That's how you end up with: Northwestern State, SMU, Rice, Lamar, Buffalo, Wofford, UL Monroe and San Houston over the past five seasons.
When the home-and-home contract was signed in the spring of 2014 between Washington and Rutgers, the Scarlett Knights (yes, a Big Ten team) were coming off an 8-5 season with a bowl win -- their fourth consecutive bowl appearance. They also opened that 2014 campaign with a win over Washington State in Seattle.
So, even though Rutgers has turned out to be one of the worst Power 5 conference teams in the nation in 2016, Washington didn't intentionally schedule a patsy. That responsibility lies with Rutgers. The same could be said of Nebraska scheduling Oregon. And this can work forward and in reverse for the Ducks and Cornhuskers. Consider the disparate visions West Virginia and Missouri might have had of their meeting when the game contract was signed.
For the College Football Playoff selection committee -- as human beings who can make discernments with strength-of-schedule metrics -- this, at the very least, will be noted as they debate teams.
Will -- and should -- the Huskies' schedule hurt them? Perhaps. Speculating from today, if Washington wins the Pac-12 at 12-1, you'd get more than a few folks who'd rate the Huskies behind, say, an 11-1 Louisville or 11-1 Ohio State/Michigan.
Fortunately for all parties, we don't have to make such decisions on Week 9 of the season.
Zach from New York writes: Last month, you wrote: "Yes, there is a reason Colorado won't win the Pac-12 South: The other five teams in the Pac-12 South." I politely ask you to reconsider.
Ted Miller: A reconsideration does seem in order.
After Colorado lost to USC, my expectation -- at best -- was it would split games with Arizona State and Stanford. My big-picture expectation at that point, which felt mildly optimistic, was the Buffaloes were headed toward a 5-4 finish in conference play. That would be a huge improvement since they joined the Pac-12 in 2011, but 5-4 now feels like a worst-case scenario.
The Buffs, after overwhelming the Sun Devils and out-Stanford-ing Stanford, now merit reconsideration, particularly with UCLA and Arizona struggling.
Therefore, I expect the Buffs and Utah to arrive at their season-ending game at 6-2 in Pac-12 play. Their game will decide who wins the South Division.
Brad from Salt Lake City writes: I know it might be a long shot due to injuries, but if Utah wins out, and beats Washington twice (at home and in PAC12 championship), do they have a chance to make it to the playoff? How good could the Utes have been this year had they stayed healthy?
Ted Miller: I picked the Utes to win the South Division in the preseason, so I thought they were pretty darn good -- a top-15 team. Maybe better. But, as you noted, injuries have hit Utah hard. While the injuries at running back have been nothing less than absurd, the depth chart has been hit everywhere -- both lines, the secondary, linebacker, etc.
That said, if Utah wins out and beats Washington twice to finish the season at 12-1, I'd rate their CFP chances as pretty strong, particularly if Colorado keeps winning and they hand the Huskies their only two defeats.
While we're already hearing a lot of grumbling from top-10 teams from other conferences about their second-best team meriting a spot -- say, Louisville/Clemson and Ohio State/Michigan -- the selection committee has said over and over that winning a conference title will be a leading data point during its consideration.
That's why I think an unbeaten Pac-12 champion will be a certainty for the CFP, and a 1-loss Pac-12 champ will be extremely well-positioned if the other four Power 5 conferences don't feature an unbeaten champ.
Mark from Spokane, Wash., writes: Longtime Husky fan here. It is great to finally have a Husky coach that fits the disciplined, tough history of UW football, and great to see it pay off for the players there now (as well as the long-suffering fans). But he’s continued a tradition from the Sark era that I just don’t understand, and that is the use of the Wildcat formation. Why we’d take out one of the most efficient quarterbacks in the country to gift the opposition with a single option play to defend I have no idea. If we’re going to keep running a play that doesn’t ever work, we might as well be Stanford.
Ted Miller: Timing here is impeccable, Mark, as just last year Myles Gaskin went 10 yards for a touchdown against Utah out of the Wildcat formation.
Yet, we're dusting off the ole future-seeing crystal ball for this one, looking ahead to Jan. 9, dateline Tampa:
Announcer: Play of the, er, quarter century here for Washington. Fourth-and-goal from Alabama's 2-yard line, 7 seconds remaining, national title on the line. Myles Gaskin in the Wildcat formation.
Color commentator: Seem to remember a Washington fan from Spokane hating on the Wildcat formation to that Great American Ted Miller.
Announcer: Isn't he great? He's the best.
Color commentator: Absolutely. A superhero. But, man, this formation never works. I guess, all those wins to the contrary, Chris Petersen really doesn't know offense.
Announcer: Shotgun snap to Gaskin... he runs right. He pulls up. He's going to throw... Tight end Darrell Daniels uncovered in the end zone. What! What!? Where's Bob Rondeau... Touchdown Washington!
Sometimes you plant a seed and it doesn't immediately grow... and then it surprises everyone when it does.