Record: 12-1 (8-1 in PAC-12)
Season Credentials: PAC-12 champions, 44-6 win over Stanford
If anyone is searching for a dark-horse contender to win the 2017 Virtual College Football Playoff, look no further than the #4-seed Washington Huskies. While pundits scoff about a supposedly-weakened PAC-12 conference, Chris Petersen’s Huskies have shown the resolve and versatility that characterized the Boise State Broncos under his expert tutelage.
That versatility was in full display on December 2nd, when Washington faced #8 Colorado in Santa Clara, CA for the PAC-12 title. Prolific sophomore QB Jake Browning struggled to complete just 9 of 24 passes. But Washington’s defensive backfield did a low number on CU quarterbacks Sefo Liufau and Steven Montez, giving up only 81 yards passing and grabbing 3 interceptions. Freshman safety Taylor Rapp came down with 2 picks, returning the 1st for a TD that gave the Huskies a commanding 21-7 lead just 00:16 into the 2nd half.
Myles Gaskin and Lavon Coleman combined for 260 yards, and became the only teammates to rush for 100 or more yards in a PAC-12 title game. Washington RB’s averaged more than 6 yards per carry in the championship tilt.
It was no surprise when the Huskies began the year beating lesser-lights Rutgers, Idaho, and Portland State by a combined score of 168-30. What has been shocking is how many conference victories came just as easily. On Saturday October 1st, the team hosted then-top 10 Stanford in Seattle and whipped the proud Cardinal up and down the field with a textbook effort. Browning was a model of efficiency, going 15-of-21 for 201 yards and 3 TDs without an interception. Sophomore tailback Myles Gaskin rushed for 100 yards and 2 touchdowns, and Hawaiian senior linebacker Psalm Wooching recorded 3 sacks. The following week, Oregon fell 70-21 to the powerful Purple.
Washington’s lone loss came on November 12th, at home against the University of Southern California. Visiting QB Sam Darnold pierced the Husky defense for almost 300 yards passing, and the Trojans blocked a key field goal attempt in the 3rd quarter as UW succumbed 26-13. But USC has since proven themselves to be as talented as anyone in the FBS, dispelling any more rumors of a “weak” PAC-12.
The Huskies are thrilled to be seeded in the College Football Playoff, but the program is not taking the 2017 Virtual College Football Playoff lightly. “Heck, I remember when we won the Fiesta Bowl at Boise State a few years ago,” smirked Coach Petersen in reference to his 2007 Bowl Championship Series win over Oklahoma, “and the Fiesta Bowl people and the BCS people each gave us plaques and trophies. I wouldn’t mind claiming multiple trophies again this year.”
In another great VCFP quarterback duel, Browning and company will take on #5-ranked Penn State. Follow the results of the exciting round-of-7 at virtualcfp.com with recaps, box scores and analysis of the action.