The question has plagued and stuck in the mind of Husky fans like it would a frustrated father in a family comedy movie as he drives his bratty kids across the country in a station wagon...
"Are we there yet?"
The younger generation of Husky fans might not ask the question as much, but the core of the Huskies fan base who still regularly wax nostalgic about the glory days of Don James football and even the consistent days of Jim Lambright and Rick Neuheisel ask it all the time. Ever since the third game of Steve Sarkisian's coach career when his team pulled a monumental upset over highly ranked USC, most Husky fans have just assumed that the time when they return to the elite level of college football will come soon. However, that expectation has wavered for many fans over the course of the last four years because of the perpetual thrashing by elite teams on national television, defenses with a propensity for giving up records, the three-straight blowout losses in 2010 and even the start to this season.
While one win simply cannot usher an arrival, it can definitely pave the way for one, and much like Washington's win over USC in 2009 didn't get the Huskies automatically back to respectability, it opened the doors to get them back to being competitive in the conference. While I don't think the Huskies will suddenly be playing like a Top 10 week in and week out, I think that last week's win over Stanford should give the team the confidence shot that they need to take that elusive next step in which they become contenders near the top of the Pac-12 each season.
Still, the question remains, "Are we there yet?"
And much like it always is in those family movies, the answer is still not yet, but we are getting closer.
As soon as the 2012 schedule was revealed, everyone viewed the three-game stretch against Stanford, Oregon and USC as incredibly daunting, and for good reason, but also as potentially crippling. The Huskies were expected to exit the stretch 2-4 with beaten spirits, and while that is now a mathematic impossibility, two thirds of the stretch remain, but now much of the pressure is off and what was once viewed as a gauntlet could now turn into a launching pad.
Losing the next two games, unless they are both massive routes, and going 1-2 in the stretch and 3-3 overall, will not be viewed as a failure, but winning either of the two games would be immediately put the Huskies into serious contention for the conference championship and the rarefied air Husky fans have long thirsted for. Finally beating the Oregon team that they haven't even competed with for a decade, on the road, or taking down USC and beating two elite teams at home in three weeks will finally pull Washington into the coveted parking lot that they pulled out of years ago, and where their old spot next to USC and the other powers around the country still remains, even if it has collected some moss over the years.