The amount of defensive players (3) from Washington drafted in the first round last night may have had those who don't follow the Huskies closely scratching their head as to how a team could have so much NFL talent and go 8-6. Throw in a first-team All-American defensive end in Hau'oli Kikaha who should get drafted tonight and who may have been a first round pick had he not suffered multiple injuries early in his career and it appears really confusing.
Before I get started on Washington, to back up how confusing it is that Washington went 8-6 with three defensive first round draft picks, here are the past nine teams to do it along with their records and final national rankings.
2012 Alabama 13-1 #1
2007 USC 11-2 #2
2005 Ohio State 10-2 #4
2005 Florida State 8-5 #23 *Had four defensive players taken
2005 NCState 7-5 (3-5 in conference)
2003 Miami 11-2 #5 *Had four defensive players taken
1997 North Carolina 11-1 #4
1994 Florida State 10-1-1 #4
1992 Alabama 13-0 #1
The 2014 Huskies are clearly the exception here, but I would say 2005 NCState is a great comparison. Like the Huskies, the Wolfpack had a few great players on defense, but lacked the other intangibles like that the powerhouse Alabama, USC and Ohio State type teams on the list had. But what exactly were the Huskies lacking? Let's get started...
Washington's offense was not good
The Huskies' offense wasn't terrible statistically, but the unit got a ton of help from a defense that was the nation's best at scoring touchdowns themselves and one of the best at creating turnovers and boosted those numbers against the weaker teams on their schedule. Take away defensive touchdowns and the Husky offense average just 17 points per-game against bowl eligible Pac-12 opponents.
There were injuries along the offensive line, a new quarterback, but the biggest problem for the Huskies on offense was probably a straight-up lack of talent. The Huskies did not have a single player earn first or second-team All-Pac-12 honors on offense.
Washington's defense lacked depth
The Huskies may have had superstars in spots, but the players around those superstars were not to the talent level of the top programs in the Pac-12 right now. Opposing offenses were able to work around Washington stars and when someone like Shaq Thompson had to move to offense, someone like Hau'oli Kikaha got hurt or someone like Marcus Peters got kicked off of the team, the players that had to step up were not the level of player that a program like Oregon, UCLA or Stanford might have slide in right now.
Washington was adopting new schemes and a very young secondary around Peters
I think this was most evident when the Huskies somehow gave up 52 points to Eastern Washington in their second game of the season. Even the experienced Husky defenders seemed to take a while to adjust to playing in new defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski's scheme and the three freshmen starting in the secondary especially struggled.
Defense doesn't matter as much as it used to
It is simply much harder to win games in college football now based on defensive talent. Even programs like Alabama and Florida State who can stockpile NFL talent at every position on defense regularly have games where their defense simply can't stop up-tempo opponents from scoring.
I have a feeling that the Huskies would have had a much better record had their first round talent been on the offensive side of the ball.