Even I was pretty shocked when I opened up this year's college football bible from Phil Steele and saw Washington ranked at #8. To me, there is no denying the Huskies are a team to watch going into the season, a very serious contender to win the North and an undeniable preseason Top 25 team... but have we gone too far?
The offseason for college football is longer and more grueling than any other major sports platform. Because of that, I believe it leads to a ton of offseason hype for teams and players simply because we all are trying to have college football play in our head in some way as we sweat away the summer and I think the Huskies may be the number one team this year that has benefited because of this with preseason hype.
I will be the first to tell you, the Huskies look incredible on paper and appear to be on the verge of finally turning the corner after more than 15 years of basically getting thrown out by the catcher whenever they try to steal second base. I think they will make strides this year and get to at least eight or nine wins and set themselves up for a banner season in 2017.
With that said, I'm a little worried they are getting too much hype. I'm not saying the Huskies won't maximize their potential and win at least 10 games and maybe the Pac-12, but here are the reasons I am a little pessimistic:
The conference schedule is not friendly: The Huskies have the experience and talent to be one of those teams like Iowa or Oklahoma State last year or Missouri in recent years who surprise and compete for the Playoff, but they don't have the open schedules those teams did. The Huskies have pathetic non-conference schedule (seriously, their toughest game might be against FCS Portland State) but their in-conference schedule is as tough as a bucket of nails dipped in steel.
In the North, the Huskies have northwest rivals Oregon and Washington State on the road along with trap game Cal on the road. They get Stanford at home which helps, but I think they might need the home field advantage against the Ducks and Cougars more.
In the South, their nice score is getting USC at home, but it's still a tough draw as they miss Colorado and have to play at Arizona where they haven't won in more than 10 years and at Utah.
It will be really impressive in my book if the Huskies can get five wins in-conference and that would still put them at just eight wins in the regular season. That would be a nice season, especially if they can add a win in a bowl, but far from anything earth-moving. They won nine games in Steve Sarkisian's last season.
The bar is getting really high: This isn't the old early Steve Sarkisian days where crawling to a bowl game or getting 7-8 wins is a success. This isn't the first couple of friendly years of the Petersen era either. Expectations are sky high for the Huskies now.
Getting eight or nine wins and winning the Las Vegas or Cactus Bowl won't be enough.
The Pac-12 is still really, really good, especially the North: The last couple of off-seasons have tried to bury Oregon and Stanford, but they have refused to go away. We are (probably) at least kind of underestimating Oregon and Stanford again going into 2016, these two powers are not going to go down without a fight and it will take a massive improvement from the Huskies in 2016 to get past one of them, let alone both of them.
Throw in a much-improved Washington State team and the Huskies face a murderers row in the climb to the top of the North mountain.
Okay, so no more negativity. There are a ton of reasons the hype for Washington is legit. I think getting to 10 wins is a very nice, realistic goal for the Huskies which will probably push them into the Top 15 of the final rankings, have them in the North chase to the bitter end and set them up for a championship run in 2017.
Here is how I think the Huskies win 10 games in 2016:
1. They win all of the games they should definitely be favored in (3 non-conference, at Arizona, Arizona State, Oregon State, at Cal) for seven wins.
2. They win one of their three tough road games (at Oregon, at Utah, at Washington State) for eight wins.
3. Upset either Stanford or USC in Seattle to get to nine wins.
4. Win a bowl game equals 10 wins.
To me, getting to those 10 wins in 2016 will mean the Huskies lived up to the 2016 hype.