Outside of the players and coaching staff, it's likely that no one knows more about a college football team than the dedicated beat writers for local papers who cover them day in and day out and provide fans with the most in-depth and expansive coverage of their respective teams. With Pac-12 teams in the markets of some of the nation's most respected newspapers, Pac-12 fans are regularly treated to fantastic coverage from some of the best college sportswriters in country and Pacific Takes was lucky enough to do a little Q&A with Huskies beat writer and blogger Ryan Divish off the Tacoma News Tribune (follow him on Twitter) about the Huskies football season that just got under way and the upcoming basketball season.
1. What record would you predict that the Huskies finish with in 2012, and what do you think the minimum amount of wins would be for the season to be deemed a success by coaches and fans?
I've maintained that this team will go 7-5 or 6-6 this season. The schedule seems to be just too difficult. Playing at LSU with two offensive tackles that are first-year starters? That can't end well. Then there's the gauntlet stretch of Stanford, USC and Oregon, which is brutal. Mike Stoops had a stretch like that last season with Arizona and by the end of it, he couldn't even generate enough anger to make his face turn red and have a sideline tantrum. (God, I really miss Stoops' sideline coachface). I can see how some fans can think that Washington might be 8-4. But really the only true "easy" game is against Portland State. Maybe you could say that the game at Colorado is a guaranteed win. But playing on the road, in altitude, likely in cold weather in November, by then you have no idea how beat up Price could be from early in the season.
As for what fans deem as success, there seems to be a few different cliques of Husky fans with differing expectations. There are some people, who are more than satisfied with the path Steve Sarkisian is on ... even if he is exactly .500 going into this season. These are usually younger fans, who fondly remember Tyrone Willingham's forgettable tenure at Washington. They seem to think that UW had hit rock bottom in 2008 in the winless season and any improvement since then - even incremental - is still decent progress. Then there is another group of fans - the older more established fans - who fondly remember and love to mention the glory days of Don James where losing five games in a season was catastrophic. They are happy that Sarkisian has improved the program, but to them there is little reason to brag about the Holiday Bowl or the Alamo Bowl.Then there is another group of Husky fans who serve chardonnay, brie and salmon at their tailgates and are only slight aware of the outcome of the game ... I tend to stay away from that group.
I guess an 8-4 record would be considered highly successful. Much as some fans don't want admit it, they know that USC and Oregon are at different level than this year's team and a record better than that would take an act from a higher power (and I don't mean Larry Scott). After the debacle that was the Nick Holt tenure, most people would take a 7-5 season if the defense was better than average this season. On paper, next year - when Keith Price is a senior and Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Kasen Williams are juniors and all the young defensive players are a year older - should be when the expectations really elevate.
2. Of the three games against preseason Top 10 teams (LSU, USC, Oregon) on the Huskies schedule this year, which one could you see the Huskies pulling off the upset?
Wow, that's like asking: "If we lined up Blake Lively, Scarlett Johannson and Kate Upton which one of them would laugh the least at your date request?"
LSU is a bad matchup for UW because the Huskies have two totally inexperienced offensive tackles that will have to face Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery, that just seems like a bad situation for Keith Price and his spleen.
Washington hasn't beaten Oregon since 2003 ... that week Chingy had two songs in the Billboard Top 10. The Ducks are a tough matchup for Washington because of all their perimeter speed. I do think the Huskies will play the Ducks much closer than in years past. But to go into Autzen and come out with a win? I might have a better chance with Miss Johannson. UW will even have the benefit of a few extra days of preparation and I'm still not convinced.
I guess I would pick USC. Yep, that's intelligent, pick the Huskies to beat the No. 1 team in the country. But Washington has beaten USC before under Sarkisian - twice to be exact. Granted, the Trojans weren't this talented. Still, UW gets USC at their pseudo home field this season. That has to count for something? USC is also playing Utah in a big game the week before. So if I had to pick a game where Washington could pull off the upset, I pick them to beat the presumptive Heisman Trophy winner with his two All-American level receivers, and the rest of his NFL bound teammates. No wonder, I'm getting moved back to covering the Mariners next year.
3. Do you think there is a negative or non-elite perception about Washington among elite high school players in the state that is leading them to head out of state for college?
I guess high school kids today don't have quite the grasp of Washington's tradition. Then again, a good portion of high school kids today probably don't know who Kurt Cobain was, or understand his significance. Washington's truly dominant days were when most of these kids' parents were in their mid to late 20s. High school kids have never grown up with the Huskies being a major national presence.
Also I think kids are different. Back in the old days of the 1990s - god, that's depressing - every kid in the state grew up wanting to play for UW. It's what they knew. Sure there were outliers, but 80 percent went to Montlake. But with the massive TV coverage and the changing landscape of social media and kids attitudes, other universities don't seem so far away. Schools from all over can recruit nationally and kids by extension can look around the country to determine where they want to play. Still, UW does pretty well with in-state kids. It just seemed a little worse because several of the top players went elsewhere, two years ago Washington got the three top recruits.
4. Since Husky fans have become obsessed with Oregon, what level of penalties to you think will be leveled upon Oregon?
You can call it an obsession. If I call it an obsession, I get branded as a hater, a Duck Lover, a Coug and anything else plausible. The constant arguing between Oregon and Washington fans can be amusing at times, irrational at other times and downright childish at its worst moments. And yet, that's nothing compared to the nutjobs in the SEC.
I don't think the penalties will be that severe. I have really no information to base this off of. But I think had things been worse hints of upcoming sanctions and penalties would start to leak out. I rarely trust the NCAA to make any decision that is logical or fitting based on previous examples. My guess is Oregons a slap on their Nike dri-fit covered wrists.
1. Do you think that Washington basketball may have peaked under Romar, or is there still room to grow the program?
I think there is still plenty of room to grow the program. I know Romar believes it can grow. And I think there is an expectation level amongst fans that it can and should grow.
Last year was an aberration. The talent in the state alone could help push the program higher - provided it goes to UW. Some of the adjusting on Romar's coaching staff and the change to a UCLA high-post offense this season reflect a coach that did some self scouting and found some deficiencies that needed to be addressed.
2. Do you think the Huskies will be worse, or better off without Terrence Ross and Tony Wroten in 2012-13?
Well, from a talent standpoint, they are going to be worse off. The loss of Ross hurts more. He was a scorer that really came into his own late in the season. He didn't need the ball in his hands to be effective and his improvement defensively was a huge bonus.
Wroten is a different scenario. He's ridiculously talented and not as bad of a person as some people want to portray him as. He brought a level of toughness to a team that needed it. But there was something off with the chemistry of last year's team. Wroten dominated the basketball far too much at times and his refusal to not gamble on defense put his teammates in bad positions. Washington was two different teams. They were one team when Wroten was on the floor and a completely different team when he wasn't. I'm not sure which team was better. It just didn't work.
I don't know that the Huskies will be better without their two leading scorers. But I think they may be a more consistent team. Washington will likely start two seniors - Abdul Gaddy and Scott Suggs - and a junior CJ Wilcox in the backcourt. None of them have the NBA potential of Ross or Wroten, but they play well together.